CatholiCity 2007

A Debate Out of Season

Deal W. Hudson
June 1, 2007

Bishops often speak about the virtue of “collegiality”—their desire to act and speak in one voice. The recent history of the Church illustrates problems arising from the expectation that individual bishops should subjugate their public message in favor of the USCCB. John Cardinal O’Connor and Bernard Cardinal Law were among the first bishops to challenge the demands of collegiality when they condemned Geraldine Ferraro’s pro-abortion stance in the 1984 presidential campaign. They couldn’t sit silently in the face of a vice-presidential candidate who constantly talked about her Catholic identity and misrepresented core teachings of the Church.

Other bishops have likewise spoken out in subsequent election seasons. The 2004 election was a particularly rowdy year for the bishops. I said at the time that it was a shame that this public discussion of Catholic participation in politics was happening during a presidential campaign. It would have been preferable to ask questions, such as those regarding reception of Communion by pro-abortion Catholic politicians, in a political off-year.

The opportunity for a more dispassionate reflection on and discussion of Catholics in politics comes with the publication of Catholics in the Public Square (Basilica Press) by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix. The virtue of this book is not only that it is timely and well-written, but that it is short, making it an ideal tool for discussion groups in parishes, schools, and colleges.

Bishop Olmsted is to be congratulated for speaking publicly on a set of issues that have confused lay Catholics who want to be politically involved but remain faithful to Church teaching. He is uniquely suited to the task, having worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State for nine years and possessing a doctorate in canon law.

Bishop Olmsted does not avoid the central issue: He writes that there are “many issues upon which Catholics may legitimately differ. . . .However, there are other issues that are intrinsically evil and can never legitimately be supported. For example, Catholics may never legitimately promote or vote for any law that attacks innocent human life.” Frankly, any attempt to provide Catholics guidelines for political action that does not address this basic distinction does not deserve serious attention, because it is avoiding the issue that has framed all the controversies of Catholics in politics since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

The excuse given by pro-abortion Catholic politicians since the 1970s has been their “conscience.” They treated the notion of conscience as if it absolved them of any moral obligation they might reject. Bishop Olmsted drives a stake through the heart of that myth: “Before following our conscience, we must form it in accord with the voice of God. Our conscience is not the origin of truth. The truth lies outside us.” This is the voice of a teacher, someone who knows how to put profound thought into accessible language. Catholics in the Public Square is filled with illuminating explanations of issues often made complex and convoluted by other commentators, most often those who want to avoid complying with Church teaching on the life issues.

Bishop Olmsted is not the only bishop who has decided to address key issues in a public way. Basilica Press is publishing an entire series of short books called “The Shepherd’s Voice Series.” Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio has written A Will to Live, examining the ethical dilemmas of death and dying. Francis Cardinal Arinze has taken on a similar group of moral concerns in Draw Near to Me. I recommend calling Basilica Press today to order all three (888-570-5182).

Pavarotti, a Voice That Will Never Die

Deal W. Hudson
September 6, 2007

We all awakened this morning to the news that the greatest voice of our generation, Luciano Pavarotti, had died.

The sound of his voice is something that I have carried inside my head since my early 20s when I first heard him sing La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera. I heard him sing at the Met several times in the early 70s when he was beginning to become a superstar. There are several of his Puccini arias I can hear from beginning to end without playing an LP, VCR, CD, DVD, or MP3. I just close my eyes and listen.

I had already discovered him from his first recordings, the obscure opera L’Amico Fritz on Angel Records (now EMI) and the Italian singer’s aria from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (did he ever sing anything more beautiful than this?). From that time forward, until the kitschy “Three Tenors” Concert, I never missed a Pavarotti CD or televised concert. His recorded La BohemeTurandot, and Tosca did not disappoint.

I’m one of few people who defend the film he made with Kathryn Harrold, Yes Giorgio, which I thought was very entertaining and presents the voice in its prime. The title song, written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, is a great Mario Lanza-type of crossover piece (before it was called “crossover”) and should be reissued in commemoration of his death.

After I watched the 1990 “Three Tenors,” I stopped following Pavarotti. The voice was in decline, though the passion and concentration were still there. His glorious rendition of “Nessun Dorma” reminded me of the more youthful singer I had heard at the Met and earned him fame in the world of popular music during the 1990 World Cup.

It’s wrong to say, however, as I saw in one headline this morning, that Pavarotti was the last of the “great voices.” Yes, he stands in a line of recorded tenor voices from Caruso through Tauber, Pertile, Gigli, Corelli, Schipa, Schmidt, Martinelli, McCormack, Melchior, De Stephano, Del Monaco, Wunderlich, Bjoerling, Bergonzi, and Domingo (among many others). We have great voices with us today.

Check out the recording of the Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon who, in my opinion, is the best of the present generation. Marcelo Alvarez, Joseph Calleja, Juan Diego Florez, and Ramon Vargas are also worth hearing, too. For the pure visceral thrill of the man who died yesterday, Villazon comes the closest. For the pure beauty of the voice, try the Maltese singer, Calleja.

(By the way, you can see and hear some of these great singers of the past and present for free on I took a spin through their classical videos the other day, then suddenly realized a few hours had passed by and I hadn’t noticed.)

But Pavarotti had everything – power, beauty, thrill, and meaning. He embodied each area, each song, and every character he played (in spite of his girth).

I hope retrospectives of his career will focus on the period from the late 60s up until 1990 and treat the rest as a footnote. Surprisingly, some of his best performances from that period are not available on DVD and CD. One DVD that is available is the stunning Verdi Requiem, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, from 1967.

Pavarotti’s “Ingemisco” from the Latin Requiem is what I will watch today as I pray for his soul.

Can Fred Thompson Win Over Religious Conservatives?

Deal W. Hudson

September 7, 2007

Former Senator, movie actor, TV star of “Law & Order,” Fred Thompson officially entered the presidential race last week.

It’s remarkable after his bumpy start – with a turnover in his campaign staff and the delay of his official announcement – that Thompson is polling only a single percentage point behind Rudy Giuliani, 23 % to 24%, according to the weekly Rasmussen Reports.

Thompson enters the race polling ahead of Mitt Romney at 13% and John McCain at 12%. (Romney’s support has been staying in the 12% to 14% for ten straight weeks.)

The key to Thompson’s candidacy will be his ability to attract and motivate the religious conservatives who provided the margin of victory for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Many of those voters cannot warm to the pro-abortion Giuliani and have yet to embrace Romney whose pro-life convictions are of a recent vintage.

His appeal to Christian voters hasn’t been helped by the March 28 comments by James Dobson reported in U. S. News & World Report: “Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for,” Dobson said of Thompson. “[But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.”

The reporter Dan Gilgoff did not call Dobson about Thompson – Dobson called him, unsolicited.

Thompson’s campaign denied the accusation, telling Gilgoff, “Thompson is indeed a Christian,” he said. “He was baptized into the Church of Christ.”

Two days later, a spokesman for Dobson released a statement acknowledging Thompson’s profession of faith but added, “Thompson hasn’t clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him.”

Gaining Steam?

The Dobson flap hasn’t kept some prominent religious leaders from gravitating toward the Thompson camp. On July 23, Scott Helman reported in the Boston Globe that Gary Bauer, former presidential candidate himself, and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council are moving in Thompson’s direction.

“I see a lot in him to be encouraged about,” Perkins said in the Boston Globe interview. “I think he stands the best chance of getting evangelical support.”

Evangelical support is crucial to gaining the GOP nomination. They remain the most loyal supporters of the GOP in spite of President Bush’s low popularity. According to a January 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center, 64% of religiously-active Evangelicals will vote for the Republican presidential nominee.

The weakest support for the GOP came from non-religious voters and Black Protestants. The religiously-active Catholic (non-Latino) support for the GOP was measured at 38%, falling dramatically from the 52% attained in the 2004 election.

Thompson has already demonstrated his awareness of the Catholic vote by being the only candidate to attend the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D. C. in April. The 6′ 6″ Thompson was easy to see at a head table with his wife Jeri and two small children, one born as late as November of last year. (His forty-year-old wife is a former political consultant, including a stint at the Republican National Committee. Thompson is sixty-six.)

How to Win the Primary

Attracting the loyal Evangelical support and reinvigorating the observant Catholic vote will be the one-two punch Thompson will need to win the nomination. The early inroads made by Romney and Giuliani among religious leaders appeared to have peaked. Sen. Brownback and Gov. Huckabee are stuck in low single digits in spite of their good showing in the Ames Straw Poll.

Religious conservatives are not the type of voters disposed toward compromise – they are waiting for a leader who will comport with their sense of political mission. It remains to be seen whether Fred Thompson can assume that role. Thompson doesn’t have Romney’s problem of a recent declaration of a pro-life position. His pro-life voting record was rated 100% by National Right to Life while in the Senate. And in a video sent to the NRTL convention in June, Thompson said

On abortion-related votes, I’ve been 100 percent… On stem cell research, I’m for adult stem cell research, not stem cell research where embryos of unborn children are destroyed. It looks to me like there is a lot of promising developments as far as adult stem cell research is concerned anyway and we don’t need to go down that other road.

He also described partial-birth abortion as “infanticide.”

Not All Clear

Thompson’s position on the other key issue for religious conservatives is less straight-forward. On August 17, Thompson told CNN would try to overturn Roe v. Wade if elected, and would seek for a constitutional amendment protecting states from being forced to honor gay marriages performed in other states.

“I don’t think that one state ought to be able to pass a law requiring gay marriage or allowing gay marriage and have another state be required to follow along.”

This prompted a clarification from the Thompson campaign sent the same day to National Review Online:

Thompson believes that states should be able to adopt their own laws on marriage consistent with the views of their citizens.

He does not believe that one state should be able to impose its marriage laws on other states, or that activist judges should construe the constitution to require that.

If necessary, he would support a constitutional amendment prohibiting states from imposing their laws on marriage in other states.

Fred Thompson does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

So the bottom line is this: Thompson’s position allows a state to mandate gay marriage as long as it cannot be exported to another state.

His lack of support for a federal ban on gay marriage led to a statement by Gary Bauer defending Thompson. “A number of us have met privately with Senator Thompson, and he’s made it absolutely clear that he opposes same-sex marriage” (American Family News Network, August 23, 2007).

Debates such as this will be commonplace for Fred Thompson as his outreach to religious conservatives intensifies with tomorrow’s announcement. Unifying that support will be one of the central challenges of his campaign, whether his public political voice will turn out to be as “presidential” as the voice of his TV and film persona remains to be seen.

Refuting the Attacks on Mother Teresa

Deal W. Hudson
September 10, 2007

The attacks began on August 23, the day Time magazine published an article by David Van Biema, “Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith,” quoting her letters to confessors and superiors from over 66 years.

In those letters, recently published under the title Mother Teresa: Come to Be My Light(Doubleday), Mother Teresa reveals the sufferings of experiencing God’s absence that persisted throughout her five decades of missionary work with the poor.

She wrote, “The silence and the emptiness are so great, that I look and do not see . . .”

Her only relief from this “dark night of the soul” was during a five-week period in 1959. For the remainder of her life, Mother Teresa suffered. As Van Biema put it, “The Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain.”

In a matter of hours after the Time article was posted on the Internet, howls went up from well-known atheist Christopher Hitchens, who has been leading an anti-Mother Teresa crusade for over a decade.

In 1995, Hitchens published The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, which was a sequel to his British television “documentary” entitled Hell’s Angel.

Hitchens interpreted the letters as Mother Teresa’s loss of faith: “She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that she attempted cure was more and more professions of faith.”

Another public atheist, Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, went further, saying Mother Teresa “was forced to go through the motions and admitted her own hypocrisy.”

“People of faith understand the cry uttered by Mother Teresa – people of no faith find it to be a stumbling cross. They cannot get their minds around the fact that Christ suffered and felt abandoned by the Father.”

These are the words of Jim Towey, a man who worked closely with Mother Teresa for twelve years as her legal counsel. Towey is now president of St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, PA, having previously served as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

He thinks that Hitchens is nothing but a publicity seeker.

“He’s a provocateur. He uses Mother Teresa to get attention, to feed off her celebrity. Hitchens has to conclude she was a hypocrite, or he has to retract his book and his atheism.”

When Hitchens published his 1995 book attacking Mother Teresa as a fake, Towey went to Mother to offer his sympathy, but she cut him off saying, “We must pray for him.” Hitchens’s name never came up again.

Towey told me that we should be grateful that these letters have been published – this change in the perception of Mother Teresa will make her “accessible” to more people.

“I think she has been up on a pedestal, the saintly person who worked with the poorest of the poor. She was really out of reach of most people. Now that we know that she had long trials of darkness and doubt, she will be within the reach of more people, especially those who have suffered terrible loses, like the death of children and terminal illness. She will be an inspiration to them.”

In all the years that Towey worked with Mother Teresa and knew her, the intense spiritual struggle told through these letters was never expressed.

“There was no hint of this, absolutely none. We always thought she got the spiritual consolations that we didn’t get.”

In her lifestyle, Mother Teresa was obviously no stranger to hardship. She had malaria dozens of times, rarely slept, and “her room in Calcutta didn’t even have a fan.”

Towey sounded angry for a moment after I repeated to him the charge made by Barker and others that Mother was insincere. He stopped and drew a deep breath before finishing his answer:

“Mother Teresa was the most authentic human person I have ever known; she was deeply in love with God and her neighbor. Her faith was as pure and sincere as it gets. The fact that the Lord withdrew his presence after speaking with her so clearly decades earlier just heightens her faith.”

When I asked Towey how she managed her magnetic smile, he said something very remarkable:

“She willed it,” he said.

I interrupted him to say that smiling isn’t something we usually associate with willpower.

“People understand that. Take the mother whose 10-year-old child is tragically killed. She feels like she will never smile again. One day she realizes that life must go on, and you will have to smile again; it’s an act of the will.”

That’s a lesson we can all benefit from.

Ten Questions with Senator Sam Brownback

Deal W. Hudson
September 11, 2007

Senator Sam Brownback was traveling between events while campaigning in New Hampshire when I spoke to him last week.

Despite criticism, Brownback has kept the abortion issue at the top of his agenda for the nation, and recently finished among the top three candidates in the Ames Straw Poll. I called him to ask about the reaction of voters to his message, and especially to his uncompromising emphasis on the defense of life.

Q: Senator, what have you learned about America during your time on the campaign trail?

I’ve learned this is a great country with many very committed individuals who believe we’re on the road to renewal. I’m discovering a great spirit of commitment to be a better nation, to grow and prosper as a country.

Q: What theme strikes the deepest chord within the American people?

Hope. After I address what we need to do about taxes, immigration, and war, I always talk about hope and the future. The best-received part of my speech is when I describe the abiding American optimism towards the future.

Q: What’s the reaction of the people of faith to an orthodox Catholic running for President? That’s not exactly something they’ve been seeing much of lately.

People seem to gravitate to me because of that. They’re delighted to see somebody stand on principle. I’ve attracted a number of people to support this candidacy, who at first didn’t know me at all, but when they hear me speak on these matters of truth they decide to support me. This is particularly the case among young people.

Q: How do you explain the passionate support of so many young people when it is commonly said that the younger generation just simply isn’t in tune with your kind of message.

I disagree with them. If you look at the pro-life statistics, the youngest generation is the most pro-life. They are ones who are most committed to protecting life and recognizing the sanctity of life in the womb. I find my greatest support in that younger generation, and I’m delighted to see coming to the polls.

Q: We are in the midst of debates about the war in Iraq, immigration, and terrorism. In this climate, do you find that the life issues still resonate with people?

They do still resonate with people. They particularly resonate with the community of people dedicated to ideals. If people were pro-life before, they tend to remain adamant about this issue. However, I think for people maybe that are generally conservative or generally Republican the life issue has gone down on the scale of issues. Immigration has gone up the scale of issues, along with the war in Iraq and Federal spending.

Q: You’ve been criticized for making abortion the primary focus of your campaign. Why have you done that?

Well, I wouldn’t put it as the primary focus of my campaign and but I would put it as a key issue in my campaign. It’s the moral issue of our day. Without the right to life, what would the other rights mean? We are also at a point in time where I believe the country needs to wrestle directly with the life issue. I think the country is ready to debate it and see the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

Q: Some Evangelicals have said they would not vote for you because you are a convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism. Do you think this attitude is widespread or is it localized?

I don’t know, but I do know that we should not have a religious test for public office.

Voters should look at the where an individual stands on the issues. I want people to support me because of where I stand on policy and economic issues. If they like the kind of leadership I represent, then they will vote for me. There should never a religious test of any kind.

Q: If you were elected president what would you make your top priority?

My top priority would be rebuilding the family. So many good things flow out of strong family life. That is going to help out the economy, education, crime, and the military. If we continue to get the family structure wrong and life issues wrong, we’re going to have many more problems, which the government will try to fix. I would much rather have more family than more government.

Q: What could you as President do to rebuild the family? Isn’t that something that should come from the grassroots?

Well, it does. But the President has the best bully pulpit in the world. You can use that pulpit to drive policy discussions on issues like welfare reform. Right now, you get penalized in the United States if you’re wife dies and you’re on welfare and you get remarried. It’s a terrible thing. I think we should go a different route and encourage people and give people a bonus if they get married.

Q: How important is the federal marriage amendment in protecting traditional marriage?

I think it’s huge. We are now seeing judges redefine marriage. The way to combat that is for us to have a constitutional amendment requiring marriage as a union of a man and a woman. There are some states where laws have been passed to protect marriage – they’re rebuilding society, sending a clear signal out about how people view this. But the only way you can get total protection is a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

Why I Am a Catholic Republican

Deal W. Hudson
September 13, 2007

I’m not a Republican because I think Republicans are fun or especially good company. If I were looking for sociality or cordiality in my political party, I would look elsewhere.

I would also look elsewhere if the GOP ever turned its back on the issues that brought me into its fold in the first place: pro-life and pro-family matters. There is no question that the Republican Party and its platforms over the past 30 years have been closer to Catholic teaching on these issues than those of the Democrats.

When the Catholic apologists for the Democratic Party start to talk about poverty as the primary cause of abortion, they are merely spinning. When they point at the support of some GOP leaders for the death penalty, they are spinning. When they talk about “Bush’s War” they are spinning, and when they call the GOP “the party of the rich,” they are spinning.

Democrats make all this noise to distract attention from the simple fact (a fact well-documented by former Democratic activist David Carlin in Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?, Sophia Press, 2005) that the animating vision of their party is being supplied by 1960s radicals turned post-modernists. “Marriage is only a social construct” is the kind of thing that tells me all I need to know about Democrats. Their philosophy is simply bad.

Republicans aren’t perfect. Okay, I said it. There is always the possibility they will toss aside their Reagan-Bush patrimony for the sake of keeping the White House. Then the Catholic and Evangelical voice will become a voice of dissent within the GOP.

The GOP is a coalition of religious and social conservatives, economic conservatives, libertarians, and pro-business interests. The fault lines between the various groups are always visible and always in danger of widening.

What all of these groups have in common, however, is a sensible philosophy and an appreciation, at least, for the contribution of religion to human institutions. In other words, the deposit of natural law can be found emanating from the soul of the GOP.

When and if the GOP gives up its defense of life and marriage and makes faux-tolerance the summit of the virtues, at that point it will no longer matter what party you belong to. The only argument between the parties will be how much of our money should be spent on programs for social engineering.

If I sound detached, it’s because I have learned to be. There is the politics of Aristotle and the politics of America in the 21st century – and they aren’t the same. One instructs us on the wisdom of applying first principles to government; the other is where we struggle to keep our first principles in view.

The GOP is my political home because it comports most closely with my Catholic faith and its most basic principles. The great divide between the Democrats and the GOP is not tax cuts or the war in Iraq. These are prudential judgments that an administration and a Congress must make – they are not violations of principle. There will be taxes and there will be wars.

The Democrats treat matters of prudential judgment as if they were principles. That’s because they have abandoned principles and put habits of prudential judgments in their place: Spend more money on “programs,” tax the “rich” to pay for them, and blame America for the ills of the world.

Republicans may not always make the best prudential judgments, but they still hold onto the basic vision of human rights as stated in the Declaration. Those three inalienable rights are the core of the natural law tradition upon which this nation was founded, a tradition with religious roots.

Republicans still know the government cannot provide happiness for its citizenry; it can only make possible our right of pursuing it. Good government creates the conditions for the ordinate exercise of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But neither of these rights can exist without a life to bear them.

When that right – the right to life – is denied, then anything becomes morally possible, even a culture of death. And when a political party has become the “party of death,” as Ramesh Ponnuru believes the Democrats have (The Party of Death: the Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard of Human Life, Regnery, 2006), it cannot be a viable platform for social renewal.

Republicans have kept a sound philosophy underlying their politics; they have not yet taken the postmodern turn contra naturam. We can credit the infusion of conservative Christians into the GOP over the past 40 years with keeping the party from going the way of the Democrats. I was one of that breed, and I will remain so as long as the GOP stays on course.

Will Dr. James Dobson Damage the Christian Vote?

Deal W. Hudson
October 2, 2007

Dr. James Dobson is the founder of the largest, most influential, Evangelical organization in America, Focus on the Family. His radio show reaches two million listeners every day, and he’s easily the most important Evangelical leader in the country.

As a result, Dobson’s political pronouncements carry a lot of weight among Christian voters. But these comments, covering all of the GOP presidential candidates, threaten to divide and marginalize Christians in the upcoming election.

You see, Dobson has painted himself, and those who follow him, into a corner.

Proof of that was the story reported yesterday in the New York Times. At a meeting last weekend of conservative leaders in Salt Lake City, the discussion centered around the proposal for a third party response to the possible nomination of Rudy Giuliani.

I have verified independently the discussions that took place among Dobson, Tony Perkins, and other religious and pro-life leaders. The idea of a third-party was not treated as a hypothetical, but an imminent possibility.

This Dobson-led threat of a third party effort was the predictable outcome of his public statements since October 2006.

The dilemma for Dobson is simple: He has disavowed every GOP hopeful except Newt Gingrich. With Gingrich now saying he will not run, there’s no one left Dobson can support:

October 2, 2006: As a guest on the Laura Ingraham radio show, Dobson says of Mitt Romney, “I don’t believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon, but that remains to be seen, I guess.”

January 11, 2007: As a guest on the Jerry Johnson Live radio program, Dobson says, “Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances.”

March 9: Newt Gingrich appears on Dobson’s radio show to deliver the mea culpa for his extra-marital affair while pursuing Clinton’s impeachment in 1994. “There are certainly times when I’ve fallen short of God’s standards,” says Gingrich.

March 23: An article initiated by Dobson is published in U.S. News and World Report. Dobson describes Fred Thompson: “Everyone knows he’s conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for. . . [But] I don’t think he’s a Christian; at least that’s my impression.”

May 17: Dobson writes, “Rudy’s Not the One” for WorldNetDaily. “I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. It is an irrevocable decision,” adding if the choice is between Giuliani and Clinton or Obama, he might not vote at all.

September 20: The Associated Press reports a private e-mail circulated by Dobson again criticizing Fred Thompson, saying, “He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”

The only satisfactory candidate for Dobson evidently is Gingrich, who announced on Saturday he would not be a candidate. So where do Dobson and his followers go? And will they respond to a third party call?

What happens to the religious conservatives already committed – rather evenly – among the four leading candidates? Would they follow Dobson, Perkins, and other movement leaders out of the GOP?

Dobson gave Newt Gingrich a second chance by inviting him on his radio show to offer a public repentance. Perhaps he will offer the other candidates a chance to explain positions troubling to him and his listeners?

I’m sure they would leap at the chance.

Has James Dobson Created an Opening for Mitt Romney?

Deal W. Hudson
October 8, 2007

Mitt Romney is seizing the opportunity created by Dr. James Dobson’s threat of a third party candidacy. The Massachusetts poll is positioning himself as the GOP candidate of choice for religious conservatives.

How? In a Boston Globe story from October 5, Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said, “Dr. Dobson is keeping an open mind on Mitt Romney, and I think this is because they do share in common so many values.”

In short, Romney wants to portray himself as the only major candidate with Dobson’s approval still in the running.

Dr. Dobson didn’t take the bait. The Boston Globe reporter, Michael Kranish, called Dobson to get a comment on the campaign statement, but he did not return the call.

No one can blame Romney for trying to fill in the vacuum created by Dobson’s negative comments on nearly all the GOP candidates. After all, Dobson has said nothing critical about Romney himself, only that Evangelicals would not be likely to vote for a Mormon.

“I don’t believe that conservative Christians in large numbers will vote for a Mormon, but that remains to be seen, I guess,” Dobson said on a national radio show October 2, 2006.

The signs are not good that Dobson will back Romney. Dobson’s attempt in Salt Lake City to rally other religious leaders to a third party cause came the day after Romney spoke to the same group.

If Dobson had been favorably impressed, he would not have carried through with his plan to lead his colleagues out of the GOP for the 2008 election.

By addressing Dobson publicly, the Romney campaign is taking a huge risk. Fehrnstrom argued that Dobson and Romney “may not agree on theology, but they share in common values like protecting the sanctity of life.”

This is a problematic issue for the Romney campaign to raise with pro-lifers like Dobson and other members of the Council on National Policy. Not only is Romney’s pro-life commitment of a recent vintage, it remains inconsistent on the very important issue of embryonic stem cell research.

Romney still supports research on “unwanted” or “discarded” frozen embryos from fertility clinics. He does draw the line at creating human clones for stem cell research.

As Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, an ethicist with the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia has stated, “Any position that throws open the door to using the frozen embryos is going to be a position that Catholics and many other Christians will not be able to stand behind in any way.”

Romney and his campaign understand the apparent inconsistency in his position. Rev. Pacholczyk himself, and a number of other well-known Catholic pro-lifers have already discussed this issue with the Romney campaign.

It isn’t very likely that Dr. Dobson will take a pragmatic view of Romney’s position for the simple reason that the bulk of embryonic stem cell research derives its material from frozen embryos.

Thus, to be for embryonic stem cell research on frozen embryos and against it on human clones is effectively to be for embryonic stem cell research, because that’s how it’s presently being done.

In spite of the risk, the Romney campaign has asked Dr. Dobson to take another look at their candidate before pursuing the third party strategy.

This is a potent issue for religious conservatives. You may recall that Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) was considered the leading GOP presidential contender until he went on the Senate floor on July 29, 2005, to challenge President Bush’s restriction on federal funding for stem cell research.

Within forty-eight hours, Sen. Frist’s chances of a successful run for the nomination had evaporated. Religious conservatives felt betrayed and said so.

Mitt Romney has invited closer scrutiny from Dr. Dobson – whether Dobson will take the opportunity to criticize Romney on embryonic stem cells – as he has Fred Thompson for not supporting a federal marriage amendment – remains to be seen.

It’s a bold move from a candidate whose outreach to religious conservatives has been methodical and determined from the very beginning.

High Noon at College of the Holy Cross

Deal W. Hudson
October 15, 2007

The Jesuit College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, is in trouble.

Bishop Robert J McManus, S.T.D., issued a statement on October 10th warning President Michael McFarland, S.J., that the official Catholic status of Holy Cross was at risk.

The reason for the showdown? On October 24, representatives of both Planned Parenthood and NARAL are scheduled to speak on campus as part of a “Teen Pregnancy Conference” sponsored by the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy.

This could be historic – a clash that has been decades in coming between a bishop and a Jesuit college. Remember, even Jesuit colleges receive their “Catholic” status from the local bishop.

“No university, even if it is, in fact, Catholic, may bear the title ‘Catholic University’ except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority” (Code of Canon Law 808). The “competent authority” within each diocese is the bishop.

Holy Cross is renting space to the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy for the conference, and President McFarland responded to Bishop McManus by saying Holy Cross has “contractual obligations” and cannot cancel the conference or dictate its speakers. (Sorry, but Holy Cross had plenty of time to cancel the conference. A spokesman for the diocese, Raymond L. Delisle, said the bishop had a number of discussions with Father McFarland over the past two weeks.)

The Holy Cross statement also included the following:

The college believes a meeting of adult professionals pooling resources, engaging in a dialogue and exchanging information is a beneficial way of grappling with pressing issues related to the health and well-being of Massachusetts teenagers and children.

When October 24 arrives and the Holy Cross Jesuits have not acted in accord with the statement of Bishop McManus, a domino effect may begin toward the official secularization of Jesuit institutions in the United States, beginning in Massachusetts.

Will Father McFarland lead his school out of the Catholic Church? He’s already remembered for defending the honorary degree awarded to Chris Matthews in 2003, in spite of Matthew’s explicit comments about being “pro-choice.”

Bishop McManus’s warning doesn’t sound like an idle threat:

It is my fervent wish that the administration of the College of the Holy Cross will unequivocally dissociate itself from the upcoming conference… so that the college can continue to be recognized as a Catholic institution committed to promoting the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

Like so many Catholic colleges inviting their students to embrace “the dialogue” of the virtues of abortion, Holy Cross alumni are dividing on the issue. John P. Hamill, chairman of the college’s board of advisers, commented, “I find it very hard to understand why this is an issue of great concern after six years.” (As it turns out, NARAL and Planned Parenthood had been guests on the campus for the previous five years.)

Vic Melfa, a Holy Cross alumnus, class of 1957, is co-founder and president of the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society. “It’s a great concern to me because the group that’s sponsoring the conference is diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching on life. President McFarland should have said ‘no.'”

If this clash does reach ahead, it will be the direct result of a document signed in 1967 at the Land O’Lakes Conference organized by then-president of the University of Notre Dame, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C.

The opening statement of the document set the wheels in the motion for a sea change in Catholic colleges and universities:

The Catholic University today must be a university in the full modern sense… To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself (Emphasis added).

Now, forty years later, Bishop McManus has challenged the heart of the Land O’ Lakes statement (one of the signatories was the president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, the former-Right Rev. Theodore E. McCarrick).

Will the local bishop and Canon 808 prevail over the Jesuit president and the Land O’ Lakes document? We shall see.

Birth Control Pills to Be Distributed to 6th Graders

Deal W. Hudson
October 18, 2007

Bishop Richard J. Malone is “outraged” about the decision of the Portland, Maine, school board to make birth control pills available to 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade girls at King Middle School. On Wednesday, the Portland School Committee voted 5-2 to make contraceptive pills available to girls, ages 11 to 13, at the student health center.

What makes this decision even more unbelievable is that the girls can receive the pills without parental permission. Students are required to have a parent’s permission to go to the health center, but subsequent treatment is confidential.

In other words, it’s up to the student to notify her parents about any treatment she receives. (It seems pretty unlikely that a daughter would come home from 6th grade and say to her parents, “Hey, Mom and Dad, I went on the pill today.”)

The only way parents can make sure their daughter does not receive contraceptives is by signing a statement barring them from using the school’s health service entirely.

In other words, families have to give up the medical services paid for by their tax money in order to protect their children from being given medical intervention that contradicts their religious beliefs.

A wrongheaded solution

Condoms have been made available at King Middle School since 2002. As it turns out, that’s not unusual. “About one-fourth of student health centers that serve at least one grade of adolescents 11 and older dispense some form of contraception,” said Divya Mohan, a spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.

Proponents of the new Portland policy argue that many parents don’t act to “protect” their sexually active children. Only five of the 134 students who visited King’s health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having had sexual intercourse.

Rita Feeney, president of Maine Right to Life, commented: “This is the traditional doublespeak of people and organizations who claim they would counsel young children to avoid early sexual activity but then actively assist them in participating in risky behaviors, they say, because they’re going to do it anyway.”

Peter Doyle, a former middle school teacher, said the proposal violates the rights of parents, potentially ignoring their special knowledge of their children’s health, and puts young girls at risk of cancer from too early use of hormone-based contraceptives.

“You all are going to be responsible for the devastating effects on young women when this goes through,” he told the Associated Press.

Brian Gail, a Catholic writer from Philadelphia, is hosting a symposium on the dangers of contraception at this year’s Catholic Leadership Conference to be held in Charleston, South Carolina, October 25-26. Gail organized the CLC symposium because he predicted the pervasive contraceptive mentality would result in decisions like that of the Portland school board.

Sadly, Gail’s forecast came true just one week before the start of the symposium.

Gail told the Window, “The decision to provide hormonal contraceptives to middle school children defies incredulity. Last year the Mayo Clinic published the results of a comprehensive study which concluded that young women who use the pill for eight years before their first full-term pregnancy are 36 percent more likely to contract breast cancer later in life.”

Bishop Malone issued a formal statement later in the day. We can only hope his outrage will translate into a reversal of the school board decision. It’s absolutely unacceptable to exclude parents from the medical attention given to their children. It’s contrary to nature, and it should be contrary to law.