CatholiCity 2009

My New Year’s Wish for the Church

Deal W. Hudson
January 1, 2009

In the twenty-five years since I became a Catholic, I have continuously wondered why there is so little evangelism. I speak of the Church in this country, of course, though the observation would apply to Europe as well. I think I have finally located one source of the problem.

My New Year’s wish for the Church is that by becoming aware of two attitudes – dutifulness and complacency – we can start to renew our parishes with a spirit that greets those we know and welcomes those we do not.

Non-Catholic churches are filled with baptized Catholics who went elsewhere to find a spiritual home. Teenagers and young adults drift away after years of coming to Mass with their parents. These Catholics who no longer practice their faith, or have found other church homes, rarely speak ill of the Church; rather, they talk about a lack of “connection,” of feeling “anonymous,” and the experience of “not being fed.”

Yes, there are adult converts to the Catholic faith, but their number represents a trickle of what it could be if our Church was genuinely evangelical.

What do I mean by “evangelism,” “being evangelical,” or having an “evangelical spirit”? Is this just another example of a convert haranguing the Church for not being what it never was? Not at all. What I am proposing is something that arises naturally from the very nature of our faith and the mission of our Church. Does not our faith contain a story that begs to be told? Is not our Church a place that should greet and welcome all who come to its door?

Evangelical Christians are motivated to share their faith because they are taught that every person’s eternal salvation is at stake. Are Catholics taught any differently? No. Yet our behavior and prevalent attitudes would suggest otherwise. Evangelicals treat everyone who comes to their church as a customer (for lack of a better word) – strangers are welcomed at the door, recognized during the service, and often invited to lunch afterward. Put simply, they make a concerted effort every Sunday to build their community by extending it to others.

So what is getting in the way of Catholics sharing the story of their faith and consciously seeking to build the parish community from week to week? The problem is not our teaching, but the unnecessary attitudes mistakenly fostered by that teaching. In my opinion, these attitudes can be expunged through a more joyful engagement in the liturgy.

The Church teaches that certain aspects of religious practice, from Sunday Mass attendance and Holy Days (Canon 1247) to confession (Canon 989) are obligations. The consequences of not keeping these obligations can be a mortal sin (Catechism 1855) and the loss of sanctifying grace.

When all Catholics are required to be at Mass on Sunday the attitude can become: “Well, I have to be here and so does everyone else.” Let’s call that attitude dutifulness. That approach explains the lack of welcome on the part of congregants and priests alike. Why say, “I’m glad you are here,” when everyone is obliged to be here?

I am well aware that the teaching on the obligation is not intended to encourage such an attitude, and it is clear that there are other factors to consider (such as the need for liturgy that lifts the spirit of those in the pews). Nevertheless, there’s no debating the fact that problems arise when Catholics approach Mass as a duty.

The second attitude stems from Catholic teaching about the sacraments as they are entrusted to the Church (Catechism 1131) and necessary for salvation (Catechism 1125). Our priesthood is what “guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church” (Catechism 1120). This teaching was one of the Church’s great attractions to me as a convert. But this often translates into an attitude of “You have nowhere else to go if you want true salvation.” Let’s call that attitude ‘complacency,’ which in the extreme becomes smugness.

Catholics are not a people who are deeply disposed to sharing their Faith and are often put off by what they consider aggressive habits among their Protestant brethren. But our religion should motivate us to evangelize, though our styles and methods might be different. As Catholics, we are taught that the “Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church.” And we are also taught the Church and its universality is “a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity” (Catechism 831).

So great a gift demands to be shared. And to those who come to our parish door in search of that gift, they should be met not only with a “welcome,” but also with a celebration of the Mass that satisfies their hunger for God.

A Catholic College Where the Students Sing (In Latin)

Deal W. Hudson
February 23, 2009

Recently I had the chance to speak with Jeffrey J. Karls, president of Magdalen College in Warner, New Hampshire. Like many people, I had a few misconceptions about the school. After speaking with him and getting the facts, I thought it would be nice to turn our conversation into an informal interview.

With so many Catholic schools moving away from their religious identity, it’s always good to see an institution that embraces it.

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Deal W. Hudson: I understand that Magdalen College is a place where the students sing. Could you tell me about that?

Jeffrey J. Karls: Singing is at the heart of our life at Magdalen College. Other colleges might highlight their athletic programs, but we highlight the music program, especially the singing. Each student sings every year in the choir. Even students who don’t think they can sing find their voices. Some enter the college a bit apprehensive about singing but are tutored in everything they need to learn to be a member of the team. They sing polyphonic harmony at Mass every day, and they chant the Mass in Latin.

Everyone who visits here comments on how incredibly beautiful our liturgies are. The choir is invited regularly to sing at the cathedral for the Red Mass and other special liturgies. We are receiving so many requests for them to sing we may have to get a booking agent. But this is only one way we teach our students how to work together.

I read that the Cardinal Newman Society college guide described your college as one of the top “joyfully Catholic colleges.” Do you think your singing has anything to do with that?

It has everything to do with it. Singing gets the students out of themselves, helps them to be creators of harmony and beauty, and it nurtures their sense of wonder. That is part of the reason that joy permeates our campus. We recently went through the process of finding a new tutor, and all the applicants noticed how engaging the students are, how polite, and how joyful. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Magdalen College is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countries New Hampshire has to offer.

Do you describe yourself as a “great books” college?

No, we are careful to distinguish ourselves from places like St. John’s College and Thomas Aquinas College. We are a classic liberal arts program with a core curriculum based on the classic works of western civilization, but our students read other books as well. All the tutors choose every book read in our classes. The faculty does everything by consensus. We also have a four-year emphasis on theology and catechesis. If a student keeps above a B average, he receives an apostolic catechetical diploma in addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Are all of your classes run as Socratic-style seminars?

Yes, for the most part, except for classes like geometry or Latin, which tend from time to time toward lecture. We have 10:1 student-faculty ratio, so the seminars are small; and often two tutors will lead a seminar, such as in philosophy. The discussion between students and tutors doesn’t end with the seminar; they eat meals together – breakfast and lunch – in a dining room, not a cafeteria. It offers faculty and students the opportunity to interact with students from different classes; freshmen with seniors, juniors with sophomores, and so on.

What you are telling me is somewhat at odds with the Magdalen that is perceived to have a reputation as a “Catholic boot camp.”

These rumors are very misleading; they were probably first circulated in the founding years, in the early 1970s, and never went away. Magdalen, at the beginning, was somewhat like an overprotective mother and could have a bunker mentality, but we think we have now achieved a much better balance. For example, there is a rumor that we looked in students’ drawers to see how their socks were folded. The truth is that each dorm has a clean-up day, and the resident life assistants check to make sure all the rooms are neat and tidy. The campus is 17 years old, and we still have the original carpets and paint – everyone takes pride in our campus.

I have heard students are not allowed to date. Is that true?

That’s another misunderstanding about our college. Our students go out together all the time, and we have wonderful couples on campus. We place a great deal of value on having a thriving community life, and young people can fall into cliques. With 70 students, having that kind of community is important. Exclusive friendships at the expense of not participating in the community are what we are trying to avoid. A former student, Nancy Carlin (class of 2002), said on EWTN’s Life on the Rock, “If I was at another college or university I would have been friends with two or three students just like myself, but at MC I have 80 friends.” That is the kind of community we want to nurture. Couples actually thrive at Magdalen because the friendships are so strong.

Francis Cardinal Arinze is speaking on campus in April to mark your 35th anniversary. How did you get the cardinal involved with Magdalen?

I wrote inviting him to be the commencement speaker, but his calendar was full. Then he offered to come in April. The cardinal knew all about Magdalen College and wrote us a beautiful, very complimentary letter. Cardinal Arinze, evidently, had heard about our commitment to the liturgy.

Each day on campus begins with Mass at 7:30 a.m. – it is not mandatory, but there is 100 percent participation among the students. Confessions are heard every day before Mass, and there is singing at every liturgy. The altar servers have a great training program, and when Sean Cardinal O’Malley [of Boston] was here, he said they should come to train his seminarians on how to serve Mass. The liturgical life coordinator, chaplain, altar servers, and choir directors put everything together in a beautiful, sacred way. Some Masses are the Novus Ordo Latin, and some are a combination of Latin and English.

By the way, we have two Protestant students at Magdalen who were so motivated by the seminars they come to Mass every day.

What is your vocation record?

Thus far we have had 45 vocations to the priesthood and the religious life – a little more than one per year. It is very natural for Magdalen students to consider a vocation since the spiritual life is so front and center. Diocesan vocations directors come to the campus all the time, and religious orders come as well. Four Magdalen College graduates are in community with the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Different religious orders come to campus each year to give the annual student weekend retreat. This way, students get the experience of different charisms.

How have your alumni done in the world of work?

Our alumni are found in all the professions, from education, business, medicine, technology, to the military. We help our seniors with writing their resumes and preparing for job interviews. An executive from Sun Microsystems was recently here interviewing students and was very impressed with the answers given by our students. He said Magdalen students could speak, write, and present themselves better than most students he had met. Magdalen students get intensive training in writing, including short stories, an autobiography, and a senior thesis presented to the whole school. Our students are not just learning a trade, they are learning the tools to sell a product, motivate others, provide leadership, communicate clearly, and think critically. Businesses need those skills but can’t teach them.

Tell me about the month-long program in Italy.

Through a friend of the college, the prior at the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, we have created a program so students can spend time in Rome, Assisi, and Florence and live in a medieval walled city. In Norcia, they walk in the footsteps of St. Benedict, read his Rule, and chant at Mass with the monks every morning. This program used to be done with the juniors, but now we schedule it for the month after the end of the sophomore year. The cost is rolled into the tuition, and students have chipped in by opening up a Norcia caf� on campus and donating all the profits to defray the costs of the program.

Where do your students come from?

We have as many students from California as New England. Many of our students – 60 percent – matriculate after having participated in our two-week summer camps for high school students. These camps are limited to 30-40 students so we can get them all on one bus. Students are treated to academic classes, liturgy, recreation, and, of course, singing. By the end of the two weeks, the students are able to sing a full chant Mass in Latin. We also have two visitor weekends in the fall and the spring – high school students can come and live with the college students and join in all our campus activities. In the fall, they can enjoy the New England fall foliage and our local fall foliage festival, and in the spring, they ski at a local ski resort and enjoy our drama weekend presentation.

What do you say to parents who ask you about Magdalen College?

Magdalen is a place where young people come to know and understand themselves better in a relationship with others and with God and His beautiful creation. We provide the kind of academic environment described by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to Catholic college and university presidents last April: The Holy Father said that, first and foremost, every Catholic educational institution should be a place where its students encounter Jesus Christ and His love. That is very real at Magdalen College and is why our students are truly and joyfully Catholic.

Do the Nebraska Bishops Want Open Borders?

Deal W. Hudson
February 26, 2009

Early in the morning of December 12, 2006, 25 unmarked cars filled with federal agents pulled up in front of the Swift & Co. plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, to arrest illegal immigrants. “Operation Wagon Train” was part of a six-state effort to crack down on Swift, which was known to be employing undocumented workers at its meat-packing plants.

Swift was not charged with breaking any laws, but an undisclosed number of its Hispanic employees were arrested and taken to jail.

The three bishops of Nebraska – William Dendinger, Fabian Bruskewitz, and Elden Curtiss – reference that enforcement raid at the beginning of their pastoral letter titled, “Immigration: A Call to Be Patient, Hospitable and Active for Reform,” issued last month.

They admit at the start that the topic of immigration is “often identified with unauthorized entry into or presence in the United States,” and as such is a “subject of intensely felt concern and frustration.”

Further, the bishops tell us that Nebraska is one of the top ten states where immigration is on the rise (35,000 to 50,000 immigrants reside in the state). This influx, they admit, has led to “profound changes” in many communities, and particularly in Catholic parishes:

Often, the local church becomes an anchor for immigrant families and refugees, thus requiring a balancing of social and cultural differences.

The Nebraska bishops are bold in the face of this controversy, saying that immigration actually “presents opportunities” for Catholics: “understanding,” “personal growth,” “communication and dialogue,” “outreach, charity, and hospitality,” and “spiritual enrichment and a strengthening of faith in God’s divine plan for all humanity.”

Of course, it’s tough selling such intangibles to citizens deeply concerned about the cost of maintaining schools and hospitals that are already struggling to provide services to legal residents.

The debate over immigration exploded in 2005. Fueled by mass demonstrations and the consternation of conservative talk-radio hosts, this issue divided the nation and reversed the 2004 gains made by the GOP with Hispanic voters. The U.S. Catholic bishops came out strongly on the side of “welcoming” the immigrants, launching a Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform. (The Vatican and the USCCB were predictably accused of using Hispanics as “pawns” in an effort to increase their power in the United States.)

So, do the Nebraska bishops bring anything new to this debate? Yes and no. Their arguments are the same as those found in the 2003 pastoral letter written by the U.S. bishops and the bishops of Mexico, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.” That’s unfortunate, as this approach pits the right of an immigrant to cross borders out of “economic necessity” against the right of a nation to “control its borders.” These conflicting rights are mediated by the principle that wealthier nations must accept their “greater level of obligation” to accommodate those entering their countries in search of work. Given the same set of facts, prudential judgments made on this basis will differ widely.

Nevertheless, the Nebraska bishops should be commended for sending out teams to conduct listening sessions with both native Nebraskans and the immigrants themselves. As a result, their pastoral letter neither romanticizes the plight of the immigrant nor demonizes those who care about the rule of law:

Those who express, emphasize, and even prioritize their concern about illegal immigration and the rule of law… are not being unjust or immoral or ‘un-Christian.’ Indeed, patriotism and respect for the rule of law are virtues.

The bishops argue – and not convincingly – that the solution to the problem is comprehensive immigration reform that both receive immigrants and respects our laws. After this reform, there would be “no reason to use terms such as ‘undocumented’ or ‘illegal.’ All newly arrived immigrants will have legal status, having attained such in accordance with a rational, just, and humane policy and process, based upon proper regard for the security, economic capacity, and common good of the nation.”

Unfortunately, Bishops Curtiss, Bruskewitz, and Dendinger never explain how immigration reform will treat the Mexicans who continue to sneak across the Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California borders. How are they to be received in a manner that respects our laws? Are the bishops implying that the laws against clandestine border crossings should be eliminated – that we should have open borders? Their letter does not say.

Perhaps they are simply arguing that lowering the borders and allowing more workers to enter the country will slow the flow of those who arrive illegally. Fair enough. But it is clear that the Southwestern states want to decrease substantially the numbers who are crossing the Mexican border. Illegal entry will remain a problem, and the bishops are clearly uncomfortable with any concerted effort to find illegals and return them to their country of origin.

Obama’s Choice of Sebelius Heats Up the Pro-life Battle

Deal W. Hudson
March 2, 2009

President Barack Obama has selected a pro-abortion Catholic governor, who has been told by her bishop not to present herself for communion, to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Writing last year in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, discussed a meeting with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius where he told her “that someday she’s going to have to stand before God and account for her public service.”

The Catholics United/Catholics in Alliance/Catholic Democrats axis of Obama supporters immediately cheered the selection of Sebelius, with Catholics United having enough notice of the pick to put up a Web site called “Catholics for Sebelius.” The site presents a list of “Catholic leaders” supporting the nomination, including Doug Kmiec; Nicolas Cafardi; Margaret Steinfels, former editor of Commonweal; and Father Thomas Reese, former editor of America.

When Sebelius’s name was first floated for HHS, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, noted that almost every Obama appointee is pro-abortion, but the selection of Sebelius would create “a battle between those Catholics who are honestly pro-life, and those who feign a pro-life position while always embracing the likes of Sebelius.”

The battle may have already started. Obama’s Catholic supporters are definitely feeling confident, as they have attacked both Bishop Naumann and Donohue for their criticism of Governor Sebelius. They seem unconcerned with the recent wrist-slapping given Speaker Nancy Pelosi by Pope Benedict XVI at the private audience she requested in Rome, or the subsequent statement of Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput that Pelosi should not present herself for communion.

Sebelius’s record on abortion refutes any attempt she or her supporters may make to soften her image. She has claimed to “have worked hard to ensure that abortions are rare, safe, and within the bounds of the law.” But Sebelius vetoed bills that would have created abortion safety regulations and protected women from being coerced into having abortions.

Most notoriously, Sebelius hosted a 2007 party honoring Wichita late-term abortionist George Tiller, who by his own account has performed over 60,000 abortions. Two months after the Sebelius party in Tiller’s honor, he was arrested and arraigned on 19 criminal counts for illegal late-term abortions.

Obama’s selection of Sebelius came the day after he rescinded the HHS “conscience exemption” put in place by the Bush administration. In December, Sec. Mike Leavitt announced a “right-to-refuse” rule allowing medical care personnel not to participate in practices they found morally objectionable, such as abortion.

As expected, the new Obama administration is removing, one by one, all the restrictions set up against abortion and its federal funding, that have been put in place since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Obama lifted the Mexico City policy only days after his inauguration, allowing federal dollars to be given to organizations performing abortions overseas.

Although the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has not yet been introduced, the strategy of the Obama administration appears to be pursuing the equivalent outcomes of FOCA without passing FOCA itself. Putting someone like Governor Sebelius at the helm of Health and Human Services will put tremendous pressure on all health-care institutions to provide abortions under the cover of “women’s health care.”

The first Catholic hospital system to bend to the pressure is Caritas Christi, owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Boston. Only a few days ago, maybe eager to cozy up to the Obama administration and Sebelius, Caritas Christi announced a joint venture with the Centene Corporation to join a state-mandated health-insurance program that would include coverage for abortion and contraceptives – what the Catholic hospital system calls “confidential family-planning services.”

Notre Dame’s President at a Crossroads

Deal W. Hudson
March 23, 2009

For the past few years, the buzz about Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame since 2005, has been very positive. In spite of his refusal to ban The Vagina Monologues from the campus, Father Jenkins was viewed as strengthening the Catholic identity of the nation’s most beloved Catholic institution.

But with one bold stroke, Father Jenkins has radically altered the perception of his leadership. His decision to honor President Barack Obama at Notre Dame’s commencement this year has been met with stunned disbelief among Catholics across the nation. The Cardinal Newman Society immediately launched a petition drive,, and within 48 hours it collected over 10,000 signatures.

In 2006, Father Jenkins defused the uproar over The Vagina Monologues with a statement on “Academic Freedom and Catholic Character,” which argued that “a Catholic university is where the Church does its thinking, and that thinking, to be beneficial, must come from an intellectually rigorous engagement with the world.”

Will Father Jenkins use the same argument to defend his invitation to Obama? Perhaps. Obama’s pro-abortion views are, no doubt, part of “the world” that, in Father Jenkin’s view, his university must engage. Now that the president has accepted the invitation, Father Jenkins could refuse to disinvite him on the grounds it would “suppress speech,” as he argued in permitting The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus.

More likely, Father Jenkins will simply say that Obama is the president of the United States and, as such, should be welcomed on campus as a political leader who is making history with every speech and appearance. Why shouldn’t the community of Notre Dame become part of that history? Such an encounter, Father Jenkins could say, has unmistakable educational value.

This argument would be convincing – if Notre Dame were not a Catholic university honoring a political leader committed to removing all restrictions on abortion-on-demand in the United States. Whatever educational value there is in the visit of a U.S. president to the campus is trumped by the spectacle of moral support being offered by Notre Dame to Obama’s position on abortion.

The U.S. Catholic bishops have been clear on this point. In their 2004 document“Catholics in Political Life,” the bishops wrote, “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

In short, the moment Father Jenkins places the honorary doctorate into the hands of Barack Obama, the university will be viewed as either supporting his pro-abortion views or turning a blind eye to them.

Father Jenkins also has the option of making what could be called the “Faithful Citizenship” dodge. He could say that the university gave Obama this honor without intending to honor his pro-abortion views. Readers may recall that the bishops’ 2008 document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” left the same opening to allow Catholics to vote for pro-abortion candidates like Obama and his Catholic running mate, Joseph Biden.

Since the Friday afternoon announcement of the honor being conferred by Notre Dame on President Obama, there have been no statements from any of the bishops, including the ordinary of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop John M. D’Arcy. A few days ago, Bishop D’Arcy issued a strongly worded statement on Obama’s decision to allow federal funding for the destruction of embryos for their stem cells. He wrote,

This decision by the president is an imposition of a utilitarian ideology, which allows a group of human beings that some believe do not share human dignity, to be used and exploited. Human history, of course, is rife with examples of the strong dominating the weak and defenseless. Doesn’t the promise of a democratic America – of respect for the dignity of all – hold us to a higher standard?

A bishop who is capable of such eloquent conviction will surely publicly express his disappointment in the leadership of Father Jenkins. Bishop D’Arcy, who has challenged Notre Dame before, must invoke the guidelines of “Catholics in Political Life” or risk some of the other bishops doing it for him. (The University of Notre Dame may lie within Bishop D’Arcy’s diocese, but Catholics across the country feel ownership, regarding it as a national, rather than regional, institution.)

Barring some miracle of divine intervention, the world will soon watch as the preeminent Catholic university in the country lauds the world’s leading advocate for killing children in the womb. Under Father Jenkins’s leadership, Notre Dame has had an “intellectually rigorous engagement with the world,” and the world has won.

Taking on Goliath

Deal W. Hudson
March 25, 2009

If you think the pro-life movement has run out of energy and new ideas, you should meet Lila Rose. You may not know her name, but you very likely have seen the media coverage of her various sting operations at Planned Parenthood clinics around the country.

Rose is 20 years old, but she is already entering her fourth year of covert operation, as it were, exposing the underhanded – and, in some cases, potentially illegal – practices at abortion clinics run by Planned Parenthood. She has already made appearances on The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity’s America.

Posing as an underage pregnant girl, Rose has taken concealed audio and video equipment into these clinics. First, she makes sure the clinic personnel knows she is underage and that the baby’s father is an older man, repeating his name clearly. By law, the clinic personnel must then notify the police that the alleged father has had sex with a minor.

But in every case, the counselors at Planned Parenthood have brushed aside the sexual abuse of a minor and failed to contact the police. The Arizona attorney general recently opened an investigation of a Tucson Planned Parenthood clinic based upon Rose’s footage.

Previously released footage has already put Planned Parenthood clinics on high alert – each clinic has a poster with Rose’s picture on the wall. I asked Rose how she felt about having her picture displayed like a wanted criminal: “Well, I had to go blonde over the summer so I wouldn’t be recognized. I think it’s sad. They are afraid of this little girl – at the time I was 18 – and more concerned with looking for me than looking for the sexual abusers.”

Rose comes from a large Evangelical family – five brothers and two sisters – in San Jose, California. Her father, John, is a software engineer; her mother, Antonia, a home-schooler. Rose is a junior at UCLA studying history, and she entered the Catholic Church on March 15 of this year.

It was as a freshman at UCLA that Rose first got the idea to record what goes on inside an abortion clinic. “When I came to UCLA there were no pregnant women on campus, so I knew they were being aborted,” she told me. With help from her friend James O’Keefe, she took a concealed voice recorder into the UCLA health clinic pretending to be a pregnant co-ed. When she asked whether they would help her keep the baby, she was told, “We do abortions, but we don’t support women who are pregnant at UCLA.”

When she published the transcript of the conversation in The Advocate – the campus paper she started as a freshman – the story provoked a campus-wide debate among students, staff, and administrators, resulting in the creation of a parenting support network.

Later in that same year, 2007, Rose took both video and audio recorders into two Planned Parenthood clinics in Los Angeles. “The first time I went alone and had an audio recorder stuffed in a pocket and an old camcorder camera stuffed in my purse,” I asked her if she had felt any fear. “No, I was not scared. I was eager to see what would happen. It’s always been my dream to be used in the fight against abortion. I had a strong feeling I could be helpful.”

She credits the work of Mark Crutcher at Life Dynamics for inspiring her to take this route in exposing practices inside Planned Parenthood clinics. Crutcher had once used an actor pretending to be a 13-year-old girl to call abortion clinics.

Perhaps even more troubling to Planned Parenthood are the phone calls Rose and O’Keefe placed to their development offices, posing as donors who were pushing a racist agenda. They told development personnel that they wanted to make a donation specifically targeting a black woman so that there would be fewer black children. Not a single Planned Parenthood staffer hung up on them, and some indicated they were in agreement.

Rose and O’Keefe made videos of these phone calls and posted them on YouTube. Some of Rose’s videos, such as this one from Bloomington, IN, have been viewed over 100,000 times.

Rose and her organization, Live Action, are presently in the midst of a multi-state investigation, from which much of the footage has not yet been released. “We have a lot of footage we are sitting on. Planned Parenthood is the world’s largest abortion provider and should be held accountable. But we want to show not only the victims of sexual abuse but also the victim who is the pre-born child.”

Rose’s story is pure David and Goliath. Here is a college junior who doesn’t own a car, working out of her apartment with the help of one paid staffer and friends who volunteer, taking on one of the most powerful, well-funded, and well-connected organizations in the country. Planned Parenthood has tried to silence her: After she posted the videos of her visit to the Los Angeles abortion clinics, Rose received a threatening cease-and-desist letter from Planned Parenthood’s attorney.

“When I got the letter, I was by myself in my college dorm room. I was full of adrenaline, and I was very excited. I didn’t know what to think or do, so I got on my knees and said, ‘Lord, whatever you want to happen, let it be according to your will.'”

Closing Ranks on Canon 915

Deal W. Hudson
March 30, 2009

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius received some good news last week when abortionist Dr. George Tiller was found not guilty of breaking state laws regulating late-term abortion. The relationship between Tiller and Sebelius would surely have played a role in her upcoming confirmation hearings had he been found guilty.

But Governor Sebelius got some bad news as well – something not noticed much in Catholic media or the secular press. The bishops of Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia, confirmed publicly they would uphold the declaration of her ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, stating that Governor Sebelius should not present herself for communion.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Archdiocese, Susan Gibbs, said Archbishop Donald Wuerl would expect Sebelius to follow Bishop Naumann’s request while in Washington. Joelle Santolla, a spokeswoman for the Arlington Diocese, announced that Bishop Paul Loverde would expect the same while she was in Northern Virginia.

That Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde would back up Bishop Naumann in regard to the future Secretary of Health and Human Services is a significant development in the effort of some bishops to enforce Canon 915: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

This will send the message to other bishops that if they choose to pronounce members of Congress from their dioceses unfit for communion, their authority will be respected in D.C. and across the Potomac in Virginia. The ramifications are enormous: For example, if Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston stated publicly that Sen. John Kerry was in violation of Canon 915, he would not have been able to receive communion at Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass in Washington, D.C., a year ago. Rep. Nancy Pelosi would not have been able to celebrate her elevation to speaker of the House with a special Mass at Trinity College if Archbishop Neiderhauer had found her wanting according to the standard of Canon 915.

Some will argue that neither Archbishop Wuerl nor Bishop Loverde will attempt, through their priests, to deny Governor Sebelius communion. But this misses the point, and the significance, of how the combined statements of Bishops Naumann, Wuerl, and Loverde have created a new and more vulnerable situation for the pro-abortion Catholic members of Congress. As Archbishop Raymond Burke has explained, Bishop Naumann did not impose a “sanction” on Governor Sebelius; Bishop Naumann asked Sebelius, not the clergy, to apply Canon 915 to herself.

But if Sebelius were to receive communion in D.C. or Northern Virginia, it would likely generate a news story that would mushroom quickly, involving the priest who administered communion and his bishop. This is not news coverage that Sebelius, or the Obama administration, would want to deal with.

No doubt there are priests in both dioceses who would have little compunction about giving communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, but whether they want to get into a media-generated spat with their bishop over a high-profile politician is another matter.

A final point: Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde’s collegial response to Bishop Naumann destabilizes the relationship between pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their bishops back home. The question will arise as to why Governor Sebelius should be the only politician in Washington who has been called to account under Canon 915. What about the dozens of others in Congress who have a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record? What about Vice-President Joe Biden himself?

Will other bishops seize this opportunity to apply Canon 915 to politicians in their dioceses, knowing that Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde will back them up? Given the determination of the Obama administration and the Congress to roll back all restrictions on abortion, I wouldn’t be surprised.

‘The Right Is Mean, and the Left Is Foul’

Deal W. Hudson
April 2, 2009

The rising temperature of the debate over President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Notre Dame has created some heated rhetoric on both sides. Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg criticized Notre Dame’s decision but was himself criticized for complaining about the “uncivil and venomous” comments made by those opposing the honor being bestowed on President Obama.

Bishop Lynch is exactly right in raising this concern. Here is what he says:

The rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child, and they do not wish to be any part of that and ill-serves the cause of life (emphasis added).

Granted, some will label as uncivil any assertion about the truth of the Catholic Faith. These tactical accusations of incivility are exactly what they appear to be – an attempt to silence and discredit all who defend the Church. Putting that tactic aside, it does weaken our case for orthodoxy when it is couched in vicious name-calling, profanity, and unsupported generalizations.

Some say the coarseness of their rhetoric is justified by the truth they speak or by the crimes they decry, such as abortion. In my opinion, they either don’t care about persuading anyone who’s listening, or they don’t know they’re providing an excuse for people to ignore what they say. A good illustration of that approach is the effort of Randall Terry at Notre Dame. Terry has gone to such an extreme that Archbishop Raymond Burke had to dissociate himself from the use Terry was making of his comments.

The last thing orthodox Catholics need to do is bring discredit to a bishop who has the courage to speak his mind.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, another bishop who speaks his mind, recently spoke in an interview with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life about his experience with e-mail rudeness. He attributes the vitriol to the “immediacy” of Internet communication, “which means we immediately speak out of our emotions rather than write a letter.” Just as important is anonymity behind which most people hide when making comments or posting on Web sites.

Some of the most vicious e-mails Archbishop Chaput has received, he says, are from “Catholic conservatives” who want him to excommunicate pro-abortion Catholic politicians. But he has noticed an interesting difference between how conservatives and liberals are impolite.

“The Left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. The Right is meaner, but they’re not as foul.”

The Right is mean, and the Left is foul – that observation matches my experience in the virtual world. The Left often resorts to expletives to express their disapproval; whereas the Right, including Catholic conservatives, will indict your faith, your intelligence, and your love for your mother if you happen to disappoint them.

Rudeness has nearly become the rule, rather than the exception, on the Internet. Blogs, forums, e-mails, and comment sections are hothouses for the unedited savagery of the miscreant, the coward, and the Pharisee. Yet it is the place where we have chosen to speak with a Catholic voice. As Archbishop Chaput has said of his own reaction to hateful e-mails: “The Lord reminds us that we are sheep among wolves, but it’s important for us not to become wolves ourselves because of our experience.”

It’s a sore temptation to respond in kind to such attacks. InsideCatholic and other Catholic Web sites have achieved some level of politeness only by enforcing a posted civility policy. We agree with Bishop Lynch and Archbishop Chaput that our best chance for changing minds and being successful evangelists is speaking with a tone of voice that offers no excuse to turn away.

Benedict XVI and the Future of the Holy Land

Deal W. Hudson
April 6, 2009

Over dinner at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem, I talked with Danny Seidemann, a Jewish man from upstate New York who moved to Israel as a youth more than 30 years ago. Danny is recognized worldwide as an expert on the religious and cultural differences that divide and potentially unite Jerusalem. “The Christian community of Jerusalem is the canary in the coal mine,” he told me. “When it starts dying, we know all of us are going to die.”

Seidemann, himself a Zionist, believes preserving the Christian presence in the Holy Land is crucial to its future. That underscores the importance of the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land in early May. “The Church can have enormous influence here. The pope can address people above the heads of their leaders.”

But Seidemann believes that time is running short for any type of two-state solution. After the recent conflict in Gaza, the window of opportunity has closed further: “We have one to three years to get it done, after that there will be nothing left to engage.” He is confident the Vatican understands the urgency of the situation.

When I asked him about the impact of the December bombing and invasion of Gaza, Seidemann moved the subject back to Jerusalem. “Jerusalem is the key,” he told me. More than a decade ago, Seidemann drew the proposed boundaries for Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem that would be necessary for the creation of two sovereign states. “The boundaries I drew for the Clinton administration can still be drawn,” he said. I asked him about the controversial Israeli settlements in that part of the city. “That dispute can be settled by a one-for-one exchange of land – it can be resolved.”

Seidemann is surprisingly upbeat because he senses that “people are ready for something to happen.” Six weeks ago he met in Washington, D.C., with key members of the Obama administration tasked with the Middle East. He believes the Obama team, led by George Mitchell, has the expertise and the will to make progress. One obvious obstacle is that the new Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is dedicated to the settlements and has been less interested in pursuing the two-state solution agreed upon at the 2007 Annapolis Conference, hosted by President George Bush.

There would be more support from the United States for a two-state solution, according to Seidemann, if those primarily heard on the topic of Israel and the Palestinians were not either Christian Zionists on the one hand or Israel bashers on the other. He believes there is an untapped resource of people in the middle who are ready to be heard and who want to move forward to stop the escalating conflict.

“Jews, Muslims, and Christians have been maintaining their identity in Jerusalem for over 1,300 years.” For Seidemann, Jerusalem must maintain its tradition of ecumenism and set an example for Baghdad and Beirut – otherwise, the habits of those cities will take hold and “pollute” Jerusalem.

Seidemann knows as well as anyone that the Christian presence in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories on the West Bank has been shrinking for years. In the past, the shrinking numbers could be attributed to the harsh realities of Israeli occupation, but more and more it is a conflict with Muslims in towns like Bethlehem – where they once lived peacefully together – that sends Christians packing. Add to that the attraction of young people to prosperous Palestinian enclaves in Chile, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia.

Is the Christian “canary” in Jerusalem already in the process of dying a slow death? Seidemann did not say. But when he said that politicians must realize that “it’s five minutes to midnight,” the implication is clear. There can be no more delay, no more missed opportunities.

The Obama administration, which is alienating Catholics with its pro-abortion policy, may find itself on the same page with Pope Benedict on this issue if he urges Israelis and Palestinians toward the two-state solution during his May visit.

Palestinian Christians Look Toward the Papal Visit

Deal W. Hudson
April 9, 2009

Palestinian Christians are wondering aloud whether the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land will bring greater media attention to their dwindling numbers. They fear that, at the top, the pope’s agenda will be dominated by his continuing effort to smooth the ruffled feathers of Muslims (after his 2006 Regensburg speech) and Jews (following the recent trouble over the anti-Semitism of Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X).

Building better relations with Israel, the international Jewish community, and Muslims is the “storyline already written by the media for the papal visit,” one Vatican observer told me. But the real motive behind the visit, according to the same observer with close ties to the Vatican, is the pope’s desire to make a “personal pilgrimage” to the holy sites. His message will be a message to the Church, he continued, and should not be expected to target “specific problems” on the ground.

It’s impossible, however, for a papal visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan not to be scrutinized from every possible angle. Everyone in the region and many around the world will be listening for any possible comment on the ongoing occupation by Israel of the West Bank and its impact on the historic Christian communities of places like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour.

Opinions differ on the primary cause for the departure of Christians out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Some point to the rigors of the occupation, especially restrictions on the freedom of movement imposed by checkpoints and security walls. Others talk about the mounting tensions between Christians and Muslims in towns like Bethlehem, where their families once lived side by side without rancor as far back as anyone can remember. Indeed, on this, my fourth trip to the Holy Land in six years, I have heard more about Muslim hostility to Christians than ever before.

My own observation is that, when people are locked in a prison with little hope of ever getting out, they turn their gaze inward. Divisions that once didn’t matter become very relevant. Similarly, when two peoples live together under an occupation without the freedom of movement, they start finding more fault with each other.

Bernard Sabella, a professor at Bethlehem University and a Christian member of the Palestinian legislature, offers another explanation for the exodus. “The main reason is unemployment. If the young people can’t find work, they leave, it’s that simple.”

Sabella’s research has found that in good economic years, about 200 to 300 Palestinian Christians between the ages of 25 and 30 leave the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In bad economic times, the numbers shoot up to between 900 and 1,000 a year. With only 50,000 Christians in those areas, the net result is a steadily shrinking community whose recovery is dependent on the return of a robust economy. Sabella adds, “How can you have a strong economy with plenty of jobs for young people out of college when they cannot, for example, even leave the city of Bethlehem but only rarely?”

Without freedom of movement, Sabella argues, the economy cannot grow, more and more Palestinians will depend on foreign aid for subsistence, and young Christians will choose to leave in search of better lives. Sabella’s analysis, although beginning with the problem of unemployment, points back to the impact of the Israeli occupations and, particularly, the more stringent measures taken since the intifada that began in 2000.

If Benedict addresses the root causes for the declining Christian presence in the Holy Land, he will very likely offend both Israelis and Muslims, the very parties with whom he might have hoped to strengthen ties. Yet this is the moment when Christians living under the occupation need a word of support from the leader of the Church. After the Gaza campaign and the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, they have little hope that Israel will pursue a two-state solution. They also put little faith in the promises of the Obama administration – not because of Obama himself, but because of their disappointments in previous U.S. presidents.

One frustrated Christian put it to me bluntly: “The pope must do something for his Christians here in the Holy Land, or there will be none of us here in 20 years.” This father of two young children, living in Bethlehem and struggling to keep his family on the West Bank, is considering the option of immigrating for the first time in his life. His attitude, I am told, is becoming widespread among educated Palestinian Christians.

Benedict has already shown himself capable of rising to the occasion to overcome controversy, as on his trip to the United States a year ago when he defused the criticism awaiting him about the priest sex scandal. His proactive comments to the media on the flight to Washington, D.C., let the air out of the balloon of invective that was ready to burst upon his arrival.

The Holy Father may well find a way to navigate through the more rocky shores of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Palestinian Christians caught in the middle.