Stop the Cheering

Deal W. Hudson

I was stopped in the hallway at CNN yesterday by a well-known Catholic newscaster who asked me, “Why are the liberals cheering the fall of Cardinal Law?” This comment comes from someone who unabashedly describes himself as a “leftie.” I told him, sadly, that the cheering on the left is being echoed by at least as much cheering on the right.

The downfall of a bishop, regardless of the reasons, hurts the Church and ought to be an occasion of regret for all Catholics. But how many people are using the present scandal to advance their personal agendas? Some on the left want to argue that celibacy should be jettisoned and that women priests would help solve the situation. On the other hand, many on the right are bragging that they’ve “been right all along” about the homosexual infiltration of the clergy.

The extremes, both on the left and right, meet on a common ground that’s more fundamentally dangerous for the Catholic faith than the pedophile scandal itself: They represent Catholic ideologues who consider bishops authoritative only when and if the bishops do their bidding.

To be Catholic means recognizing the authority of an ecclesiastical position, not a person. The sad spectacle of a cardinal on the cover of the daily newspaper covered in shame cannot cause us to lose respect for the office he holds.

Just as the Eucharist is still valid when celebrated by a sinful priest, so the authority of the office of bishop is not lost, though he may lose his personal moral authority. The ecclesial authority of a Catholic bishop isn’t based on popular opinion, or especially on opinion polls.

All of this points to the obvious fact that the Church is a hierarchal institution. Chains of command and authority run vertically rather than horizontally. When problems arise-no matter where they’re first addressed-they’ll only be solved when the Church decides to clean its own house.

What must happen now is a Vatican-directed reform of management practices, vocational screening, and seminary formation in the U.S. Church. This can be at least partially based on the expertise of lay people. But lay involvement should be understood as the use of genuine management expertise as opposed to changing the received teaching on faith and morals.

The individual Catholic may disagree strongly with this or that bishop; he may even think certain bishops are doing a bad job. But, that same Catholic who criticizes the opinions and performance of bishops must also know that the very existence of bishops is what keeps the hostile secular world from overwhelming the Church.

And anyone who foolishly weakens the power of the bishops also weakens the Church.

In the case where a bishop’s loss of credibility and moral integrity is so great that it damages the position he holds, then Rome itself must act. In doing this, the Vatican protects people of faith from the temptation to lose their faith.

The current scandal was created by bishops and priests more interested in preserving the reputation of the Church than protecting its children. The Vatican must now step in, or else the editorial board of the Boston Globe will dictate the reforms of the U.S. Church.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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