Author: 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.

You need to watch this German masterpiece

Deal W. Hudson

February 28, 2019

Never Look Away tells kind of the story that invites superlatives and deserves them. Based upon the life of painter Gerhard Richter, it tells the story of an artist who lives through the Nazi horror and the communist stranglehold, then escapes to West Berlin where, after much trial and error, he earns success and recognition.

This narrative could have descended into kitsch, but Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck makes it entirely convincing. Max Richter’s score is so beautiful in places it nearly overwhelms the visuals, but that is offset by deft touches of Morricone-like dissonance and playfulness.

Never Look Away was released last year in Germany and has just opened in US theatres. At 3 hours and 9 mins, it should feel epic, but it doesn’t: World War II and the Cold War serve as background to a story which becomes more and more personal as it unfolds.

It begins with a teenager, Elizabeth May (Saskia Rosendahl), being taken away by the Nazis because the family doctor reported an episode when Elizabeth sat at the piano at home, completely naked, playing Bach. When asked why, she answered: “Playing a concert for the Führer.” Her younger brother, Curt (Tom Schilling, pictured with Paula Beer), is a young child when he witnesses his beautiful and charismatic sister taken away. Her last words to him are “Never look away”, a dictum which takes him 20 years to understand.

Curt marries Ellie Scheeben (played by Beer), the daughter of a respected doctor who is played by Sebastian Koch. Koch, who starred in Donnersmarck’s 2006 The Lives of Others, convinces as Dr Carl Scheeben, a gynecologist tapped by the Nazis to head the Court of Hereditary Health, making him responsible for choosing who is to be incarcerated, sterilised or killed. Very subtly, Koch allows a crack in his soul to be seen in his reaction to the order – he’s shocked but takes a deep breath and carries it out.

Tom Schilling makes the character of Curt intriguing: this is not just another confused artist, but one who seeks the “truth” in an era of lies. Donnersmarck includes a send-up of performance art that had the audience laughing out loud.

Curt endures much (spoiler alert), including the sight of his father, reduced to serving as a janitor, hanging from a rope. Curt’s talent is supported as long as he sticks to the “Timeless values of the people”, whether Nazi or communist. After escaping to West Germany, he meets an eccentric art professor, skilfully underplayed by Oliver Masucci, who recognises a bottled-up talent in need of some rough handling. Looking at Curt’s initial efforts, he says with near-bluntness: “This is not you.” Stung by the comment, Curt remembers what his sister Elizabeth said – “Never look away” – and then his true talent begins to emerge.

Films that take you into the wilderness with Jesus

Deal W. Hudson

March 14, 2019

It’s hard to understand why any director making a film about Jesus would ignore the face-off with Lucifer. Cecil B DeMille has his mind elsewhere in his 1927 King of Kings. Himself succumbing to carnal temptation, DeMille opens his film with a barely clad Mary Magdalene, now a prostitute in love with Judas. In his Jesus of Nazareth (1997), Franco Zeffirelli, I’m guessing, could not conceive of a suitably Botticelli-like way of depicting the wilderness encounter within his five-and-a-half hour mini-series.

By far the worst wilderness scene is in the King of Kings (1961), directed by Nicholas Ray. Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter) climbs with bloody feet over rocky terrain when Miklós Rózsa’s powerful film score is interrupted by Lucifer’s arrival in the form of a plummy voice-over (Orson Wells). The subsequent dialogue is so clumsy, so literal, so cardboard stiff, I was reminded of teenage actors at my local Catholic school.

As he walks out of the wilderness, Jesus meets John the Baptist (Robert Ryan) sitting with John and Andrew. At the Baptist’s recommendation they stand up and start following Jesus like zombies, no questions asked.

In the much-admired 1964 film, The Gospel According to St Matthew, director Pier Paolo Pasolini is anti-Hollywood. Shooting in black-and-white, Pasolini uses non-actors in a 1st-century setting, using language from the Gospel account. There was no screenplay.

We meet a Jesus (pictured) who is ordinary, even frail; he lacks all charisma. As he prays on his knees in the wilderness, a dark figure approaches from a distance. Jesus stands to meet him, and Satan arrives dressed as a priest. Except for a 20-second trip to the top of the temple and back, there’s no drama in the three temptations; neither face changes expression. Satan walks away, but Pasolini’s panoramic shot of Jesus walking out of the desert is worthy of David Lean.

The best of the wilderness scenes are found in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) directed by George Stevens. The screenwriting and direction move in a surprising direction. Jesus (Max von Sydow) hears some laughter and a voice from a cave. It’s Satan (Donald Pleasance), whose voice is gentle and coaxing: “Long hard climb?”

Satan tempts Jesus with the voice of a friend trying to offer a favour. Their faces are barely seen against a night sky filled with a large, cratered moon. Satan explains: I can give you this and that, because “life should be easy”. Jesus struggles for a moment but pulls himself away from the edge of the cliff, and Satan goes back to eating his snack.

Satan, after all, should be depicted as having some touch of St Paul’s “angel of light”.

A painter of pure, radiant happiness

Deal W. Hudson

February 14, 2019

Ali Cavanaugh’s figurative art has deep spiritual roots, discovers Deal Hudson

Ali Cavanaugh is a painter in pursuit of the miracle of human existence. A Catholic convert who was received in 2002, she says this of her faith: “The Blessed Mother is my constant and helps me with every step of my journey as a wife, mother and artist.” With that in mind, we should not be surprised that young people, mostly female, inhabit her work, perhaps reflecting the life she leads with her husband and four children in a small town, Ste Genevieve, outside St Louis.

Her orientation towards the visual world began early: Cavanaugh was only two when she contracted spinal meningitis and lost most of her hearing. She calls the loss “a blessing in disguise as I learned to depend on body language and reading lips to communicate”.

Cavanaugh’s reputation has grown rapidly over the last decade. In 2018 she was listed by BuzzFeed at 26 in the “The Top 100 Figurative Painters Working Right Now”. The first collection of her paintings, Ali Cavanaugh: Modern Fresco Paintings, will be released on March 15, following a showing at the Strand Book Store in New York City on the 13th.

Cavanaugh’s medium is a modern version of fresco. Prompted by her delight in the “mirror finish” after laying plaster on walls, she discovered kaolin clay, a soft, absorbent surface that lasts a long time. After some experimentation, she exhibited her first group of paintings at a NYC gallery in January 2007. They sold out immediately and her career took off after that. By 2014, Cavanaugh was being exhibited by 10 galleries in the US and abroad, and she had been commissioned by Time magazine to paint Taylor Swift.

Modern Fresco Paintings is arranged chronologically from 2007 to 2018. At the front of the book, Cavanaugh relates her life as a person and an artist. A marvellous essay by Daniel Maidman follows. He describes Cavanaugh’s paintings in terms of happiness: “The elements in her work support her depiction of pure, uncorrupted happiness: sunlight – wind – female youths – contour lines – luminous colour – translucency – symmetry – language – and focus.” I agree. The pictures start with wonder, what she calls “the unique presence of the human person”, and portray those moments when “presence” is made manifest. Cavanaugh’s happiness, frankly, took me by surprise: her depictions of playfulness, innocence and joy are moving and contain no feigned naiveté or self-conscious effort to market herself to an audience weary of a topsy-turvy world.

The first image you see, Listening without hearing (2011), across from the title page, is of a teenage girl with shimmering red hair in profile looking to the right. Her arms, bent at the elbow, have raised her hands palms-outward in front of the left side of the head as if to look away from the viewer. She wears white sock arms: socks starting from above the elbow over her hands, the stripes matching the red of her hair. She wears a modest sleeveless shirt with a slight hint of budding adulthood. She’s a classic beauty, lovely red lips, upturned nose and lashed eyes that look even further away from the viewer. The hair as it falls over her chest has a deeper, sensual, luxuriant red of the woman-to-be. The entire effect is one of innocent modesty, of a young woman comfortable in herself but wanting the freedom of being left alone.

Maidmain again is on target: “She summons happiness not from her figures but from us.” This not the happiness of teenage self-indulgence. Cavanaugh found happiness the hard way: dealing with the burden of childhood deafness and a father who abandoned her and her mother.

Unlike many who are hurt early in life, she does not turn from suffering. After moving to Ste Genevieve, Cavanaugh met Milly, a teenage girl who had “a compelling presence”, in spite of the hair loss and scarring from treatments for severe cancer. After photographing Milly, she waited a year before painting her. These are my favourite paintings in the book regardless of the backstory. This sequence maps the life of a teenage girl. As a father of a 30-year daughter, I recognise the teenager wrestling with the onset of the adult world – the shyness and insecurity, the perk and charm, the creativity and fantasy, the determination to make it through.

Not until the final chapter, “chroma”, do boys enter Cavanaugh’s visual world. This makes me wonder what lies ahead for this brilliant painter, only in her late 40s: what other lives will she explore, what ages and genders? I’m confident that whatever subjects she turns to will be revealed in a way that recognises the good that lies deeply within all of us.

Ali Cavanaugh’s paintings will be shown at the Strand Book Store in New York City on March 13 at 7.30 pm. For more information, visit alicavanaugh.com.

Deal Hudson is the Catholic Herald’s US Arts Editor

Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’ is badly misunderstood

Deal W. Hudson

February 7, 2019

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, recently condemned the New York Times for using a picture of “a nun in habit standing behind a jail-like façade” to accompany a review of Jacques Rivette’s 1966 film La Religieuse (“The Nun”). Based on a novel by Diderot, it depicts the life of a nun who is constantly beaten, tortured and, finally, pressed by a lesbian Mother Superior for sex. Donohue asks, “Now who would concoct such trash?”

Well, Diderot had his reasons, but another writer and film-maker told an equally disturbing story about nuns. Aldous Huxley’s 1952 novel, The Devils of Loudun, was based closely on historical events of 1652 that took place in that city, and in 1971 a Catholic director, Ken Russell, released The Devils, based on that novel. The Devils starred Oliver Reed, in the best performance of his career, as Father Grandier, and Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne, who convinces us of an almost unimaginable character – an Ursuline Mother Superior with a badly humped back and an erotically obsessive crush on the handsome Grandier.

One aspect of the film now jumps out at me: Loudun was a city with high, impregnable walls that allowed the persecuted Huguenots to live in safety alongside Catholics. In one of the opening scenes, Father Grandier celebrates the walls, created by special dispensation from Louis XIII, as providing both protection from religious persecution and individual freedom.

It’s understandable why Mark Kermode, in his introduction to my Criterion Collection DVD of the movie, calls this Russell’s greatest film, because for the first time he combined his extraordinary visual and musical sensibility “with a solid political underpinning”. Wait? Isn’t this a film about the Catholic Church? Yes and no, because Cardinal Richelieu is merging the power of Church and state while Louis XIII entertains at his decadent court, brilliantly portrayed in the film’s opening scene where a practically naked king arises on stage as Botticelli’s Venus.

I watched The Devils one more time after having just seen Robert Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962), another film based on historical fact – the script is taken directly from the court record of
her trials. St Joan and Father Grandier are each put to death for political, not religious reasons, though churchmen used accusations of heresy to burn them, in spite of knowing these were not true. So it follows, at the moment of Grandier’s burning, the city walls of Loudun explode and come tumbling down. And Grandier’s last words are: “Don’t look at me, look at your city, your city is destroyed, your freedom is destroyed also.”

The orgiastic scenes with lots of female nudity have aroused intense controversy since its appearance, but they are secondary to the plot. Compare those scenes, and the characters central to them, to the figure of Father Grandier. The former are cartoonish and recognised as such by the townspeople who look on. The latter, Grandier, has enjoyed carnal love with women and become secretly married to a woman he loves, but undergoing severe torture will not confess to a heresy he did not commit. He dies a true martyr with a nobility similar to St Joan of Arc.

Those who, in the name of God and decency, have condemned The Devils, have been ill-served by their preoccupation with nakedness and sex. They missed the meaning of Russell’s masterpiece.

The extraordinary power of ‘transcendental’ films

Deal W. Hudson

January 24, 2019

Deal Hudson on the shattering effect of movies that defy our expectations

In 1971, Paul Schrader, a film student at UCLA, published a book called Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. Although he was only 24 years old, his theory of “transcendental style” – expressed in formal academic language – created a scholarly sensation. He is more famous, however, for writing film scripts that definitely do not use formal language – Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, for example (“You talkin’ to me?”).

Schrader’s “transcendental style” is still influential, however, and now the University of California Press has republished his book with a new 33-page introduction: “Rethinking Transcendental Style”. Its republication is long overdue.

Some years ago, I began watching the masterpieces of world cinema found in various “Top 100” lists to find out why they were so highly praised above my American and British favourites. I was immediately intrigued by the three directors Schrader chose, and particularly by Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu), Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson) and The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer). Each had a shattering effect on me: an elderly couple visiting their ungrateful children; a French priest, nearing a physical and emotional breakdown, scorned by his parishioners; and the trial and execution of the Maid of Orléans played out on the face of Joan, portrayed luminously by Maria Falconetti.

The stories they told appealed to me, but I knew something more was going on that gave them extraordinary power. These films were not designed to buy a few hours of distraction. It wasn’t until I read Schrader’s book that I realised that they employed a peculiar sort of style – the “transcendental style” discussed by critics and theorists for the past 47 years.

Schrader is bold in this book, a boldness that does not flag in his new introduction. He grew up a Calvinist, in the Christian Reformed Church, which forbad “worldly amusements”, but he makes constant reference to the Mass and Christian iconography to explain what he means: “Transcendental style, like the Mass, transforms experience into a repeatable ritual which can be repeatedly transcended.”

Consider the example of Robert Bresson. What he repeats through his films is “everydayness”, says Schrader. He refuses to feed the ordinary expectations of a moviegoer: beautiful images, a straightforward plotline, including a happy ending, manipulative film scores, charismatic actors (Bresson preferred non-actors), creative camera movement (he shot only at chest-level) and film editing that creates an emotional climax. As Schrader puts it, “Bresson despises what the moviegoer likes best.”

Bresson’s austerity creates a “disparity” for the viewers, frustrating whatever natural emotional responses an audience brings to a film. His everydayness is “unfeeling”. Transcendental style postpones emotional reactions, creating “a need, although not a place, for emotion”.

The release of emotion comes at what Schrader calls the “decisive action”, such as the martyrdom sequence in Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc, represented by the image of the charred stake after a shot of a flying dove and the sound of three bells ringing.

The decisive moment is followed by “stasis”. The shot of the charred stake becomes an icon. After an hour of “inexpressive faces and cold environment”, the viewer reaches stasis in a “spiritual expression of Joan’s martyrdom”. This is the point at which we can accept the disparity of being faced not by a typical moviegoer’s experience but an “an expression of the transcendent”. I find this convincing – though not exhaustive, because meeting the transcendent can never be fully described.

In the new introduction, Schrader explains the origins of “slow cinema” with its use of the “time-image” rather than the “movement-image” – concepts taken from French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.

Anyone who has tried watching, successfully or not, the films of Béla Tarr or Andrei Tarkovsky has encountered this slow cinema. “They all have the same purpose: to retard time,” writes Schrader. Tarr’s Sátántangó, a drama about scheming Hungarian villagers, runs to more than seven hours, asking the viewer to become part of the film and create “meaning where none exists”.

Schrader admits that slow cinema has a small audience and fewer enthusiasts. I have found the films of Tarkovsky draw me in, while Tarr’s are a bridge too far. But Schrader’s book remains authoritative and should be read carefully by anyone interested in the spirituality of many great movies.

Schrader’s own First Reformed contains aspects of the transcendental style – flat-toned dialogue, expressionless faces, sparse interiors and exteriors, all creating disparity. A decisive moment is followed by a powerful iconic image of stasis at its conclusion. The film contains clear references to Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, and the country priest of George Bernanos and Robert Bresson, while taking Ingmar Bergman’s risk of the voice-over and dialogue addressing philosophical and theological questions. Schrader has made a profound and moving film, transcendental but with some, minor, accommodations to audience expectation.

Paul Schrader belongs to the select group of directors he names who are working with the transcendental style, such as Eugène Green, Pawel Pawlikowski, Carlos Reygada and Jessica Hausner. First Reformed, in my view, is something of a miracle in the wasteland of sequels, action heroes and saccharine romance films.

Deal W Hudson is the Arts Editor of the Catholic Herald (US edition)

Tim Kaine must not get away with styling himself a ‘Pope Francis Catholic’

Deal W. Hudson

August 9, 2016

With the nomination of Senator Tim Kaine, American Catholic voters once again face a decision about whether to send a pro-abortion, dissenting Catholic to Number One Observatory Circle, the official residence of the Vice President of the United States.

For the past eight years Vice President Joseph Biden has lived there, an abortion supporter for sure, but he never pitched his Catholic credentials to the voters in the way that Hillary, her surrogates, the Democratic Party and Kaine himself have done from the get-go.

Kaine, unlike Biden, was chosen because he’s Caucasian and Catholic. But not just any Catholic. He’s a product of a Jesuit education: Rockhurst High School in Kansas City and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras. As Mayor of Richmond, Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Virginia, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Virginia’s sitting Democratic senator, Kaine has remained true to the now dominant Jesuit version of Catholicism: love the poor but don’t make a fuss about the unborn. The poor deserve “preferential treatment” but the babies belong to Herod, so let him have them.

From the perspective of Catholic teaching, of course, this is schtick of the deadliest kind. A recent, and very telling, example was published in the Jesuits’ own magazine, America, following the announcement by the Clinton/Kaine campaign that the vice-presidential nominee would join Hillary in eliminating the Hyde Amendment. (The amendment, first passed in 1976, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother.)

The editors of America found Kaine’s capitulation a bit too much for the newly nominated Catholic VP candidate, so they opined, “Defend the Hyde Amendment”. Why? They explained: “The only nuance Mrs Clinton has shown on abortion in this campaign may be in her selection of Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate.”

As I said earlier, Kaine was chosen because he was Caucasian and Catholic, the intended effect being to mollify enough “swing” Catholic voters to ensure control of the White House. But Kaine’s sudden willingness to completely compromise all Catholic principle to be on the presidential ticket spurred the editors at America to demonstrate their political savvy by hauling their student into the boiler room for a few hard whacks.

It worked. The next day America magazine proudly reported that Senator Kaine did, in fact, support the Hyde Amendment in spite of what was announced by the campaign.

To cover his tracks, however, Kaine had to adopt another Hillary tactic: outright lying. When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about the flip-flop, Kaine replied: “That is not accurate, and I don’t think Robby has said that, Jake.” (“Robby” Mook is Hillary’s campaign manager, and here is a tweet that tells a different story.)

Lest the reader be moved to congratulate America’s editors for their success, I should point out that the editorial is just another example of eloquent Jesuit schtick. They rightfully take on Kaine’s dichotomy of being “personally opposed” to abortion but publicly supportive, but spin it this way: “But incoherent as it is, being ‘personally opposed’ at least maintains some minimal contact with the difficult moral reality of abortion” (emphasis added).

Are we to conclude that the editors of America consider Kaine’s “minimal contact” enough to rescue his Catholic conscience, and theirs, and make him worthy of America’s support as well as that of Catholic voters?

Indeed, America’s editorial suffers from another sort of dichotomy. How can the magazine not conclude that Kaine, viewed as a Catholic politician, has failed to meet the minimal standard of the values a Catholic politician should represent?

“But as long as Mr Kaine refuses to recognise the unborn among the marginalized and to include them among the children for whom he promises to fight, he has not yet fully embraced the mission of social justice,” the editorial says. “As long as he continues to accept the moral myopia that pretends abortion can fix our society’s failure to offer women the support necessary to feel secure even in unplanned or difficult pregnancies, he has not yet fully responded to the Gospel’s call to care for those in need.”

I’m all for incrementalism, but this stretches it beyond breaking point. Kaine’s “minimal contact” with the “moral reality of abortion”, coupled with his 100 per cent pro-abortion voting record and his full support for abortion provider Planned Parenthood, provides no foothold at all upon which to work towards even the lowering the number of abortions – a position espoused by America’s editors.

Kaine is already on the stump reaching out by name to “Pope Francis Catholics”, as he did in Philadelphia on August 1. The last time I looked, Pope Francis had not changed the Church’s teaching on abortion, contraception or, for that matter, the selling of a dead child’s body parts – all of which Kaine implicitly supports.

Will the editors of America, and the Jesuits in general, allow Kaine to describe Pope Francis in this way? Or will Pope Francis, and his Vatican spokesmen, allow Kaine to describe Pope Francis in this way?

I’m guessing that Senator Kaine will get bitten for invoking the Pope’s name – and he should, for a multitude of reasons.

Deal Hudson is the publisher and editor of The Christian Review

Pete Buttigeig: What You See Is Not What You Get

Deal W. Hudson

March 31, 2019

Mayor Pete Buttigeig of South Bend, Indiana is a full-blown relativist. He views the world through the lens of multiculturalism, historicism, gay rights, and radical feminism.

Buttigeig hopes to secure the Democratic Party nomination in order to become President of the United States. If elected, there would be no First Lady. He married his partner Chasten Glezman in June 2018.

His candidacy is showing traction, as Buttigeig puts it, “There’s this intangible energy you can just feel when I walk into a room.”

Like Bill Clinton, Buttigeig attended Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Like Bill Clinton, he speaks well, dresses conservatively, and has sizable charm. And also like Bill Clinton, what you see he is not what you get.

Like Barack Obama, Buttigeig opposes laws forbidding partial-birth abortion. In spite of allowing newborns to be killed, Buttigeig believes in “inclusion and love”! For Buttigeig, love means ignoring Scriptural teaching that “reflect the moral expectations of the era in which they were recorded.”

I wonder where Buttigeig stands on “Thou shall not kill”? Do we toss that out too? Sorry, I forgot, Buttigeig already tossed that out by supporting partial-birth abortion.

His reason? Buttigeig worries “the involvement of a male government official like me is not helpful.” I’m not sure why maleness should preclude us men from objecting to killing babies at the moment of birth.

An Episcopalian, Buttigeig also ignores the scriptural teachings on marriage and homosexuality as a product of the past. My gut tells me being in a gay marriage will help him get the nomination. If the Democrats can’t elect the first woman president, they would settle for the first gay president.

Charles Kaiser writing for The Guardian describes a plausible scenario which pro-life Catholics should take seriously:

Is it too much to imagine that America could elect a gay president? I don’t think so. If the disaster of George Bush’s administration was sufficient to elect the first black president, I believe the catastrophe of Donald Trump could be just enough to put the first openly gay man in the White House. Especially a man like this.

The new ultra-liberal leadership of the Democratic Party would be ecstatic to have a gay nominee. They’ve thrown any notion of truth out the window, especially if it benefits Donald Trump.

Case in point, another Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, refused to recognize the devastation of Venezuela by President Maduro and support the global effort to legitimize Juan Guaidó.

If elected President, Buttigeig hopes the United States will take the lead on LGBT issues. In the same interview, Buttigeig accuses the Trump White House of dividing the country with “white identity politics.” He promises a “political rhetoric to make people feel big-hearted.”

I guess the protection of innocent babies isn’t part of feeling “big-hearted.”

As mayor of South Bend, Buttigeig has been a leader in denying the rights of pro-life groups. He used his veto power to negate a zoning decision of the South Bend city council allowing a pro-life organization to relocate to property next to an abortion clinic.

That’s the kind of “inclusion and love” we can expect from Buttigeig if he’s elected President.

Buttigeig has made it clear he will talk about his faith on the campaign trail. He believes there is a “Religious Left” which will help him get to the White House. That’s the same crowd who backed Hilary Clinton to the hilt on the issue of immigration.

From a Catholic perspective, Buttigeig can count on the Nuns on the Bus,AmericaCommonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter. No doubt ninety percent of the Notre Dame faculty will pitch in to help.

Having watched Buttigeig interviewed, what struck me the most what his calm response to challenging questions. Buttigeig doesn’t depend on the histrionics of Bronx Congresswoman of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to make his point. This will earn him the attention of a public tired of the screaming.

We are tired of far-left politicians flailing us with hardly-repressed anger and hardly-disguised accusations of bigotry. Buttigeig knows this, and his communications strategy is to get his foot in the door just by projecting a nice-guy image.

Make no mistake, this is a nice guy who wants to strip America of a moral legacy that he considers outdated. He will use as excuses his sensitivity to the ways whiteness and maleness have “misshaped” our cultural attitudes.

Buttigeig promises “inclusion and love” for everyone who agrees with his pro-abortion and pro-LBGT agenda. The rest of us will be dismissed as “divisive” and “puritanical.”

At present, Buttigeig is enjoying the “intangible energy” he feels walking into a room of supporters. Buttigeig, if nominated, will find the waters less calm, and his earnest conviviality will be tested by encounters with less infatuated voters.

Immigration and the Golden Ticket

Deal W. Hudson

February 24, 2019

In the last decade, the topic of immigration has become as divisive in the Catholic Church as the issue of abortion. Like abortion, immigration is now at the center of national politics—it was the centerpiece of the 2016 presidential election. The election of 2020 promises more of the same debate but more fierce in tone and, also, more significant for the future of our nation.

Some argue that the principle of solidarity should inform a public policy that allows immigrants to enter the United States with only a minimal challenge at the border. The USCCB has consistently taken this position as stated in “Welcoming the Stranger: Unity In Diversity” (November 2000). The Bishops’ “call to solidarity” calls for the utilization of all governmental and church services to provide total care for immigrants who cross the border whether or not they cross illegally. In “Welcoming the Stranger,” the Bishops explain it this way:

“Without condoning undocumented migration, the Church supports the human rights of all people and offers them pastoral care, education, and social services, no matter what the circumstances of entry into this country, and it works for the respect of the human dignity of all—especially those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. We recognize that nations have the right to control their borders. We also recognize and strongly assert that all human persons, created as they are in the image of God, possess a fundamental dignity that gives rise to a more compelling claim to the conditions worthy of human life.” (Emphasis added)

In other words, although the Bishops recognize the right of a nation to control its borders, they trump that right with a “more compelling claim.” That claim is nothing less than persons are created in the image of God. Possessing the imago Dei, persons can claim “the conditions worthy of human life,” meaning enter the United States freely and receive all the goods and services “worthy” of their human dignity.

If the need for secure borders and national security is overridden by the created nature of each person, one wonders how far the Bishops want to extend this as a principle. Does the imago Dei get people released from jail?

If the imago Dei is a “Golden” ticket enter the United States illegally and remain here illegally, then the imago Dei is being made the enemy of the rule of law. Without laws, human solidarity is impossible. Solidarity demands order and respect for lawful authority. Look at countries like Mexico where the rule of law is ignored and see the human misery that results. This is a very dangerous principle to put in place.

The Catechism teaches that persons should be subject to the governmental authority that “seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it” (#1903). Why, then, are those who support secure borders, even the building of a protective wall, so quickly accused of contradicting the principle of solidarity? In other words, it’s the prerogative of the government to create and enforce laws consonant with the common good of society.

The more specific question is whether the Bishops consider the present immigration laws as “morally licit” when immigrants are stopped, questioned, and housed before the U. S. government makes a decision about admitting, or not admitting, them to the country. From all that I have read and heard the answer is ‘no.’

What we see right now at our all-too-porous southern border is beginning to resemble Mexico: sex trafficking, drugs, crime, gangs, not to mention potential terrorists. The Catechism recognizes the necessity of laws to regulate immigration:

The common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense. (Emphasis added, #1909)

The Bishops’ statement also brings us back to passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the obligation of wealthy nations, “to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (Emphasis added, #2241). Who decides the “to the extent they are able”? Answer: Our Congress and President working cooperatively to weigh national resources against the needs of immigrants.

The Bishops, as they often do, are attempting to influence both lawmakers and voters to regard our nation as able to provide more resources than are doing. With all due respect, they are not in the position to know the requisite facts regarding the nation’s resources. They do, however, know better than anyone what the Church can do at the diocesan and parish level. I’m certain they would not want politicians judging their use of resources.

The Catechism makes it clear whose job it is to make these prudential judgments: “Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions.  . . . ” (Emphasis added, #2441).

The Catechism, at least, states that a nation’s laws should me obeyed by persons, regardless of their imago Dei.

So Much for Dialogue: Cardinal Tobin Talks Past Trump

Deal W. Hudson

January 31, 2019

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin published an opinion piece in the New York Times about “The ‘Ethics’ of Trump’s Border Wall” (January 30, 2019) Tobin’s argument is presumptuous, accusatory, and riddled with factual errors. In that way, it’s no different from most of what we read and hear from liberals who attack President Trump.

Tobin starts by asking if the border wall is moral. In his conclusion, he admits, “A wall itself is not immoral,” but can be immoral if “it can be constructed for an immoral purpose.”

That explains why Tobin spends his 800 words struggling to explain why President Trump is operating with an “immoral purpose.” Just what does he count as evidence for proving the President’s immoral purpose?

First, the bishop writes, we must consider the wall’s “effect on humans.” OK, but for the sake of argument, Tobin narrows that down to the possible “harm” to immigrants and refugees at the Southern border of the United States. And, oh yes, let us remember they “are equal to us in the eyes of God.” I’m pretty sure President Trump would agree with this statement—in fact, he hasn’t said anything to the contrary.

Tobin worries that a wall would repel immigrants to “more remote areas of the desert or mountains, possibly to their deaths.” It seems to me if those immigrants were smart enough to view the US as a place where a better life might be had, they wouldn’t suddenly become stupid and head for the desert.

Then Tobin says something very perplexing. He claims since the mid-1990s nearly 8,000 migrants “have died in Arizona and parts of Texas since the construction of the San Diego and El Paso sectors of the wall….” Scratching my head, I want to ask the bishop how he can blame the wall—they died on the other side of the border, in the US!

Tobin then describes the recent immigrants from Central America who, as we have seen, have been organized into caravans of thousands. He argues they are “in compliance with our domestic and international laws” when, pay attention to the wording, “they cross the border and ask for protection.”

That’s true. However, the purpose of the wall is to keep them from crossing the border. Those who successfully cross, whether legally or illegally, are being treated according to the law.

Tobin recognizes this, noting a wall would present them from crossing the border, which he calls “their right under law.”

Wrong. No one has a legal “right” to cross our border. Their legal rights begin when they succeed in crossing. The only group that has ever been granted the right to cross US borders are Canadian-born Aboriginal citizens according to the “Jay Treaty” of 1794.

I agree with Tobin when he says we should seek “more humane ways to achieve border security” through technology. But Tobin has something different in mind, such as “additional legal avenues for entry and policies that address the factors pushing migration.”

In other words, change the law.

At this point, Cardinal Tobin argues we must look “at the intent of someone who wants to construct a wall to determine its morality.” What he claims next about President Trump is factually wrong and morally presumptuous: “In this case, it is clear that Mr. Trump wants to deny entry to anyone crossing the southern border, even those who have a right to cross and seek protection and are no threat to us.”

“Clear?” It’s not clear to me or the millions of American who voted for President Trump. When has the President even hinted that he wants to end all immigration at the Southern border? I’ll tell you: Never!

When anyone attacks a public figure, who he does not know, about that public figure’s “intent,” we know it’s personal.

Tobin wants to indict President Trump’s personal moral character. Somehow the bishop has seen into the President’s heart and knows he intends to keep anyone from entering the US from the South.

And having claimed this, Tobin doesn’t stop: “Mr. Trump is not acting with concern for the impact of the wall on their lives, including those of children, who would remain subject to danger.”

Just how does Cardinal Tobin know that? Is he the new Padre Pio, a reader of souls?

For some reason, unexplained, the bishop adds that the wall will have an “adverse impact” on the environment, causing harm to “wildlife and vegetation.” True, the wall will cast a long shadow in the morning and late afternoon, blocking the full heat of the sun.

Whether this is a welcome respite for plants and animals could be debated, but environmental arguments don’t belong in this column.      

Tobin castigates the “Remain in Mexico” policy that keeps immigrants outside the US until their hearings because “that could keep them vulnerable to organized crime for months or years.”

Other than the fact that some illegal immigrants have brought crime to the US—the M13 gang from El Salvador—Tobin doesn’t mention anything about the responsibility of other countries to protect their own citizens from harm.

If you want to address “root causes,” as Tobins suggests, why can’t the US help these nations shut down their organized crime?   

Tobin makes another broad claim, that the President wants “to rid the United States of as many immigrants—legal or otherwise—possible.”

He cites as evidence the ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and doesn’t mention the the district court decision that determined that DACA was very likely “unconstitutional,” because Congress never passed it, or that the President recently offered Democrats a plan to reimplement DACA permanently in exchange for border wall funding.

Tobin also laments the change in Temporary Protected Status. He doesn’t mention TPS was created to help refugees to enter the US from countries where conditions have become extremely unsafe. The recent changes under this administration only extend to Yemen, Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador, and are not intended as permanent.

If anyone doubts Cardinal Tobin has made this personal, read this:

The way in which Mr. Trump has argued for a wall also is instructive. In trying to secure funding, he has cast all immigrants as criminals and threats to national security by spreading misleading and inaccurate information about them.

As a rhetorical flourish, this is overkill and weakens his argument. He goes on to accuse President Trump of “lies and smears,” yet that is precisely what Tobin is doing to Trump.

Then Tobin makes this factual claim: Trump “fails to point out that immigrants commit crimes, including violent ones, at a much lower rate than [US] citizens.”

What Tobin says is factual, if his two cited studies–reported by the Washington Post–are true. Except for “gambling, kidnapping, smuggling, and vagrancy,” immigrants were convicted of far fewer crimes than native-born residents, according to the Cato Institute 2015 study. I think this fact should become more prominent in the public debate. It surprised me.     

Cardinal Tobin ends with the example of the Berlin Wall, “which prevented millions in the Soviet Bloc from seeking freedom in the West.”

He also could have mentioned the wall built by Israel to lessen terrorist attacks, which it has, from the Occupied Territory of Palestine. Also not mentioned was the 14-mile wall built south of San Diego over twenty years ago. This wall succeeded in lowering illegal immigration from 100,000 per year to 5,000.

Then there are the great walls of history: The wall of Jericho recorded in the Book of Joshua; Hadrian’s Wall; and the Great Wall of China. Each did the job it was intended to do: protect those who built it from harm.

The Vatican Wall is sometimes laughed at when brought into the discussion, but should not be. It was built 39 feet high during the 9th century as a barrier against Muslim pirates who attacked from Southern Italy, which they controlled.

All this makes the point: When danger threatens, who blames the potential victim for building a wall?

To tell the truth, the bishops have shown little or no concern for border security. A common argument against border security is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2441): The “first duty” of the government is not to protect its citizens but,

to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. Persons have the right to immigrate, and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nation.

What bishops, like Tobin, often forget is that what the Catechism calls the “second duty:” “to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good” (2441).

The language of the Catechism will startle those who have been listening to the bishops on immigration during the past few years:

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially concerning the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

If only bishops like Tobin would embrace the wise balance of the Catechism’s social teaching rather than ranting about the horror of the Wall.

That’s why there are two duties, to make sure that generosity does not become a danger, or that national security does not close our open arms.  It’s the responsibility of President Trump–and a Catechetical mandate–to “enforce the law for the sake of the common good.”