The Dissenter’s Secret Meeting

Deal W. Hudson

This morning, the Boston Globe dropped a bombshell of a story… though they seem to have little idea just how major it is.

The title was “Bishops seek out opinions, in private: conference focus is church future,” and began by explaining that some top bishops “met secretly with a group of prominent Catholic business executives, academics, and journalists to discuss the future of the church.”

The gathering was convened by former Boston College trustee Geoffrey Boisi and was called “The Church in America: The Way Forward in the 21st Century.” Cardinal McCarrick hosted the event at the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC.

The fact that any bishops were involved in a “secret meeting” is strange… but it gets a whole lot worse.

Reading through the article, the author refers over and over to the “prominent” Catholics – men and women, both lay and religious – who were called to the secret meeting. Some of them, it turns out, isn’t so prominent. In fact, I didn’t recognize half of the names on the list, and I like to think that I’m pretty familiar with the Catholic world.

As for the others – well, they’re prominent all right. The list is full of the kinds of liberal and dissident Catholics that would make a Call To Action conference jealous.

These are the people who are supposed to be representing the Church in a discussion about its future? Just look at a few of these names…and make sure you’re sitting down:

  • Monika Hellwig – director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Dr. Hellwig needs little introduction. Most people by now are familiar with her infamous statement calling Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI’s “personal opinion” and her questioning whether Jesus is the only savior.
  • R. Scott Appleby – left-leaning professor at Notre Dame and media darling who has been critical of Church conservatives for not being open to women priests and a married priesthood.
  • John Sweeny – president of the AFL-CIO and open supporter of abortion.
  • Kathleen Kennedy Townsend – former lieutenant governor of Maryland and an infamous and enthusiastic pro-abortion “Catholic.”
  • Peggy Steinfels – the former editor of Commonweal magazine, Steinfels is very open about her dissenting views. In fact, she laid them out in an article called “Holy Mother Church’s Loyal Opposition: Disagreeing with official Catholic teaching on birth control and other issues should not cut us off.”
  • Kathleen McChesney – executive director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection under the USCCB. McChesney has been reprimanded by some bishops for her willingness to meet with such dissident groups as Call to Action and Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), calling into question her impartiality when working for the lay review board. Her presence at this secret meeting certainly doesn’t help.
  • Mary Jo Bane – professor of public policy at Harvard. Also intimately involved with VOTF, she laid out her “personally opposed but publicly supportive” position regarding abortion rights in a paper presented at a Commonweal colloquium.

And these are just the names I recognize at first glance. If these people are representative of those invited to the conference, I think it’s safe to say that the real criterion for involvement was not prominence or influence in the Catholic Church but sympathy with dissenting points of view.

Other names seem to be big players in Catholic businesses and philanthropy organizations. Frank Butler, president of FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities), is one such name. Why were these people there? You have to wonder if they’re being corralled in to fund a liberal reform agenda.

Another thing I notice when scanning the list is the number of names associated with Boston College and the city of Boston in general. More and more, Boston College appears to be the very epicenter of dissent. Should it be surprising that the home of VOTF is also the home of those convening secret dissenting meetings?

And that’s what’s so frustrating. Why on earth would high-ranking bishops – including the president of the USCCB, Bishop Wilton Gregory – entertain a meeting with such known liberals and dissenters…and do it in private? The author of the article mentioned the difficulty he had in finding participants willing to talk about the meeting in even the most general terms, let alone allow their name to be published. Those who participated were “sworn to secrecy,” he wrote.

Frankly, I find it ironic that the same people who lambaste the bishops for being “secretive,” the same people who want openness and transparency in the chancery, are now sneaking around behind the scenes, trying to escape the public eye.

In addition, these are the PRECISE questions about the future of the Church that liberals claim the laity has a right to address. (Predictably, the issues of women’s ordination and priestly celibacy came up in some of the meeting’s breakout sessions.) But how can we be a part of the great dialogue they champion when it’s held in secret?

This says nothing of the fact that there isn’t a single person on the list known for his or her stand in support of faithfulness to the Magisterium, the pope, and the teachings of the Church. If this was a meeting of “prominent Catholics,” where are the prominent orthodox representatives? Where are George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Father Neuhaus? Why fly in representatives from little-known colleges in Boston when the orthodox president of Catholic University in DC, Rev. David O’Connell, has his office literally right across the street?

It’s absolutely absurd to call the meeting a discussion of the direction of the Church and not include representatives from the very heart of Catholic thought. Apparently, those Catholics faithful to the Church don’t count.

Honestly, can you imagine these bishops holding a conference for a group of prominent conservative Catholics… listening to their concerns…noting their advice? Don’t hold your breath.

When the pope called on bishops to crack down on dissent after the sex abuse scandal, I doubt this is what he had in mind. One final irony to top off this nonsense is the fact that the meeting was held at the John Paul II Cultural Center – the Institute constructed in his honor as a testament to his life and dedication to the Truth.

But alas, the pope probably wouldn’t have heard about the meeting anyway. After all, it was supposed to be a secret.

Rest assured that we’re going to be following up with this story.

We’ve received some very reliable inside information that the cardinal was duped into attending the meeting, and was not happy with the way it turned out. I’m not sure he should be held responsible for it.

~ Crisis Magazine

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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