Crisis Magazine 2001

Sed Contra: Catholic Journalism As If Beauty Really Mattered

Deal W. Hudson
March 1, 2000

Readers may have noticed that I added an explanatory note to the review section. I have been asked if this is a “disclaimer,” meant to disassociate myself from our reviewers’ opinions. That was certainly not my intent. I deemed the note necessary by the letters I have received from some readers who assume the mere presence of a review in Crisis constitutes a positive recommendation. It is important for all our readers to understand the role of a review section in a Catholic magazine, namely, to engage the culture with the sanity of Catholic intelligence.

Those who write these letters don’t articulate a disagreement with the comments of our reviewers— they simply don’t want these movies mentioned at all or anything redeeming about them extolled. They want Crisis to place a seal of approval on specific films every month. Take a look at the Ignatius Press video catalog to see where that strategy leads— it can’t include films like Liv Ullman’s Kristin Lavransdatter, presumably because of its sexual content. I assume it will sell the book. (Interesting contrast, isn’t it?)

Frankly, most of the complaints are about sex scenes and innuendoes. I agree that these are unnecessary and, at times, morally dangerous. Offhand, I can think of only one film in which an explicit sex scene was necessary to the unfolding plot and characterization—Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away. The closing of a door, the blowing out of a candle, or the dropping of clothes on the floor is all that is needed to get the point. In fact, the evocation of genuine desire has been all but banished from the movies with the obligatory sex scenes. They violate a basic canon of Aristotle’s Poetics that spectacle should never be allowed to overwhelm the narrative.

The purpose of the Crisis review section is not to help our readers create a Catholic ghetto with a “G” rating. Yes, we will continue to provide guidance to parents with young children, but more importantly we will equip those parents whose teenage and young-adult children express opinions about films like American Beauty, Eyes Wide Shut, and The End of the Affair. Need it be said that film watching has become the most universally shared experience of the realm (although it has recently been challenged by investment chatter)? Catholics should enter that discussion, as Flannery O’Connor put it, informed by their vision, not by the “sensibility” of the age.

However, it concerns me that some Catholics deeply committed to Catholic intelligence, who are manifestly not afraid to talk about the truth, are the most skittish when it comes to the arts. A case in point is my recent trip to the marvelous Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) in Santa Paula, California. What I say here is only a minor quibble with what is surely one of the best Catholic colleges anywhere in the world. The staff, faculty, students, curriculum, campus, and physical setting would give almost anyone the urge to start his or her education all over again (evidently, some TAC undergraduates have done just that). TAC is flourishing and deserves all the Catholic support it can get.

My lecture at TAC on the subject of morality and art was followed by more than three hours of discussion. Most of the questions centered on the moral influence of artists’ work. Throughout the discussion, there was strong resistance to my argument that art serves us best when artists are free and responsible to create, and we, the audience, are free and responsible to enjoy. In other words, I urged a sort of subsidiary approach to the problem of moral influence—let both the artist and the audience stand free of external restrictions but responsible for the beauty they share. In this approach, parents teach their children critical skills; audience and artists learn from Catholic critics, teachers, and pastors. Everyone learns to see and create beyond the secular hype.

Some TACers clearly thought that since few know the truth, the moral limits of art should be imposed by those few, like Plato’s philosopher kings. Their concern about lost souls is precisely the same as mine, except I see it the other way around—more souls are put at risk when Catholics abandon the culture and the cause of beauty. Beauty converts more readily than sound arguments—it should always be on our side, even if marred by the spectacle of unnecessary sensuality. Thomas Aquinas once said that the truth should be embraced no matter who utters it; the same is also true of the other transcendentals, including the much-feared Beauty.

Sed Contra: A Slap in the Face

Deal W. Hudson
January 1, 2001

The postelection saga rents the veil of the media temple. It revealed something we have always known: They’re not on our side! What was different this time was not merely ideological bias but tonal or, to put it another way, emotional bias. When Matt Lauer on The Today Show asked whether one of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’s decisions “passed the smell test,” his animosity felt like a slap in the face. When Katie Couric asked a Palm Beach County election official if she had finished the “essay question” requested by Harris, she made no attempt to mask her sarcasm.

The scorn was so evident on Peter Jennings’s face after a speech by George W. Bush that he had to issue a statement denying his scorn. He explained that it was “an eye of the beholder” issue. That may satisfy his conscience and corporate bosses, but it won’t do for the millions of viewers who are finding their news and commentary elsewhere—on cable, online, and on talk radio.

That usually placid Republicans were crowding the streets of Tallahassee and Palm Beach waving signs and placards should send shivers of fear through network executives. The election debacle has stirred up the conservative grassroots—people who will no longer wait in hope for the media to broadcast their message.

There were notable oases of sanity that only a fairly skillful channel surfer could find. Tim Russert almost saved the NBC morning show with his dispassionate summaries of the daily political box score. Chris Matthews (MSNBC) and Bill O’Reilly (Fox) cut through the left-wing script, exorcising the “will of the people” and “count every vote” mantras with dispatch. Fox’s Brit Hume, Tony Snow, and the “All Stars” seemed to inhabit a different news universe from the rest, making up, in part, for their overreaching on election night. To hear the commanding Michael Barone discuss precinct results in the three disputed Florida counties makes one realize how much intelligence and education are otherwise lacking in television news.

The scorn, sarcasm, and hostility have deeper consequences. It is rightfully said that this election has revealed a growing division between liberal and conservative Americans. And the obvious bias of the dominant media is aggravating this division. Audiences look elsewhere for their news and entertainment; the culture becomes more fragmented, and subcultures are created in which pundits preach to their choirs and the idea of a civil society grows dim. This is not good. We think we are retreating to Candide’s garden, but we are actually moving into a market-created Catholic ghetto of products designed to reassure us and affirm our values.

That sounds like a pretty dismal future to me. What will happen to our republic when we have nothing in common to discuss and embrace except the movies? Are we already there? I think it is still possible to have a political dispute without raising our voices and without recourse to party-approved script. Or has the polarizing virus of the abortion debates already spread throughout our public discourse? Am I wrong in suspecting that the fierce hostility underlying the political climate and the media bias point in that direction?

Political scientist Francis Fukuyama suggests just that, arguing in the Wall Street Journal that the heart of the present culture wars is our view of “sex and the social role of women.” But the issue, as he points out, is more complicated than a standoff between those for and against abortion, for and against the traditional family and roles for women. It has become triangulated with the sin of sounding “judgmental.” At the very moment when a debate needs to take place on the meaning of sexuality, Fukuyama says, “The greatest moral passion of contemporary Americans turns out to be hostility to ‘moralism’ in areas related to sex and family life.”

This is how the media trump social conservatives; journalists’ disapproving faces play on adolescent public fears that religious crusaders want to tell people how to live their lives. For the time being this strategy is working. Fukuyama is right in doubting that we will return to the Victorian era and the acceptable habit of public moralizing. But what happens if moralizing once again becomes respectable?

In other words, what would happen if Oprah started recommending C.S. Lewis? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the causes of our social breakdown were fairly debated rather than scornfully dismissed by righteous journalists?

The Heard Word

Deal W. Hudson
February 1, 2001

Homer, the first great poet of the West, wasn’t a writer but a performer, with the dining halls of ancient Greece as his stage. Before the advent of written literature, the medium of poetry was dramatic utterance and song. Eyes were no more necessary to the enjoyment of words than they were to blind Homer’s creation of his epics.

Now, thanks to sprawling suburbs and lengthy job commutes, the Homeric practice of listening to literature rather than reading it is back in fashion with the burgeoning business of audiobooks. From 1990 to 1999, sales of recorded books nearly quadrupled, and they now exceed $2 billion a year. The percentage of households listening to the taped volumes doubled to 21 percent from 1993 to 1997.

During the 1980s, such major publishers as Simon & Schuster and Random House created audio divisions, greatly increasing the amount of product. There are now over 100,000 audio titles available. A trade magazine, AudioFile, publishes a bimonthly review of the latest releases. The Audio Publishers Association started up in 1987 with just twelve members and has since grown to 200 members. The same year the first all-audiobook store opened in Denver, and there are now 76 of them nationwide—along with large audio sections in most major print bookstores.

Audiobooks have their own trade association, annual convention, and even awards: the “Audies” and the “GoldenEarphones.” There are even “stars” of audiobook narration: such familiar names to aficionados as Barbara Rosenblatt, Simon Prebble, Frank Muller, David Case, and Alyssa Bresnahan.

Taped literature originated in 1932 when the American Foundation for the Blind created the Talking Book on long-playing records (themselves an innovation). Two years later, the Library of Congress introduced the Readophone, which could contain as much as two hours and 20 minutes of literature and music.

The modern recorded book was launched in a moment of glory in 1952 when Dylan Thomas recorded his A Child’s Christmas in Wales for Caedmon at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. This may still be the most nearly perfect recording of anything by anyone. Listening to A Child’s Christmas and other recordings of Thomas reciting his own poetry—or his lectures, often delivered while he was intoxicated—will likely convert anyone to the recorded-book medium. The unmatched beauty of Thomas’s voice will stick in your memory and become the measure of everything else you hear.

Several other readers deserve to be mentioned along with Thomas in the audiobook hall of fame. Sir John Gielgud left a large legacy of recordings, from early Argo vinyl disks to readings of Pilgrim’s Progress and Brideshead Revisited on the Caedmon label. Unfortunately, the only version of the Brideshead recording now available is abridged onto three cassettes. Normally I don’t object to abridged versions of books in recorded format, but in Gielgud’s case, the quality of narration is so uniformly high that it leaves me thirsty for more. Jeremy Irons, the star of the 1982 television miniseries version of Brideshead, has an unabridged version of Evelyn Waugh’s novel that is nearly as good as Gielgud’s.

The taped audiobook, so convenient for automobile listening, had its beginnings in 1948, soon after Ampex started mass-producing the tape recorder. The first taped audiobooks were designed not for commuters but for blinded veterans of World War II. Philips produced its first mobile audiocassette, known as the 8-track, in 1963. By 1975, the smaller cassette had replaced the 8-track in most cars and homes. The biggest boost to recorded books came in 1979, when Sony introduced the Walkman, adding joggers and bus riders to the pool of listeners. Now, in this era of two-hour daily commutes, most audiobooks are played in cars and on Walkmans rather than in living rooms.

Talking Book World, founded in Detroit by Richard Simtob and Tyrone Persia is now, with more than 50 franchises, No. 164 of the 500 fastest-growing American companies. More than 90 percent of its business comes from audiobook rentals. Jerry Owens, the manager of the franchise in Sterling, Virginia, told me that Talking Book actually discourages audiobook sales because rentals bring customers back. The secret of Talking Book’s success is a huge stock of titles (the Sterling store carries more than 5,000) and rental programs that eliminate the irritating late fees of the video rental industry. About 75 percent of the Sterling store’s customers are commuters, so Talking World is “doing its part to solve road rage,” Owens said.

Browsing Talking Book World makes your mouth water. For example, you can listen to an unabridged recording of all twelve novels of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. The classics shelf is quite popular, and parents who take the tapes home to their reluctant children often report back with a breakthrough in getting book reports finished. As might be expected, the mystery-thriller genre is the most popular—John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King—but other shelves in the store offer weightier delights, such as Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, Martin Gilbert’s History of the Twentieth Century, Shelby Foote’s entire history of the Civil War, and other items that make me wish I were on summer vacation even though it’s only March (I left the store with a rarity, a recording of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Magician.)

Jeremy Irons made an audiobook splash last year with a complete recording of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita for Random House to complement his appearance as Humbert Humbert in the 1998 film version of that novel. The reading is a total tour de force, for adults only, of course. His characterization of the nymphet-lover Humbert is so compelling that I found myself, frighteningly, feeling sympathy for the character.

Actor Derek Jacobi has a long list of credits in audiobooks, but pride of place should go to his reading for Random House of Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae. Most people associate Pressfield with the popular golf novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, which Robert Redford recently made into a film, but Pressfield is also, as it turns out, a first-rate historian of ancient Greece. His fictionalization of the events leading up to the great battle between 300 Spartans and many thousands of Persons, as told by the sole survivor, Xeones, makes for compulsive listening. (Gates of Fire, by the way, will also become a film in the near future.)

In the adults-only category along with Lolita is Joe Eszterhas’s rendition for New Millennium Audio of American Rhapsody, his sarcastic take on the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky saga. Eszterhas, who wrote the screenplay for the lewd Sharon Stone classic, Basic Instinct (1992), epitomizes Hollywood at its sleaziest, but somewhere along the way, he decided that the behavior of Clinton in the White House wasn’t good for his family and kids.

His dissection of Clinton’s libido makes cathartic listening and educates us on the subtle mutations that connect 1960s sexual fervor to Monicagate. Furthermore, American Rhapsody gets Clinton right and his conservative critics wrong. The conservatives assumed Clinton epitomized the excesses of 1960s sexual liberation, but in fact, says Eszterhas, there was nothing “cool”—no rebellious glamour, no heroic defiance of middle-class morality—about having bad sex with a homely intern. Clinton’s crime was making sex disgusting, Eszterhas notes shrewdly.

I have also decided to tackle the highly touted Aubrey–Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brian via audiobook. They are available in both abridged and unabridged versions. There are 16 Random House abridged versions on tape so far. Robert Hardy’s readings of the early novels Master and Commander and Post Captain are far superior to the less supple versions of the later novels read by Tim Pigott-Smith. I understand that the conservative pundit George Will is a great fan of Patrick Tull’s unabridged versions of these novels available from Recorded Books. Books On Tape offers David Chase and Richard Brown in yet another set of unabridged recordings of the O’Brian series.

One of the Audie winners for the year 2000 was Michael York’s recording of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Fencing Master (New Star). This mystery novel set in a fencing studio in 18th- century Spain is not the kind of book I would normally read. Suffering from an overly zealous preference for the great books, I have sometimes denied myself the pleasures of well-written popular fiction such as Perez-Reverte’s. At the heart of the novel’s drama is the seduction of stoic fencing master Jaime de Astarola by the beautiful Adela de Otero, his mysterious and talented student. York revels in the baroque mystery of how a disciplined and noble mind, steeled by years of rigorous training, could put everything precious to him at risk for a pair of flashing eyes. Yes, it’s kitschy, but it makes glorious listening.

A sure sign that recorded books have come of age was novelist-journalist Tom Wolfe’s decision to write the first stand-alone audiobook, Ambush at Fort Bragg (1997), read by Edward Norton (Bantam Audio). This hilarious tale of media overreaching was a spinoff from Wolfe’s eleven years of research and writing his best-selling novel A Man in Full (1998). Published in two 1996 issues of Rolling Stone, Ambush is set on a stretch of highway alongside an Army base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and involves a TV news producer, Iry Durtscher, who sends the show’s blonde anchorwoman to investigate the beating death of a gay soldier. With the aid of hidden cameras in the DMZ (Wolfe’s fiction off-base topless bar), Durtscher’s crew manages to record three drunken soldiers confessing to the murder. When the anchorwoman sticks a camera in the face of these soldiers and asks them to watch this confession, all hell breaks loose.

Wolfe’s latest book, a collection of essays titled Hooking Up (Simon and Schuster) has been recorded in part by Wolfe himself. We usually see Wolfe only in photos in his immaculate white tailoring, and we think of him as a quintessential New Yorker, but to hear him on tape is to be instantly reminded that he is a native Southerner and a natural storyteller. The best essay in this uniformly good collection is “My Three Stooges,” Wolfe’s revenge against his fellow novelists Norman Mailer, John Updike, and Philip Roth, all of whom had unkind words to say about A Man in Full. Wolfe’s discussion of his own work as a novelist, specifically, his loyalty to the tradition of naturalism (Dreiser, Zola, et al.), deserves to become the artistic manifesto of our generation.

My last recommendation is a perfect example of the kind of book that Wolfe extols, and is perhaps the most riveting experience I have had with an audiobook: Norman Maclean’s 1992 Young Men & Fire (taped for High-Bridge), his nonfiction narrative of a 1949 forest fire that has already achieved the status of a minor classic. The result of 14 years of research, Young Men and Fire is a meticulous retelling of the famous Mann Gulch fire in Montana that took the lives of twelve smokejumpers from the U.S. Forest Service. I first hesitated to purchase this set because the narrator is the author’s son John Maclean, and the sound of his nonprofessional voice is initially disappointing, confirming suspicions of nepotism. Within minutes, however, the son has fully assumed the voice of his father. Maclean’s prose is so pure that it points up the one downside of recorded books: The eye cannot linger and reread.

This problem is likely to be at least partly solved when audiobooks go digital, as they soon will, allowing greater ease of rereading, or rather relistening. The digital format, resembling that of a CD, will allow users to find specific places in recordings by selecting chapters or even conduct word or phrase searches. Already in development are e-books containing both text and recorded narration. Buyers will have the choice of reading or listening or doing both simultaneously. In fact, you can already download over 20,000 audiobooks from the http://www.audible.com Web site. (The online magazine Salon has made a big investment in this technology.) You can make these downloads via your personal computer or any number of handheld devices such as the Palm Pilot or the Diamond Rio 500.

Fans of Catholic fiction are urged to dial up Recorded Books, Books on Tape, and Blackstone Audio on the Internet. There they will find all the major novels of Walker Percy, Graham Greene, and Charles Williams, as well as odds and ends like Muriel Spark’s The Mandelbaum Gate. Believe it or not, there is also as a complete recording of St. Augustine’s City of God.

The flourishing of the audiobook is good news for everyone who treasures literature. As Jerry Owens of my local Talking Book World Outlet put it, “Audiobooks subsidize reading; they don’t replace it.” Audiobooks remind us that reading is never passive and that it is always a narrator’s voice, whether silent or audible, that brings words to life. Since the poet no longer sings directly to us as in Homer’s day, it is up to us to find the singer. Audiobooks make that easy.

Sed Contra: Romania Bound

Deal W. Hudson
February 1, 2001

My family of three—my wife, Theresa, my twelve-year-old daughter, Hannah, and I—will fly to Eastern Europe next month and become four. Waiting for us is a four-year-old boy named Cyprian who needs a permanent family. From his pictures he looks like a young Omar Shariff, with dark hair and eyes and gleaming cheekbones: just the right seasoning to flavor our fair-skinned WASP genetic mix.

We began two years ago to think about finding a child from overseas. William Pierce, president of the National Council for Adoption, recommended working with James Savley, executive director of the Small World Ministries adoption program in Nashville, Tennessee.

Savley had connections to several orphanages in Russia. We filled out the papers, submitted to the required home study, and wrote the checks. After everything was completed, we waited seven months to hear something. But Russia had recently elected a new president, Vladimir Putin, who decided to require all adoption agencies to undergo new accreditation procedures. At this point, we didn’t know how long it would be before we received a “referral” for a Russian child. Then Savley’s son called. He had just returned from a trip to Romania, where his nondenominational Christian agency donates gifts, “capfuls of love,” to children every Christmas. A contact there told him that she knew of a little boy available for adoption.

It was an unusual situation: Cyprian had been living with foster families since being given up by his mother when he was six months old. Savley said, “I thought of you first because I thought you would be open to an older child.” My wife’s wry comment was, “Yes, Deal would like to play baseball with him and not be in a wheelchair.”

Since I’m now on the shady side of 50, I have been asked why I’m doing this. I’ve already survived to raise a toddler—so why put myself through it again? My answer is, “If Bob Reilly can do it, so can I.” Bob, Crisis music critic and a dear friend, is also advanced in age and raising three small children. Indeed, he is one of several older fathers and mothers to whom I have looked for inspiration since Theresa and Hannah first proposed to me that we make our family a little bigger.

Still, I mentally resisted the idea of adoption for a long time—until I happened upon Hannah praying a rosary for her as-yet-unseen brother. Evidently, this had been going on for weeks without her father’s knowledge about it.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I groan at the thought of going through one more time all those stages of childhood that so tax a parent’s knees and back. There is a reason why nature guides us to have children early when our muscles and sinews comport with the challenges of chasing young ones through the yard and out of the street. I take comfort in the fact that golf is my sport, not football or baseball, and that a golf swing survives longer than a downfield pass or a slide into third base. As a Romanian, Cyprian will probably have the foot genes for soccer, a game that was unknown to my generation growing up in Texas—and at my age, I’ll have to settle for watching his brilliant play, not joining in.

In the final analysis, neither Bob nor anyone else made me want to take a small stranger into our home. I realized that Theresa and I hadn’t yet given all we have to give. We—I—haven’t fully made the “gift of self” that Pope John Paul II talks about. There is more time, more money, more energy, more of myself to be given away. And of course, there will be plenty in return for all of us. As I watched Hannah play with her young friends one day a while ago, I saw a deep joy stream forth, something I had never seen in her when she was around only grown-ups. I wanted her to feel that joy at home with a brother or sister.

There is a passage in C.S. Lewis’s Four Loves that I cannot get out of my head when I think about adopting Cyprian. He explains that when we are in a group of friends, only specific individuals can bring out specific aspects of ourselves. It is as if we need a group—a larger family, as it were—to realize our full selves.

So in a few weeks, we’ll be off to Bucharest on what feels like the biggest adventure of my life. As I think about Cyprian, I can’t help but connect him to that other Eastern European, John Paul, who made us so aware of the “gift of self.” I hope the Hudson family is up to the task. As we all know, the presence of a child makes love often seem effortless, so much more like the gift that it is.

Sed Contra: Common Ground—The Real Thing

Deal W. Hudson
March 1, 2001

A senior adviser at the White House asked me, as publisher of a Catholic magazine, to put together a group of prominent Catholics to meet with President George W. Bush and discuss his administration’s new emphasis on faith-based social services. There was a reason for the request: Those who know anything about private charities—and that includes University of Pennsylvania professor John Dilulio Jr. and the former mayor of Indianapolis, Stephen Goldsmith, both instrumental in putting together the new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives—know that the Catholic Church is the largest nongovernmental deliverer of social services in the country.

What they may not know, however, is that this new partnership between government and religion has the potential to unite American Catholics of both lefts and right on genuine rather than fantasy-world common ground. For about a decade, the phrase “common ground” has been a buzzword among liberal Catholics. Many of them wish that they and their conservative Catholic confreres could split the difference into such issues as women priests and sex outside of marriage—issues on which there is no realistic hope that the two sides could ever reach a compromise. But liberal and conservative Catholics can reach a meeting of minds on one thing: a genuine desire to help the needy.

Crisis magazine’s ongoing research into the attitudes of Catholic voters has revealed that Catholics care for the needy and consider their plight a political priority. Genuinely surprising, perhaps, is that this compassion extends across traditional lines of social and political demarcation between rich and poor, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. This shared concern manifests itself in a vast network of Church-sponsored social services that include schools, hospitals, senior and foster care facilities, and other agencies that Catholics of all types support with their charitable donations.

Currently, almost 15 percent of all hospital beds in the United States, excluding those at federal facilities, are in Catholic hospitals. More than two million students around the country attend 6,923 Catholic elementary and middle schools, and 639,954 more attend 1,221 Catholic high schools. Of the total enrollment at Catholic schools, almost 25 percent of students belong to ethnic minorities. Catholic Charities USA, the umbrella organization for Catholic social-service agencies, reports spending a total of $2.3 billion in 1998 to help 9.8 million persons, drawing on the services of 52,500 employees and 292,000 volunteers.

Like other private charities, Catholic charities have been shown to be more effective than their governmental counterparts. Addressing the social effects of what are, in many instances, the results of destructive behaviors is not made easier by reinforcing a sense of entitlement, a sense invariably instilled by government-run programs.

In the old dispensation, we made the mistake of thinking that bureaucracy could yield charity. It cannot. Charity hinges on a personal relationship, eye meeting eye, hand touching hand. Church-related groups will always be more successful at this than will government.

Furthermore, social pathologies are often the result of decisions made by individuals who have never had solid character formation or moral direction. That is why faith communities are vastly more successful than secular agencies in rescuing people from drug addiction and criminality. They are not afraid of addressing the core issues; in fact, they consider it part of their mission to confront the moral needs of those they help.

Many have expressed concern that faith-based organizations will have to park their specifically religious concerns at the door once they become active partners with the government, especially if they accept the federal funding that the Bush administration may offer. It would be unfortunate if this occurred because the secularization of religious charities is the surest way to undermine the very attributes that make their programs successful.

I am confident that as long as religious organizations maintain their passionate, faith-driven commitment to service and sacrifice, they won’t have to worry about secularization if they join hands with the government to do so. Better still, the administration’s new support for faith-based organizations will give all Catholics, regardless of their doctrinal leanings, a chance to stop gabbing about common ground and get something done for those in need.

Sed Contra: The Death of a Great College Program

Deal W. Hudson
April 1, 2001

The new president of the University of San Francisco (USF), Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J., recently announced the reorganization— the effective dismantling—of the St. Ignatius Institute, which for the past 25 years has offered the university’s undergraduates the option of a Catholic great-books program in addition to their other courses.

Founded in 1976 by Rev. Joseph Fessio, S.J., a rare conservative Jesuit in a famously liberal order, the institute had quietly established itself as a blue- chip example of what happens when a Catholic college takes the Catholic intellectual and humanistic tradition seriously. Imagine a general-education curriculum that includes courses on the early Church fathers, the “medieval synthesis” of classical and Christian learning, and, for a full academic year, the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Father Privett’s stated reason for his decision is predictably bureaucratic: USF can save money by eliminating courses that duplicate its regular curriculum. That avoids the real issue: Father Fessio’s creation has always been a thorn in the side of most of the university’s other Jesuits, who have been biding their time for an opportune moment to pull the plug on what they consider a reactionary operation. The institute bans its faculty from openly dissenting to Church teaching—how shocking!

Any chance for reconsideration of Father Privett’s action lies in the hands of USF’s 40 trustees, one-third of whom are Jesuits with little affection for Father Fessio. The other two-thirds are unlikely to be swayed by the negative press that the pending shutdown has received in conservative Catholic newspapers and the Wall Street Journal. University trustees often base their actions only on what dissembling administrators tell them. They believe what they hear in order to keep their sentimental memories of their own college days intact.

I have talked to many trustees of Catholic colleges who are frustrated by their institutions’ flagrant disregard of Catholic tradition and the Church’s magisterium. But they are reluctant to follow my suggestion that they protest with their checkbooks, arguing that they can have more influence by remaining at the board table. Continuing to financially support dissenting institutions only deepens the problem, however.

In the early 1980s, just before I converted to Catholicism, I visited the Institute for a weekend at the invitation of Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, one of several outstanding scholars who has devoted most of their adult lives to serving its mission. That weekend changed my life. I remember jogging with Father Fessio, giving a guest lecture in his theology class, and then sharing a sandwich on the waterside at Sausalito with the great French theologian Louis Bouyer. Leiva-Merikakis arranged for me to visit the Carmelite monastery adjacent to the campus, a sojourn that pushed this hesitant Baptist into the arms of Mother Church.

I have no doubt that USF students and visitors alike have been similarly exposed to the converting spirit of the St. Ignatius Institute during the 20 years since I made my pilgrimage there. Given the turbine-like power of the Catholic intelligence produced by its great-books program, I suppose we should be surprised that the attack from the Catholic left did not come sooner. It hates—and I use this word purposely—successful efforts to sustain Catholic tradition, which refute its assumptions about the irrelevance of that tradition.

Two years ago, Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan was criticized for putting his money into the creation of a new Catholic law school instead of, say, the Catholic University of America, which needed the funds. Monaghan defended his decision by saying that there were too many variables at existing Catholic colleges that made him doubtful about the future of his investment. Monaghan’s fearful scenario is being played out at USF.

We are witnessing the efforts of many good, talented, even heroic people at the St. Ignatius Institute being overthrown by Father Privett after only a few months in office. The institute’s teaching staff and alumni never had a chance to make their case.

Knowing how good a case this is, and how eloquently it could be delivered by the likes of Leiva-Merikakis, Father Privett took the Machiavellian option: Strike quickly and without apology. Those who had the privilege of studying at the institute will understand this strategy because unlike most college students nowadays, they will have read Machiavelli.

Sed Contra: Bush Courts the Catholics

Deal W. Hudson
May 1, 2001

Only a few days after his inauguration, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush dined with the newly installed archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore (now Cardinal) McCarrick. In spite of concerns about security, the dinner took place in the archdiocese’s chancery, not the White House.

On January 31, Bush met in the White House with more than 40 Catholic leaders of social service providers. He took time on the road in February to meet with Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh and Archbishop Justin Rigali of St. Louis and with Bernard Cardinal Law in the Oval Office. On March 16, the president celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a day early with Irish-American leaders and key players in the Northern Ireland peace process.

The first months of the new administration should send a clear message to this nation’s Catholics: Bush’s campaign strategy of reaching out to them isn’t going to end because he won the White House. If anything, these recent efforts to court Catholic leaders suggest that he is accelerating his Catholic strategy. His plan to involve Catholics in his administration seems to be going far beyond what even the most optimistic among us can reasonably expect.

For example, just before the St. Patrick’s Day party, Bush met with the seven U.S. cardinals, 25 bishops, and various others who were responsible for the creation of the new John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington. The next day, he traveled across the city to meet with more Catholics and help celebrate the opening of the center.

His speech there was a genuine tribute to the pope, not an excuse for a policy pitch. Former president Bill Clinton used his last official contact with Catholics before leaving office—a letter from him read at McCarrick’s installation—as an occasion to praise his own administration’s policy achievements.

The closest Bush came to arguing a point of policy in his speech at the center was his affirmation of respect for life: “In the culture of life we must make room for the stranger. We must comfort the sick. We must care for the aged. We must welcome the immigrant. We must teach our children to be gentle with one another. We must defend in love the innocent child waiting to be born.”

Two weeks after Bush spoke at the John Paul II Cultural Center, his historic speech had not been published by Catholic News Service.

These words of Bush were perceived as not only eloquent but sincere. By this time, his profile among Catholics was so high that a few of our evangelical Protestant brethren were getting concerned. A representative of the National Association of Evangelicals complained to the Los Angeles Times that Bush was spending too much time courting Catholics and that it would hurt his relationship with evangelicals.

The truth is that Bush and his advisers have been spending a great deal of time with Protestant leaders. But the nurturing of this part of the Republican Party base is not new; it has been a staple of Republican politics since the Reagan years. Rather than being miffed by the attention Bush now pays to Catholics, evangelicals should be pleased: Active Catholics and evangelical Christians together make up about 30 percent of the vote in presidential elections. Why not join forces?

This nation’s evangelical leaders have successfully shaped a bloc with real power to deliver votes and affect policy. Bush’s determination to connect with Catholics provides us with an opportunity to have similar clout. But I have my doubts as to whether Catholics, either religious or lay, can seize the moment.

I used to think that Catholic influence in politics was muted by the inability of most Catholics to overcome the alien bent of the culture of death. But during the past six years, watching from the editor’s seat at this magazine, I have witnessed several significant attempts by Catholics to enter the political process. Their efforts fell short, not because of the steep slope of the secularized culture, but as a result of squabbles within their own ranks.

For the Catholic voice to be heard in the new administration, we will have to avoid such in-fighting. This will require a new openness to agreement within the Catholic establishment, whose bickering members are not always thrilled by new opportunities for Catholic political influence, especially when it is not their own particular influence.

Sed Contra: The Political Enigma of Catholic Minority Groups

Deal W. Hudson
June 1, 2001

The top priority of Republican Party strategists over the last few years has been winning more support from two groups—religiously active voters and racial and ethnic minorities. In the case of Mass-attending Catholics who also belong to minority groups—Hispanic, Asian, and African-American—this outreach effort poses an intriguing question: Will Republicans succeed in entering minority communities only through the door of the religiously active? The answer is almost undoubtedly yes since church attendance correlates so closely to the traditional values that inform President George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”

This was one of the conclusions reached this past April by a group of panelists at the National Catholic Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The panelists included Raymond Arroyo of the Eternal Word Television Network, Kate O’Beirne of National Review, William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, and Steve Wagner of QEV Analytics, which has conducted major studies of Catholic voters for Crisis. Given the hairbreadth outcome of the 2000 election, the panelists argued that Bush’s reelection will hinge on his success in appealing to minorities: Catholic minorities, it was added, might be the most receptive to the president’s message.

Of adults in the United States who identify themselves as Catholics, 78 percent are white, 16 percent are Hispanic, 3 percent are African-American, 2 percent are Asian, and 1 percent are Native American. This represents a level of diversity significantly higher than that of the country as a whole. The Hispanic population is exploding, and its impact on the Church in the United States can hardly be underestimated. (The cover story of the September Crisis will focus on this topic.)

Hispanic youth presently make up 38 percent of all Catholics born since 1982. This number is made all the more startling by the fact that fewer and fewer Hispanics are identifying themselves as Catholic. In 1970, more than 75 percent of Hispanics called themselves Catholic, while today that number is less than 60 percent.

The drift of Hispanics from the Church surely concerns the bishops more than the Republicans, because Republicans may pick up the support of ex-Catholic Hispanics if they find their way into evangelical congregations, whose members are often politically conservative. The Church, on the other hand, may never get them back.

In 2000, Hispanics voted for Bush (31 percent) at a much higher rate than African-Americans (8 percent). Bush shows a natural affinity for reaching out to Hispanics, but his ability to connect with African-Americans as yet has been nil. In the United States, there are 2.3 million Catholics and 300 priests who are African- American and 1,300 predominantly African-American parishes. Someone will undoubtedly suggest to the president and his party that these parishes are good places to start outreach efforts, as churches have been traditional centers of African-American political power.

It will be an uphill battle. As Steve Wagner’s research for Crisis has shown, the African-American vote is the only vote that does not reflect a correlation between church attendance and openness toward the Republican Party. How difficult this effort will be is also illustrated by the lamentable fact that the majority of African-Americans refuse to embrace school choice, although it is their children who will benefit from it most.

It is easy to see from the U.S. bishops’ 1999 report Hispanic Ministry at the Turn of the New Millennium why Bush and his party will initially do better with Hispanics than African-Americans. First, since Hispanics are more numerous, they are much more widely incorporated into the U.S. Church. More than 3,600 parishes have Hispanic ministries; there are more than 2,000 Hispanic priests, and 11 percent of all U.S. seminarians are Hispanic. More importantly, a recent survey of Hispanic bishops reported “family strength and values” as the most important contribution of Hispanic Catholics to their dioceses. Bush’s emphasis on strengthening the family may be his entrée into Hispanic loyalty.

Bush’s track record thus far suggests that he will bring his message, unadorned, to Catholic minority groups and simply take his chances. We will then find out whether those among them who attend Mass regularly areas disposed toward Bush’s message as their white Catholic counterparts.

The Real Meaning of the Real Presence

Deal W. Hudson
June 1, 2001

Although the communion lines at Sunday Mass in American churches have perhaps never been longer, polls show that more than 60 percent of American Catholics say they do not believe in the “real presence”—that Jesus Christ is bodily present in the Eucharist. What does this mean? Are U.S. Catholics lacking in faith or poorly catechized or are there more basic flaws in our current understanding of the real presence? Crisis publisher and editor Deal W. Hudson interviewed Rev. Timothy V. Vaverek, who holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, is pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Waco, Texas, and writes frequently on liturgical matters. Father Vaverek believes that we need a more complete understanding of the Eucharist as the fulfillment of Christ’s “Pasch,” His Paschal sacrifice expressed in His crucifixion, resurrection, and second coming, in order for the doctrine of the real presence to make sense.

Hudson: When people discuss the “real presence,” they usually have in mind what happens at the moment of consecration when the bread and wine turn into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and He becomes present. Is this the best way to think about “real presence”?

Father Vaverek: Given the historic debates over the Eucharist, it is understandable that people think in this way, but it can contribute to confusion in a number of ways. First, the term “real presence” is insufficient when applied to the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The proper term for this substantial change, according to the Catholic faith, is “transubstantiation,” which means that the Eucharistic species is Jesus, the crucified and risen Savior. Thus, for Catholics, the Eucharist is not only the real presence of Jesus—it is Jesus.

Also, by considering the eucharistic body and blood as “the real presence,” one perhaps forgets the other ways that Christ is really present to us. He is really present in our daily lives by grace in our hearts; He is really present to us in our neighbor and those in need; He is really present in our midst when we gather for group prayer; He is really present when the Church celebrates the liturgy; He is really present in the priest acting in His name; He is really present in the proclamation of His word. Once Christ’s presence is recognized in these diverse ways, the Eucharist understood as “the real presence” might simply come to be seen as one “real presence” among others when, in fact, it is more than that—it is Jesus, whole and entire, body, soul, and divinity. There is a difference in kind, not just in degree between the Eucharist and the various other modes of Christ’s presence.

Perhaps the most important point to make is this: Understanding the consecration solely in relation to the real presence risks missing the heart of the liturgy—our participation in the paschal mystery of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. The eucharistic prayer, and especially the consecration, offers the Church to God through, with, and in Christ. Certainly, the bread and wine become Jesus, but that is the result of God making the Mass be our participation in Christ’s saving paschal sacrifice. The consecration offers the entire body of Christ, head, and members, to God—it does not just change the elements into Jesus. If we forget this, then we easily make the Mass be about the manifestation of God’s presence—or presences—rather than about our communion with Christ in His Pasch, or sacrifice at Calvary, glorifying God and redeeming mankind.

What is the difference between the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the presence of God which you speak of in our daily lives?

Well, this is the problem I am trying to address. Christ is really present in many ways. My neighbor is the real presence of Jesus to me; the priest is, the Scriptures are, the indwelling of the Trinity is, across is, an icon is, etc. He is equally present in the Eucharist and in other non-eucharis-tic modes, although the presence is achieved in distinct ways for distinct purposes. In that sense, they are equally real but different modes of presence. But in the Host, Jesus is really and substantially present. Nowhere else, other than at the right hand of God, is Jesus substantially present. Substantial presence is real, but real presence need not be substantial. This is why Catholics should not be satisfied with saying “the real presence” to refer to the Eucharist—it does not say enough and easily reduces the Host to one “presence” among others.

What do the theologians of the era following the Second Vatican Council mean when they talk about “four modes of real presence?”

I do not know the complete history of the so-called four modes of presence. An important part of that history is a document of the postconciliar reform titled Eucharisticum Mysterium (EM), issued on May 15, 1967. EM 9 speaks of “principal modes” of Christ’s presence, and EM 55 says that the principal modes are successively manifested during Mass: first, in the assembly of the faithful gathered in His name; then, in the reading of Scripture; also in the person of the minister; and finally, under the Eucharistic species.

To my knowledge, neither the idea of principal modes nor their “successive manifestation” had ever been mentioned previously in an official Church document. For this reason, discussions of the four modes usually appeal to Eucharisticum Mysterium and include the notion that those modes are successively manifested during Mass.

The problem is that Eucharisticum Mysterium explicitly limited itself to offering liturgical norms based on existing teaching, and therefore, EM 9 and EM 55 cannot legitimately be used as the basis for new teachings about the liturgy. EM 55 and EM 9 claim to reflect the teaching of Vatican II found in its document Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), Part 7. However, the purpose of SC 7 is to identify the entire life of the Church with the Pasch of Christ, not merely to affirm His presence in the liturgy. This point is clear from its opening words: “To accomplish so great a work”—that is, our salvation through His Pasch “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in liturgical celebrations.” SC 7 never mentions “principal modes,” or the notion that the modes are successively manifested during Mass. In fact, for Vatican II, the focus of Christian life and liturgy is not on the presence of Christ in various modes, but on the Church’s communion with Christ in accomplishing the Pasch. This is why there is no dichotomy in our distinguishing the modes of presence from the Pasch. The Pasch is the reason for the presences—that Christ may accomplish His saving work.

The conventional use of the theory of four modes and their successive manifestations in post-Vatican II liturgical discussions no doubt was intended to remind people of the Church’s longstanding teaching that Christ is present in the assembly, the word, the priest, and the Host. However, unlike Vatican II, this theory does not state the purpose of the presence: the Church’s participation in the paschal mystery. Consequently, the theory easily leads people to focus on the modes rather than the Pasch.

You mention the “longstanding teaching” of Christ’s presence in the Host, assembly, word, and priest. Could you explain how that presence is distinctive from the universal presence of God in His creation?

God is present to us in specific ways that arise through one specific process having one specific purpose. It is a trinitarian process in which the Father acts through the Son (or Word) by the power of the Holy Spirit to draw mankind into personal communion with Himself in Christ. We see this in the act of creation, in the history of Israel, in the paschal mystery, and in the life of the Church. Thus, God is always present to us as the source of our being and as the saving God who guides human history toward the completion of the Pasch. These are specific ways He is universally present to all men.

Christ is present in a unique way when the Church gathers to celebrate the liturgy because these assemblies act on behalf of the entire Church. Indeed, the one Church of Christ is present in liturgical gatherings of the faithful united to their bishops, so that, especially in the eucharistic assembly, the whole body of Christ, head, and members, is present and at work (see SC 7). This gathering of the faithful in communion with Christ and all His members is rightly called a “church,” or even Christus totus (the complete Christ, head, and members).

Christ comes to us in these various ways for one purpose: to draw all men into communion with God through His Pasch. The primary focus of our daily life and worship should be on glorifying God in Christ’s Pasch, not on the means of Christ’s presence.

Your answers repeatedly go back to the idea of the “Pasch.” Why do we hear that word so little?

For me, this is one of the great curiosities and misfortunes of the postconciliar liturgical and theological renewal. The Pasch is absolutely central to Christian life and worship, and consequently to the thought of Vatican II, yet the term, for the most part, remains unused.

Simply speaking, the Pasch is the Passover; hence, for example, the lamb offered at Passover is called the paschal lamb. St. John the Evangelist depicts Jesus as the paschal lamb in his account of the Baptist’s preaching (“Behold, the Lamb of God,” John 1:29); in the timing of Christ’s sentencing (John 19:14); in the vision of the heavenly liturgy (Revelation 5); and in the depiction of heaven as the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19). John is not alone in this. St. Paul, for example, affirms that “Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). So, in Christian usage, the Pasch is Christ’s Pasch, His Passover, from suffering and death to resurrection and glorification at the right hand of the Father.

The Pasch, in sum, is the saving work of Christ, the sacrifice of perfect love by which He atones for the sins of the world and unleashes God’s grace to transform redeemed humanity into His image as members of His body. Christ’s Pasch is the new covenant that fulfills the old covenant established after the first Passover.

The early Christians saw a complete parallel between the image of the Hebrews placing the blood of the lamb on their dwellings, passing through the Red Sea, wandering in Sinai nourished by manna, and entering, at last, the promised land, and the image of Christians being washed in the blood of Christ, their passing through the waters of baptism, their journey through life with the Eucharist as pilgrim’s food, and their entering the kingdom of heaven. Whereas the first Passover freed God’s people from slavery in Egypt, so the Pasch of Christ freed them from slavery to sin and death. Whereas the purpose of celebrating the Jewish Passover is to recall annually God’s mercy and the freedom He gave His chosen people, Christians celebrate the Pasch of Christ on the Lord’s Day, or even daily, to recall the mercy of God in freeing us to be His sons and daughters.

In fact, the Mass not only recalls the saving event of Christ’s Pasch; it makes it present so that the Church might participate fully in the life and mission of its Head and Bridegroom. The mission of the Church is to live and celebrate the Pasch until Christ returns again to complete His saving work. This is a very traditional view of Christ, the Church, and Christian life that has in our day been reaffirmed by Vatican II, especially in its writings on the liturgy and the Church.

“Pasch” is still not a word we hear very often. Can you express the concept in more familiar terminology?

In the English language, we have problems whenever we try to translate the word “Pasch.” The events of the Pasch correspond to the Last Supper, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, as well as Ascension Thursday, and 4 the wedding feast of the Lamb. How then are we to translate the term? For instance, we often call the “paschal candle” the “Easter candle,” but this loses all reference to the Passover and to the movement implied in the term “Pasch.” We wind up thinking the candle is lit in commemoration of Easter when, in fact, it is lit in remembrance of the Pasch. The paschal symbolism of the candle explains the prayers used when inscribing the candle with a cross, Greek letters, and the year: They refer to His saving death, His lordship of all times and places, and His return in glory as the Alpha and the Omega.

Awareness of the Pasch and the use of the term help us to avoid the false dichotomy that has plagued much of post-conciliar liturgical discussions. Is the Mass a celebration of Christ’s real eucharistic presence and the sacrifice of the cross, or of Christ’s four real presences and our sharing in Christ’s risen life? It is all this and more. It is the great celebration of our communion with Christ in His passion, resurrection, and ascension until He comes again in glory!

Focusing on only one aspect of the Pasch is destined to distort our understanding of the liturgy. Whereas in the past the focus was on the reenactment of the cross, now the focus is on Christ’s presence in our midst. Each assertion is true, but each misses the point: The Mass is a participation in the Pasch uniting us to Christ in His historic suffering and resurrection as well as in His glory at the right hand of the Father.

What exactly do you mean by “completing the Pasch”?

“To complete the Pasch” means simply to be caught up in Christ’s love now and in eternity, thereby participating in the redemption of the world to the glory of God. To accomplish this, we need not do great things; we need only act with great love. The “little way” of St. Thérèse of Lisieux reveals how every Christian may participate at every moment in the work of the Pasch. Who would believe such a thing? God has allowed sinful man to participate in the work of redemption! How tragic that so few Christians know what “the Pasch” is or what “completing the Pasch” means. This is our very life. Without it we are nothing, and our lives have no meaning.

The liturgy is but one way, a supremely privileged way, in which we participate in completing the work of the Pasch and experience a foretaste of the life of the kingdom (see SC 8-10). This is especially true of the Mass, the sacramental renewal of the paschal covenant, in which the faithful are drawn into the consuming love of Christ and set aflame by Him.

Is this paschal understanding something Catholics already know and believe but may not express this way?

Paschal language is ancient, not new, and it expresses the unchanging faith of the Church. I would say that, in general, Catholics growing up in America before the Second Vatican Council were taught to recognize the centrality of the cross as pivotal for daily Christian life and the Mass. Catholics formed after the council generally were not taught the centrality of the cross, although they are aware of living and sharing the life of the risen Jesus. Tragically, we have been subjected to a false “either…or” in this matter when what we need is a “both…and” approach.

 I am getting the impression that our thinking about real presence in the Mass has been distorted by post-Reformation polemics. Do you think that may be the case?

Add post-Enlightenment polemics, and I think you have hit the nail on the head. Controversy bred polemics that in turn led to distortions that still haunt us. In my opinion, this phenomenon lies at the root of the present crisis in the life of the Church and explains in large part the difficulties experienced in authentically receiving and implementing Vatican II.

The Reformation attacked the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the function of the priest acting “in the person of Christ,” and the belief that Holy Communion entirely ceases to be bread or wine and becomes Jesus Christ. The Enlightenment attacked any form of tradition in favor of knowledge attained through a reasoned “hermeneutic of suspicion” applied to personal experience. This had the effect of making knowledge, ethics, and social structures highly individualistic. Naturally, the Catholic Church reacted strongly against such errors.

The efforts of Catholic thinkers to respond to the Reformation and the Enlightenment often had the unintended effect of allowing the culture to dictate the shape and terms of the discussion. For example, moral theology was typically presented in a casuistic fashion as a matter of obeying divine and ecclesiastical laws. The Church itself was understood primarily as a visible hierarchical society arranged in accord with canon law.

The sacraments were seen as the work of the priest acting in the person of Christ in order to bring grace to the people. The Mass was considered the means of making present “the unbloodied sacrifice of the cross” and the “real presence” of Jesus on the altar. The struggle shaped the presentation of the truth so that other crucial theological aspects were ignored, neglected, or poorly understood. Sometimes certain aspects suffered because writers wanted absolutely to avoid granting any concessions to the heretics or appearing themselves sympathetic to heresy.

Lamentably, many clergy and laity involved in the postconciliar “renewal” had at best a superficial knowledge of pre-Reformation Catholicism and did not know how to read either the letter or spirit of Vatican II. Therefore, after the council they tended either to desire to continue the polemical struggle or, as was more common in the 1960s, to launch a new polemic against the old polemic (thereby appearing to embrace the ideas of the Reformation and Enlightenment).

Thus, for example, the basis of morality shifted from church and law to personal conscience and spirit. The Church was re-envisioned not as a perfect hierarchical society, but as an egalitarian “people of God.” In liturgy, the emphasis changed from sacrifice, cross, priest, and Host to meal, resurrection, assembly, and word. Piety tended to move from devotion and contemplation to liturgical and social action. The visible presence of the tabernacle, made increasingly prominent after Trent, came to be seen as a hindrance to giving due attention to Christ’s many other “real presences” in the liturgy. In each of these examples, there is a lack of appreciation for the deeper vision that would bring the various aspects into unity.

Each side of the polemic creates a false dichotomy that seeks to force a person to choose “either…or” when the answer is “both…and.” In this light, one can see that many of the attempts at postconciliar “renewal” have done little more than continue, sometimes in new ways, the old polemics. The difference from the past is that now both sides of the old debates are advocated within the Church. No wonder that problems—liturgical and otherwise—seem intractable. Notice, for example, that both before and after the council the focus in liturgy remained largely on “seeing” modes of Christ’s presence and on who was permitted “to perform” various ritual actions. Vatican II’s vision of liturgy as a participation in Christ and His Pasch would have us recast the entire discussion.

Vatican II makes possible authentic renewal by rejecting these polemics in favor of truths we have long neglected in our catechesis and debates. This deeper vision, inspired by the Holy Spirit, provides a better explanation of our faith (and hence offers a more penetrating critique of polemics in and out of the Church). One of the most fundamental aspects of this renewed vision is our communion with Christ in the paschal mystery. Liturgical sensibility based on communion in the paschal mystery values the “real presence” of Christ in a myriad of ways as the means to our participation in the Pasch, the true goal of the liturgy. This paschal vision has the potential to break the pre- and post-Vatican II polemics—and to renew the Church—because it focuses on the deepest meaning of Christian life and liturgy.

Sed Contra: College at the Crossroads

Deal W. Hudson
July 1, 2001

The University of Dallas (UD) has long been counted among a handful of strong Catholic colleges where committed Catholic parents can safely send their sons and daughters. Billing itself as “the Catholic university for independent thinkers,” UD is one of the top liberal arts universities in America. It is one of only eight universities in Texas to have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and one of two to be accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education, which I presently chair. Events of the past ten months, however, have raised questions about the direction of UD under the leadership of its president, Msgr. Milam Joseph, appointed in 1996.

Last fall, Scott Thurow, who came to the university in 1974 and was appointed provost in 1993, was “reassigned” inexplicably to teach in the politics department at UD’s Rome campus. Since Msgr. Joseph lacks an earned doctorate and was suspected of harboring a liberal bent, Thurow’s reputation as a scholar and a conservative helped calm most fears about Joseph’s appointment. Thurow’s seasoned oversight of academic programs was considered by those skeptical about Msgr. Joseph to be crucial in maintaining UD’s academic excellence.

Nonetheless, Msgr. Joseph is clearly uncomfortable with the out-spoken conservatives on his campus. Those who know Msgr. Joseph says he views himself as moving the campus into the Catholic “mainstream.” In doing this, he has strong support from UD’s board, which evidently shares Joseph’s vision for the university, though he has regularly clashed with some faculty and students, including the formidable Professor Janet Smith in the philosophy department.

Famous for her articulate advocacy of Humanae Vitae, Smith is a feisty defender of Catholic orthodoxy and the founder of the Millennium Evangelization Project on campus. As the unofficial faculty watchdog of Msgr. Joseph, Smith was never the president’s favorite person. After a number of contentious episodes, Msgr. Joseph made it clear to Smith that he would like her to resign. He recently got his wish, at least for the near future, when Smith announced that she would be teaching in the coming academic year at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. It is no accident that Smith’s evangelization program is exiting the campus as well.

On the heels of Smith’s announcement came the news that UD’s Institute of Religion and Pastoral Studies (IRPS) was moving to Ave Maria University in Michigan. Whether IRPS was cut loose by Msgr. Joseph or acquired by Thomas S. Monaghan, Ave Maria’s billionaire founder, is a topic of much debate. What cannot be disputed, however, is that IRPS was thriving at UD under the leadership of Douglas Bushman. The program was profitable and provided a sound education in pastoral theology to laypeople in the dioceses of Dallas, Tulsa, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. It was on the verge of expanding to Omaha, Atlanta, and Syracuse.

The departure of Bushman and his colleagues from UD coincides with the dismantling of the St. Ignatius Institute by Rev. Steven Privett, S.J., the new president of the University of San Francisco (see “The Death of a Great College Program,” “Sed Contra,” April 2001). Guilt by association with Father Privett’s academic bloodbath is something that Msgr. Joseph would probably like to avoid, especially since Father Privett’s action at USF is under scrutiny at the Vatican. It’s ironic for an institution with UD’s conservative traditions to even appear in league with renegade Jesuits.

Credit should be given to Msgr. Joseph for bringing much-needed financial and capital improvements to UD. Financial stability at a small college is hard to achieve, and the situation Msgr. Joseph inherited at UD was fiscally marginal. And when a university president is sprucing up the campus, adding new buildings, and increasing the endowment, it’s unlikely the board will take issue with changes in institutional character.

Thus, the course set by Msgr. Joseph will very likely continue for years to come, and his ethos will likely prevail at UD until future leaders make their own mark. Time will tell if these changes mark a dramatically new course for UD, or whether Msgr. Joseph simply wants to eliminate what he considers obnoxious stridency among campus conservatives. If the letter is true, Msgr. Joseph is making a marketing decision that may come back to haunt him.

Being known as conservative isn’t such a bad thing when you have the market largely to yourself.