Crisis Magazine 2002

Sed Contra: Delivering Bad News

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 2002

Some Crisis readers may be startled by the lead story in this issue, “The Price of Priestly Pederasty.” They might argue that such a story damages the Church’s reputation and hurts the Church’s evangelical outreach. While such arguments are plausible, they also can undermine Catholic journalism and its benefits if they are used to discourage serious reporting.

As publisher and editor of a Catholic monthly, I don’t enjoy telling stories like this month’s main feature. The pattern of pedophilia among Catholic clergy may not be statistically greater than among any other group of adult males, but its presence in the Church, along with its financial and spiritual impact, should not be ignored. Why? Because it has to stop. We hope our overview of this unhappy chapter in recent Church history will encourage religious and lay leaders to take whatever measures are necessary to minimize these occurrences.

An independent Catholic monthly has a different response to its readers than a diocesan newspaper. A diocesan newspaper is owned by an archdiocese and is managed by an archbishop. A diocesan paper prints Catholic news but, as the house organ of a diocese, cannot report on episodes embarrassing to the bishop and his diocese.

Independent Catholic magazines and newspapers like Crisis have more journalistic latitude, which should be used for the benefit of the Church and its readership. The Church encourages Catholic journalists who do not work directly for a bishop to report and opine on events that cause all of our discomforts.

Having been part of a movement that decries the influence of the liberal media, I am surprised to find myself asserting the rights and prerogatives of a journalist to publish bad news about the Church. We have come to expect regular Catholic-bashing in the secular media. Perhaps this is one reason why many Catholic journalists have shied away from controversial stories in the past: Their initial impulse is to offset the negative bias of the mainstream media.

Good news inspires, but the lesson it teaches is rarely remembered for very long. Bad news, like the pain of a pulled tooth, burrows more deeply into our consciousness. Call it penitential, if you like.

Independent Catholic magazines and newspapers should demand more from their editors and reporters. Armchair musings on the state of the Church do little to encourage positive change in the Church and its various institutions. How many times are we going to be subjected to large-scale critiques of the Church from G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis wanna-bes? I hate to say it, but we need more reporters and fewer philosophers in our business.

My one reluctance in publishing this story is my sympathy for our bishops. Our bishops are held responsible for every mishap that occurs within the parishes, schools, hospitals, and social service organizations of their dioceses. Not only do they have to manage hundreds, if not thousands, of personnel; they also have to run a large nonprofit enterprise that makes payroll every week. Thus, bishops and their staff are expected to be experts in business practices in addition to theology, morality, politics, liturgy, and even architecture.

Our cover story sends a message to all diocesan administrators that the screening of future priests and their seminary formation must be monitored more closely. It must be recognized from the outset that pedophilia is a disorder different from homosexuality and, according to present evidence, much more difficult to alter or control. Pedophilia cannot be “managed” just by placing someone in a new environment.

There are those who argue that in certain dioceses a laxness toward certain “lifestyles” has caused this situation. If there is indeed a general climate of sexual permissiveness among the clergy, this will only aggravate any inclination toward pedophilia.

Looking forward, the situation must be remedied and—to judge from all the evidence I’ve seen—is being remedied. Some dioceses have longstanding procedures regarding screening and treatment; others have learned the hard way.

We can all hope that the worst of this story is in our past and pray that a lesson has been learned.

Sed Contra: Better Late Than Never

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 2002

Representatives of a group called Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) started appearing in the media—mainly the Boston Globe—in the months following the revelations about sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. Initially, the group appeared credible. I know many faithful Catholics added themselves to the organization’s mailing list, hoping the lay group would challenge the bishops to stop ignoring the deeply rooted problems that led to the scandal. Close inspection of VOTF’s Web site, however, gave me serious doubts about the sincerity of its “centrist” label. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, and the folks at the helm of VOTF have created a huge smoke screen for their dissenting agenda.

My doubts about VOTF were confirmed when I saw the roster of speakers invited to its first conference, which took place in Boston on July 20. As I noted in our August 8 e-mail special report, “When Wolves Dress Like Sheep,” the conference participants were Call-to-Action types who espouse everything from women’s ordination to the creation of an American Catholic Church.

Our e-letter evidently hit a nerve with VOTF—its next newsletter responded to our charges by apologizing for its conference invitation to the former head of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States and by affirming its loyalty to the teaching of the Church. (Sadly, its response didn’t address the many other points we made.)

Incidentally, our special report also elicited a number of e-mails from VOTF members—some of whom attended the Boston conference—corroborating our view that VOTF’s declaration of fidelity is a ruse. We read stories from VOTF members who felt unwelcome after they raised questions about the loyalty of the conference speakers. The questions themselves were met with evasion and hostility.

Sound familiar? Anyone who has entered a room full of dissenters is familiar with the experience. These bait-and-switch tactics have been used by Catholic dissenters for decades. I don’t understand why they can’t be more straightforward. Why must they feign fidelity and dupe fellow Catholics into supporting their crusade to change the teachings of the Church?

Of course, their answer to this is always “dialogue.” Dialogue, they say, is integral to Catholic teaching, and their only agenda is to foster “open discussion.” But why call for dialogue about teachings that the Church says cannot be changed? A call for dialogue on settled issues is itself a symptom of dissent.

What’s needed now isn’t dialogue but teaching. Bishops and priests need to address this crisis in the Church by explaining to Catholics in the pews the nature of the priesthood and the reasons for its tradition of celibacy. If the average Catholic heard this preached from the pulpit on a regular basis, then groups like VOTF would be seen for what they are.

Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, has courageously acted to bar VOTF from using Church property for their meetings; other bishops will surely follow suit. In the meantime, some priests are inviting VOTF into their parishes. Have they been fooled, or are they, like VOTF, taking advantage of the present confusion to undermine Church teaching? What happens when the laity, without the backing of the bishops, challenge the decisions of priests who invite VOTF into their parishes? Not much.

It certainly doesn’t help that the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invited former White House Chief-of-Staff Leon Panetta to sit on the Keating Commission, which oversees the implementation of the policies on sexual abuse adopted in Dallas. Panetta was firmly in favor of former president Bill Clinton’s vetoes of the bill outlawing partial-birth abortion. The message Bishop Wilton Gregory sends with this appointment is that someone like Panetta is considered a Catholic in good standing in spite of his refusal to protect unborn life.

No wonder Catholics are confused and dispirited. No wonder they fall under the influence of vigorous and loud groups like VOTF: Such groups promise leadership where there’s a leadership vacuum. It’s time for the bishops to fill it.

Sed Contra: More Than a Mood

Deal W. Hudson
July 1, 2002

In our recent “Christianity From the Outside” symposium (May 2002), Emmy Chang remarked that she is tempted by faith when she feels expansive emotions—the sight of a dearly loved friend makes her ready to believe that God exists. Yet she worries about a faith that is undermined by subjectivity and “conclusions that are arrived at emotionally.” She has a point.

If the 18th century is described in textbooks as the “age of reason,” the 20th century may one day be described as the age of sentimentality. Emotions have usurped the place of ideas to such an extent that many of us have reacted by trusting emotions less and less.

But just as many of us, including nonbelievers, find ourselves considering the possibility that God exists when we are face-to-face with what we love most. When human desire starts rolling, it doesn’t want to stop with partial satisfaction—it naturally seeks completion in perfect love.

Take the risk of love, for anybody or anything, and you risk following wherever love takes you.

It is difficult to base an “argument” for God on the experience of love because emotions appear to lack an “objective” ground. And let’s face it: Most displays of religious enthusiasm don’t exactly bolster one’s confidence in what believers profess to believe. On the contrary: Hyperemotionalism suggests insecurity, a lack of reasoning, and the need for self-validation.

People commonly, and regrettably, describe faith as a “feeling,” and many seem to believe it is nothing more. If we polled Catholics on this issue, I would guess that nine out of ten would describe faith as some kind of emotional state. The confusion is rampant.

Faith is an “exercise of thought” (Fides et Ratio); its content is both personal and propositional, beginning with the person of Jesus Christ and spreading out through the creed and the entire “sacred deposit.”

Of course, once you consider certain truths to be absolute and a certain person to be the Son of God, how could emotions not play a role in the dynamics of your faith? Faith is not cold-blooded.

When Sinead O’Connor tore up a photograph of the Holy Father on Saturday Night Live, millions of Catholics were predictably outraged. I myself was livid at an unwarranted public attack on the head of my Church. Conversely, when the teaching of the Church is unexpectedly supported in the public square—whether by our president or in a Hollywood film—I, like all Catholics, am delighted.

In this sense, emotions are signposts: They can signal when we are on course or when we make a wrong turn. They also indicate, though not perfectly, what we care about and what we don’t.

But the meaning of emotion cannot be reduced to that which we already know, a reflection of our personal status quo. Emotions can play a role in recommending a purpose beyond what we already have consciously in mind. If emotions were purely self-referential there would be no surprises in life—no “falling in love,” for example.

Though they are not themselves concepts or propositions, emotions can help to convey a concept by forcing it to our attention. The philosopher Jacques Maritain struggled to describe this phenomenon in his Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry with the idea of “intuitive pulsions.” These pulsions, he argued, are emotions used by intuitive reason; through them, our very nature speaks.

Heightened emotion may open someone to consider a notion—such as, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God”—in a fresh way. Intensity and passion provide no certainty of truth. But in putting up our guard against the culture of sentimentality, we might make the opposite mistake of aspiring to a state of pure, disembodied, intellectuality.

The poet Wordsworth offered good advice in “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” when he argued that the best poetry was based on emotion “recollected in tranquility.” I think that most converts, including myself, find that emotion does often incite recollection, the result being not a poem but a new life.

Sed Contra: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Bishops

Deal W. Hudson
June 1, 2002

The April 24 communiqué from the meeting of the U.S. cardinals at the Vatican is really an agenda for the June meeting of the U.S. bishops in Dallas. Although the communiqué failed to spell out a “zero tolerance” policy for first-time sex abusers, its intent is clear: The communiqué, along with the public statements of several cardinals, calls for a complete overhaul of priestly discipline in regard to homosexuality.

Will the U.S. bishops take action? If so, how decisively? And will addressing homosexuality in the priesthood be enough to right the wrong that has been done?

The bishops’ June meeting should be a day of reckoning for the Catholic Church in the United States. If the bishops appear blasé and plead for a “long view” of the issues, the cause will be set back years more than it already has been.

To rebuild the trust of U.S. Catholics in the Church and its leaders and to make reparations to the victims left in the wake of this scandal, the bishops need to address several points at their June meeting:

1. The bishops should make it clear that this is a crisis and that they are not conducting business as usual. Powerful men don’t want to admit their mistakes; they often resort to wiggle words such as “oversight” and “misunderstanding” to explain their actions instead of risking blunt honesty. But without honesty, there can be no trust.

2. The bishops should adopt a penitential posture rather than exhibit the predictable solidarity of mutual denial. Powerful men never want to start over; they want to be seen as building on their accomplishments rather than admitting that an entire set of policies has to be ripped up and replaced.

3. The bishops should publicly acknowledge in unambiguous language that seminaries have graduated actively homosexual priests who prey on minors. The communiqué recognized this fact but did not use the word “homosexuality”: “Even if the cases of true pedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few…almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true pedophilia.” To uncover and eliminate the homosexual subcultures that have flourished over the past 40 years, the communiqué courageously called for an immediate “Apostolic Visitation” of the seminaries.

4. The bishops should not be intimidated by the charge that they are “scape-goating” homosexuals. All they have to do is a point to the nature of the sex abuse that predominates in the news accounts. One habit that the bishops must change is the unwillingness to challenge dissent. Dissent on matters of sexual morality goes hand-in-hand with the toleration of homosexual activity.

5. The bishops should instruct their priests, in the words of the April communiqué, to “reprimand” dissenters openly, especially on issues of sexual morality and orientation. The risk is great, but it must be taken. A media firestorm broke out when Msgr. Eugene V. Clark spoke openly about the problem of active homosexuals in the priesthood from the pulpit of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. So what? Catholics deserve to hear from their priests the truth that they are taught to believe in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

6. The bishops should invite laypeople with the sound expertise to help with the psychological formation and management of priests. It is understandable that the bishops should want to consolidate and protect their power. But when the clergy create a monopoly on information and influence, this is called “clericalism.” Vatican II supposedly put an end to clericalism by calling on laymen and -women to use their expertise in communications, teaching, finance, and management in service of the body of Christ.

The trouble with this, of course, is that dissenters are saying the same thing. But the solution is simple: Bishops need not include among their lay advisers those who dissent from Church teaching and want to use their access to change doctrine. Laypersons can offer the benefit of their expertise without challenging the bishops’ prerogative over matters of faith and morals.

7. The most important thing the bishops can do is to apologize to the victims of sex abuse and to ask for their forgiveness. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sexually abused Catholics whose main image of the Church is a leering and groping priest. Clearly, the bishops must make a special effort to mend their wounds.

Sed Contra: More Stories, Fewer Lectures

Deal W. Hudson
April 1, 2002

In November, Crisis will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Since I arrived here six years ago, Crisis has become more a genuine magazine and less a journal—gradually publishing more articles based on original reporting. While this is expensive and requires more editorial attention, you have let us know that this is what you want. And we’re happy to comply.

Being a philosopher by training, I didn’t set this course naturally. Like many Catholics concerned with the direction of the Church, I assumed that the independent Catholic press existed primarily to argue in favor of the doctrines being ignored or side-stepped by the clergy. Since the clergy rarely speak about the defense of life, for example, it’s up to Catholic editors and writers to fill the void.

And fill that void we have, to the point of near exhaustion. You can hardly pick up a Catholic magazine that doesn’t tell you that we live in a culture of death that must be overcome by a culture of life, as conceived by Pope John Paul II. Variations on this theme are found throughout the Catholic press—sometimes brilliant and insightful, other times predictable and repetitive.

No doubt these articles must be written. The only trouble is that too many of them only tell us what we already know. For Catholic journalism to flourish, what we need—desperately, I might add—are writers willing to investigate the concrete circumstances of the Church and culture today, and write about these in imaginative, accessible prose.

Some readers of the Catholic press have been fooled into thinking that they’re not getting profundity unless they feel thrown in over their heads in intellectual jargon. But good journalism doesn’t feel heavy; it doesn’t give the reader the impression of being weighed down by intellectual gravitas. Good journalism has a lightness that keeps the reader’s eyes moving across lines and down paragraphs as he waits for the payoff—that moment of insight when the narrative illuminates the mind, not with an abstract principle but with the “moral of the story.”

Well-told stories, in the final analysis, are far more influential for most people than reasoned arguments.

Don’t get me wrong: Philosophy does have an important place in journalism. However, a “magazine” should contain something more. Those who call this a “dumbing down” simply don’t understand the full spectrum of journalism. For reasons I cannot fathom, they’d rather read a truly dumb-downed lecture from the bowels of a professor’s hard drive than a living story based on a reporter’s firsthand encounter with people and places.

But a magazine, of course, isn’t only about solid reporting. We’re fortunate at Crisis to have superb columnists—Michael Uhlmann, Robert Royal, Terry Teachout, Robert Reilly, Rev. George Rutler, Rev. James Schall, and Ralph Mclnerny—who wear their immense learning lightly.

In the months and years to come, we’ll continue to move forward with ever-improving writing, design, and editorial scope. Crisis circulation continues to grow, with each passing month reflecting, I think, your positive response to our editorial product.

A recent questionnaire answered by over 1,000 readers indicate that 44 percent of you read “all or almost all of the issue.” Sixty-nine percent of you spend at least one hour with the magazine. And perhaps most telling of all, over half of you share the magazine with at least one other person. Readership surveys are not an exact science, but they do provide a basic vantage point from which to evaluate our work.

Nothing feels better to the Crisis staff than knowing that the magazine we work on every day is being thoroughly read and enthusiastically recommended by those who receive it. You have our sincerest thanks and we promise to continue on the upward path you’ve set for us.

Sed Contra: Zogby’s Catholic Poll Misses the Point

Deal W. Hudson
January 1, 2002

The Jesuits usually take pride in being up-to-date. Sadly though, their association with a recent poll of Catholics shows they’re willing to employ some truly outdated methodologies.

Pollster John Zogby was commissioned by Le Moyne, a Jesuit college in Syracuse, New York, to conduct a series of polls measuring Catholic attitudes. On November 16, the early results were released and published on page 4 of USA Today. Guess what Zogby found out? A majority of Catholics disagree with Church teaching on contraception (61.2 percent), priestly celibacy (53.5 percent), and women’s ordination (52.9 percent).

Zogby released these numbers without making any distinction between Catholics who go to Mass regularly and those who don’t. This despite the fact that he has admitted that Mass attendance makes a big difference in the opinions of Catholics. Yet, for whatever reason, he keeps this difference to himself. That is, except on the issue of the death penalty, where those who attend Mass are more opposed than those who do not.

Three years ago, Steve Wagner conducted a similar survey for Crisis, with one important exception: He made the distinction between religiously active and inactive Catholics central to his analysis. The results were clear: Catholics who attend Mass weekly have a significantly different attitude profile—a 6 to 12 percent difference—from those who don’t, especially on issues like contraception, abortion, and the male priesthood.

Making this simple and obvious distinction would have reversed most of Zogby’s conclusions.

Wagner also discovered a correlation between Mass attendance and the steady migration of Catholics toward the middle and right of the political spectrum. Zogby’s raw numbers ignore this significant phenomenon.

For example, if only 31 percent of self-proclaimed Catholics identify with the Republican Party, how does Zogby explain the 47 percent of Catholics who voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election? And, of course, he completely ignores the more significant number—the 57 percent of religiously active Catholics who voted for Bush.

The Crisis Catholic vote survey received wide comment in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Reporters fastened onto the distinction between practicing Catholics and non-practicing Catholics, while veteran commentators like Robert Novak and Michael Barone applauded the work.

The only negative voice came from (surprise!) Rev. Andrew Greeley in Jesuit-run America Magazine. He complained that the Crisis survey was wrong to use Mass attendance as the sole criterion of religious activity. What other criteria Father Greeley had in mind, he didn’t say.

Father Greeley, Zogby, and the scholars at Le Moyne all share a common agenda. William Barnett, a professor of religious studies at Le Moyne, hints at it: “People like the pope, but don’t want the pope telling them what to do in the bedroom.” Indeed, all the news coverage of the Zogby survey underscored the gap between many nonpracticing Catholics and the Holy Father on key issues.

Zogby himself thinks that pressure from dissenters may soon change Church teaching: “There are signs that Catholics might nudge the Church in new directions.”

His assumption—one presumably shared by those who commissioned the poll—is that the Church must conform herself to majority dissent (even where a pseudo-majority is manufactured by bad polling). This is a real shame. Observing the widening gap between religiously active and inactive Catholics provides an important lesson: Participation in the sacramental life of the Church makes a substantial difference in a person’s values and beliefs.

Certainly, it’s important to know what inactive Catholics are thinking. Nevertheless, by refusing to distinguish them from those who regularly encounter the Word of God at Mass, agenda-driven pollsters create confusion and ambiguity where there should be clarity and truth.

Sed Contra: Lessons From Two Decades as a Catholic

Deal W. Hudson

Twenty years ago this month, I was received into the Catholic Church. The late Archbishop Thomas Donellan of Atlanta had given Rev. Richard Lopez permission to perform my confirmation privately. Father Lopez chose the chapel at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the cancer home run by the Hawthorne Dominican sisters, where, some years earlier, Flannery O’Connor had sought to recover from the lupus that eventually took her life.

At the time, I thought of confirmation as the end of a journey that started in earnest with my acceptance of Jesus Christ twelve years earlier at a Southern Baptist Church in Texas. Silly me! In truth, it was the continuation of a journey that is, literally, unending.

If I ever write a book about my conversion, it’ll begin with this sentence: “This is a story of a convert who has never stopped converting.”

Rereading the short essay I wrote about my conversion for Homiletic and Pastoral Review in April 1989, I’m struck by the celebrative tone of a Protestant convert still giddy from dis-covering the stores of Catholic wisdom.

While I remain very much an enthusiast—especially on the subject of St. Thomas Aquinas and his great interpreters—the occasion of my 20th birthday as a Catholic inclines my mind toward another issue: how the Church flourishes in spite of its conflicts, quarrels, and imperfect practitioners.

I’m not sure why I expected life among Catholics to be peaceful. Maybe I felt so privileged to be a Catholic I assumed everyone else felt the same. I wasn’t prepared for the many cradle Catholics I met who bore the faith of their parents like a mill¬stone. Everything distinctive about the faith—priesthood, pope, sacraments, Mass, morality—was viewed back-ward, as an obstacle, rather than a guide to happiness.

I’ve often found that our clergy fail to counter this attitude with boldness. Instead of arguing creatively for the advantages of Catholic teaching over other worldviews, they grant the premise that the faith is needlessly restrictive and look for ways to make it more fashionable. The disastrous result has been chronicled too many times in these pages to need repeating.

Pope John Paul II, of course, has ceded nothing in the debate. Instead of adopting fashion, he has done the hard work of revealing the beauty and discursive power of the Catholic tradition—something that was supposed to be impossible in the present age.

His teaching is now infusing the minds of seminarians around the world. As they enter parishes, they’re bringing a renewed and inspiring vision of what it means to be a Catholic in the modern world.

I also was surprised, and still am, by all the fighting among so-called conservative or orthodox Catholic groups. Hardly a season passes without an attack by one group or leader on another, and the complaint is usually the same: Someone is not “Catholic” enough and must be exposed.

The “Protestant principle” is at work here. Once a group defines itself as “pure” or “true” Catholic, it must continue to root out the defects of others to justify its identity. Inevitably, these groups grow smaller and smaller, because few believers can be found who measure up completely. In short order, the only “true Catholics” will be meeting in someone’s basement.

Something is being done about this. The Catholic Leadership Conference founded four years ago is comprised of leaders from more than 125 organizations who meet yearly in Philadelphia to find ways to collaborate. It’s harder to see horns on the head of your fellow Catholics who you’ve gotten to know face-to-face.

Father Lopez taught me during my two years of instruction (yes, it took me longer) that the Church was in the grip of the Holy Spirit. Over the years, I’ve found myself going back to that simple teaching. We who serve the Church are not the ones who do the work—He does. And the Spirit works best when we get out of the way.

The best advice I’ve received in recent years is to “let the Spirit blow through your work.” Many things make this difficult, pride most of all. Yet if we’re to be lifted up into the life of God, we cannot lift ourselves.

This is the reason why Catholic converts don’t need their arms twisted—the Church has invisible and visible resources enough to bring them home. And this is why after 20 years in the often tumultuous life of the Church, this convert thanks God for the graces of his journey, which are surely beyond his ability to count.

An Interview with John Cornwell

By Deal W. Hudson

John Cornwell is controversial. The best-selling author of Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII has been widely condemned both for the quality of his research and for the alleged heterodoxy of his Catholic faith.

In his newest book, Breaking Faith: The Pope, the People, and the Fate of Catholicism, Cornwell opens himself up to still more criticism by taking on Pope John Paul II and the conservative current in the Church.

But if you think Cornwell is a mere toe-the-line theological liberal, you’re wrong. Deal Hudson sat down with him at his home in England to talk about Pius XII, liturgy, and the future of the Church.

Deal Hudson: When I first saw the title of your book, Breaking Faith, I thought it meant that the Holy Father had broken faith with the Church, but it has a very different meaning, doesn’t it?

John Cornwell: I wanted the book to have an arresting title, as well as a true one. Breaking Faith refers mainly to my own loss of faith, which happened in about 1965, when I was 25 years old, and took me away from the Church for more than 20 years. Although my book is not an autobiography, I wanted it to have a subjective, autobiographical dimension. When one writes about the faith, leaving out the phenomenology of personal belief, there is a danger that you’re telling people everything and yet telling them nothing. Sociological and journalistic accounts that attempt to be totally objective are always flawed. So Breaking Faith is certainly a survey—where the Church is at this time—using the Church’s own statistics, or the Vatican’s statistics, but it is also about one individual’s sense of the faith.

And I have to say that my own break with the Church was a crucial and positive thing in my life; it was providential, because I returned with a much stronger, more mature approach to belief. One would never advocate apostasy, but sometimes it may be necessary for those whose faith is immature and based on egotism and self-seeking.

In the first few chapters of the book, you describe the hurt you felt over the reception of Hitler’s Pope, the book on Pius XII and Hitler. Do you feel like your intentions or motives for writing that book were misunderstood?

I did not object to those who criticized the arguments and disputed the historical evidence. But I was dismayed by those who used ad hominem arguments, claiming that I was not a Catholic and disputing that I had started out intending to defend Pius XII. The facts are these: I spent an evening with some young Catholics who were arguing that the Church had sided with all the worst right-wing elements in the history of the 20th century. I did not believe that this was true. About that time, I had read a book by the historian Owen Chadwick called Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War, which seemed to me to be an important defense of Pius XII’s conduct during the war—certainly the best to date.

But Chadwick’s book was very academic—an uninviting sort of book.

It seemed to me that if I took that as a basis and I did the whole of Pius XII’s life, including his undoubted growth of spirituality, his youth, it would provide a riposte to the young critics I had talked to. But that’s not the way it worked out. As I went through the documents, I got a completely different picture of him. I had to revise my opinion of Owen Chadwick’s work. After the book came out, a segment of the Catholic media simply focused on whether I was lying about being a Catholic, making me out to be part of an almost demonic conspiracy to undermine the Church. Ronald Rychlak, for example, has written almost a whole book about how I was a liar and apostate.

In Breaking Faith, you have a chapter about coming back to the Church after 20 years and being horrified by the liturgies that you experienced. I was surprised when I realized this chapter could have been published in Crisis. You write about the dumbing-down of liturgical music and the banality of the “me-ism” in hymns. Yet you also seem to be struggling to accept the way God may be speaking to people through this form of music, though you find it unpleasing. Where do you stand on that question at the present time? Do you still grudgingly accept it or feel like it’s just not your cup of tea?

Well, what really concerns me about liturgy is the Mass itself. It’s not so much the translations I oppose or the music accompanying it; it is that the Roman missal has been undermined in a way that aids this general process of Pelagianism in the Church, robbing us of our sense of unworthiness and also robbing us at the very heart of the Mass of the sense of the Trinity.

You mean as in, “Lord, I am worthy to receive you”?

Yes. So I have to make that the starting point. It’s not a question of taste in music, although I must say that I deplore the dumbed-down jauntiness and egotism of much that passes for Church music, or even the loss of dignity and elegance. My greatest concern is the loss of the repetitions and the doxologies, which exemplify the truth of the Holy Trinity. I have to say I am deeply depressed about it, because I don’t know how, when, and where that will be rectified.

Conservatives believe those you call the “progressives” are trying to make being a Catholic easier for people. They do this by allowing people to measure Catholic issues by a personal standard. In doing this, liberals want to lower the bar, lower the standards, of both belief and action. I detect a tension between the higher standard for liturgy that you would like to see and your insistence that the Church become more inclusive and more participatory.

Surely, the inclusive, participatory Church doesn’t imply a destruction of the traditional liturgy. This was not envisaged by the Second Vatican Council.

Let me give an example. You tell a lot of poignant stories about people who have been divorced, and they don’t want to get an annulment, so they are excluded from partaking of the Eucharist. You seem to be suggesting that this is a barrier that should be removed. Now, isn’t that an example of lowering a standard and thereby making people who don’t want to go through the annulment process seem OK with where they are?

You are right of course. I guess we can’t have it both ways. But we are living in very difficult and confused times within the Church itself. A very large proportion of Catholic marriages founder: It is the way the whole of our culture and society is drifting. But are we right to use annulment as a form of divorce by another name? There are, I should think, hundreds of thousands of people who get annulments even though they know that they were married. Some 60 percent of all annulments in the Church occur in the United States. This can’t be right. It is beginning to look like a cynical exercise in legalism and suggests that perhaps we need a new theology of marriage and annulment.

I must confess that I feel muddled, as do many Catholics, because part of me feels very firmly that the Eucharist is a litmus test of our Catholicism. I believe that those Catholics who do not go up to the Eucharist because their situation is not right in terms of marriage—remarried divorcees, for example—are acting as witnesses for other Catholics. Part of me agrees with that. But part of me also knows, and especially from the research I did for Breaking Faith, that there are millions of Catholics drifting away from the Church because of sheer spiritual inanition. I do think that compassion and love and sympathy have got to reign, because it’s such a prodigious problem involving millions of people across the world who are being lost to the Church.

I am conscious that this is a muddled answer. But I hope that I make myself clear about one thing: Receiving the Eucharist is a huge privilege. If one’s personal situation, or marriage situation, is not right, being deprived of the Eucharist is a form of desert spirituality; it can be a positive thing. But not all of us are capable of seeing it in that light, and it worries me that so many millions of people are drifting away.

The thrust of your new book, if I understood it correctly, is that under the pontificate of John Paul II, there has been almost a parallel phenomenon. On the one hand, John Paul II has tremendous personal appeal, both to Catholics and to non-Catholics, and in this sense, the Church has benefited from his pontificate. But on the other hand, in terms of the infrastructure and management of the Church, it has been a negative experience because of the centralization, the management style—the micromanagement style—the multiplication of strictures on bishops. Do you think that those conservatives who read this entirely differently simply have a fundamental blind spot when it comes to that second issue?

We could argue forever about the issue of centralization and collegiality in the Church—whether we have the balance right. I’m not a Church historian or a theologian; I’m just trying to make a contribution from the periphery to a debate. And it’s a debate that has so many dynamics.

For example, much of my thinking on these questions comes from the work of Henri de Lubac, the Jesuit theologian who inspired much of the thinking and direction of Vatican II. And yet, de Lubac turned out by 1970 to be one of the sternest critics of the progressives, and in a curious way, he’s probably right. It’s just absolutely undeniable that people went shooting off in all kinds of damaging directions. I guess that we’ll still be arguing about the balance between collegiality, subsidiarity, and centralization of Vatican II in a hundred years’ time.

But the point I tried to make in my book on Pius XII is, I hope, a valid one for discussion. Excessive centralization, I argue, weakened a powerful German Church during the 1930s, rendering it weak in the face of Nazism. Contrast that with the strength of the local German Church during the Kulturkampf 60 years earlier, which took on Bismark and won. Think, too, of the strength of the local Church in Poland through the grassroots power of Solidarity. These are issues we need to discuss and to debate openly within the Church, and I hope that I have at least made a contribution.

Published in Crisis Magazine, March 1, 2002

Bad Times in Nazareth

By Deal W. Hudson

The angel Gabriel announced the birth of Christ at a town called Nazareth. Most people know that—it could be a $4,000 question on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

What most people don’t know is that the largest church in the Middle East stands at the site: the Basilica of the Annunciation. Within a few feet of that sacred site, Islamic extremists are trying to build a mosque with the support of the Israeli government.

Nazareth is an epicenter of Arab power in Israel: 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab and mostly Muslim. An extremist Muslim party called the Islamic Movement began controlling the city council in 1999. That’s when the trouble started.

In preparation for the thousands of millennium pilgrims, the Christian mayor of Nazareth, Ramez Jerayseh, began building a plaza in front of the basilica. To create more open space, a small and unused Muslim school was knocked down, which led to an Islamic backlash and a movement to build a large mosque next to the basilica.

There is no religious justification for this structure a mosque already exists at the site along with several others throughout the small city. The attempt to build this one amounts to nothing less than an act of religious intimidation against Christians.

Astoundingly enough, the Israeli government gave permission for the cornerstone to be laid in November 1999. Exactly why is something of a mystery. Some have suggested that the Israelis are cynically manufacturing a conflict between Christians and Muslims (a conflict that would tip the Christian West more favorably toward Israel). Whatever the reason, the construction was moving forward until international pressure brought it to a halt on January 10.

Pope John Paul II almost canceled his 2000 visit in protest. President George W. Bush put the Nazareth mosque on the table during his March 2001 meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Dozens of religious leaders—including Yasser Arafat and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith—have issued protests against the building, and an International Coalition for Nazareth has been formed.

Israel’s political leaders are obviously pondering the cost of all this. On the one hand, they want to appease the Arab electorate by supporting the Nazareth mosque. On the other, they know the possible fallout among Christians in the United States—especially evangelicals. Visits to the Holy Land have enormous significance for all Christians, but for evangelical Protestants, who have no other pilgrimage sites, the Holy Land is it.

Tourism to Israel was down 55 percent in 2001 due to the fear of terrorism. Anger over the Nazareth mosque will not help. Perhaps the Israeli cabinet will wisely follow through with plans to find an alternate site for the new mosque. Moshe Fox, the minister of Public and Interreligious Affairs of the Israeli Embassy, told me that a committee assigned to look for an alternate site has not yet found one.

Meanwhile, the government is reaching out directly to its evangelical tourist base. On January 26, the Washington Post published an article describing how Israel’s U.S. embassy is promoting tourism to the Holy Land. They’re willing to pay for 30 top evangelicals to visit Israel and endorse tourism there. On the list are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and Janet Parshall.

In addition, there’ll be “Israel Solidarity Days” in 100 cities from February to March where evangelical leaders will urge their brethren to visit Israel for a “solidarity visit.”

It would be an awkward situation, at best, for Americans to enjoy the Holy Land on Israel’s dime when the government is allowing (or possibly encouraging) extremist Muslims to intimidate Christians and create hostility and division in a historically peaceful city.

In the meantime, Israel will be sending a letter to the 100,000 largest evangelical churches and a postcard to 350,000 others urging their members to visit Israel.

It would be nice if the Israeli government received 450,000 letters saying, “Our deepest wish is to visit the land where our Lord Jesus was born, lived, died, and was resurrected. And when we visit the sacred city of Nazareth, where Mary heard the voice of the angel Gabriel, please make sure we can do so without hostility or hindrance. A place of worship and prayer should not be transformed into a political weapon.”

Imagine the response to that.

Published in Crisis Magazine, March 1, 2002

Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev

By Deal W. Hudson

Mikhail Gorbachev was the final president of the Soviet Union, serving from 1985 to 1991. His policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) led to the end of communism in the USSR and the birth of a new, democratic Russia.

Currently, he heads the Gorbachev Foundation, an international think tank. He sat down with Deal W. Hudson in his office in Moscow, under-neath a large portrait of his late, beloved wife, Raisa.

Deal W. Hudson: The United States and its allies are now at war with terrorism. How do you see that proceeding?

Mikhail Gorbachev: Even as we’re witnessing a new euphoria from the victory over the Taliban, we have to state firmly that resorting to bombing of entire countries and peoples each time we battle with terrorism is absolutely unacceptable. We need to decide this on a case-by-case basis. There are economic, financial, and other means to go about combating this threat.

Do you think, in some cases, the same objective can be achieved through nonviolent methods?

Yes, of course. I was talking to Margaret Thatcher when she called for NATO strikes against Serbs in Bosnia. I asked her why she didn’t use this method of bombing in Belfast with all the problems with the IRA in northern Ireland—even when she narrowly escaped the bombing in a hotel. Why was it all right to bomb the Serbs? I saw her on the TV screen, and she was saying, “Bomb them, bomb them.” My answer was very harsh: I told her not to resort to violence.

What would you suggest?

Recently, I did an interview with a German newspaper in which I pointed out that there are many other nonmilitary options available. I was one of the first to suggest going the financial route. My proposal was to take ten banks that offer support to terrorist groups and revoke their licenses. You can be sure the next day 120 percent of the other banks would change their practices. When the newspaper ran the article, the headline said, “Gorbachev wants to revoke licenses of German banks.” [Laughter]

I understand you met with former President Clinton recently?

Yes, I met President Clinton in Madrid. My relationship with President Clinton was quite strained, if not downright tense. Of course, it was not because of Monica Lewinsky. I was highly critical of his foreign policy. He is guilty for the fact that the U.S. has wasted those ten years following the end of the Cold War.

What should he have done? How did he waste those years? Do you mean against terrorism?

I think he missed out on opportunities to develop a new world order. I discussed this at length with the president of the United States, George W. Bush. I think [the United States and Russia] should have worked more on the NATO issues and the issues of European security. Following the end of the Cold War, little had been done. I think Mr. Clinton, as a freshman in foreign politics, was spending too much time on the little details, and as a result, none of us was ready for the challenges of globalization.

So [Mr. Clinton and I] were the two principal speakers at the Madrid conference, and Mr. Clinton delivered a very interesting address. Put bluntly, he was rather self-critical. I asked, “Why bother with self-criticism? You’re interested in the poverty issue, and something must be done about it.” He said, “It wasn’t really me who caused the growth of poverty, but I didn’t do very much to address it.”

Are you encouraged by the strong relationship between President Bush and President Putin?

Very much so. It would be good if no one paid attention to those who criticize Bush in the United States or those who tend to criticize Mr. Putin in Russia. Mr. Putin has great support among the ordinary people, but some scholars and intellectuals who cater to the party interests of ruling elites try to criticize him. We shouldn’t only talk about the need

What kind of mechanisms do you have in mind?

Take NATO, for example. Russia, together with NATO, is addressing some of the really critical problems of today, and Russia’s contribution to this process is much bigger than that of all those aspiring states who want to join NATO. And it’s going to be this way in the future. If we consolidate this strength, I think we will all benefit. It’s not necessary that Russia join NATO; the main thing is to have a mechanism of cooperation between Russia and NATO. This mechanism should give Russia equal footing not only in the decision- making process but also in discussing all those issues.

Recently, my old acquaintance and friend, Mr. Colin Powell, came to Moscow and said yes, we should give Russia a bigger role with NATO, but we shouldn’t give it the right of veto. I told the secretary of state that he’s moving too fast and that he should warn his allies not to give in. The president should know that if Russia will participate more in decision-making in NATO, then NATO would be guaranteed not to make mistakes in the future.

Putin has the same stance that we had in Malta during our meeting with Mr. Bush: We don’t consider our countries to be enemies. But America does have to understand that just as you have interests—vital interests—that we understand, we have ours as well. If there’s dialogue, if there’s a mechanism, we’ll discuss issues and find mutually beneficial solutions. If NATO is really ready for a partnership, it couldn’t find a better partner than Russia.

Some people say that the United States and Russia are natural allies. Do you agree?

Yes. Objectively speaking, they should be allies. It’s significant that today we can speak of a partnership between the two—that we could be allies. We see both the Russian and American sides working in this direction, So, you are correct.

But there’s work to be done right now. If we don’t consider seriously all Mr. Putin’s proposals regarding domestic and foreign policy, we may miss another chance—because, you know, these proposals are really far-reaching.

Right now, we see new challenges, new problems. We were discussing the problems concerning the anti-terrorist coalition—the war on the Taliban. Of course we’re sure the United States will win this war. Following this victory, there will be euphoria, and we will forget about everything we’ve just gone through. We’ll forget about the main challenges, about what we should really be doing.

You speak of the changes between Russia and the West. What are some of the changes you’ve seen in Russia itself? What were some of the challenges you faced as president?

I’ve often been invited to speak about the transition from totalitarianism to democracy. I think it’s a very interesting subject. In our case, we were all learning to pronounce this term “private property,” and it was almost like a second revolution. In each of my speeches, the members of the Politburo would look for words that in some way or another might be understood as critical of socialism. Those, they tried to replace. You must understand, by 1985, 90 percent of all the Soviet population was born under socialist rule after the October Revolution. They knew nothing of power, private property, and so on. So the main obstacle for Russian progress is our set of preconceptions. Our friends in the West wanted to think that because Gorbachev declared freedom, democracy, pluralism, glasnost, and so on that everything would change overnight.

But for now, without an efficient legal system which is truly able to enforce federal law, Russia will not be able to get back on track with democratic reforms.

How do you see your legacy? What will the history books say about your leadership of the Soviet Union?

There was a very interesting poll conducted by the All-Russian Poll Center. The results of this poll were wonderful. Everyone is for reform now, but they’re arguing about whether we ever needed to start perestroika at all. Forty-two percent of the people think that we needed to start perestroika and 45 percent say we shouldn’t have. This 45 percent who say that we shouldn’t have are mainly senior citizens. So the most active, young, middle-class part of the population say that it was worthwhile.

Another peculiar feature was that even those respondents who said that it wasn’t worth starting perestroika at all say that they are for pluralism—pluralism of ideas, pluralism of parties, pluralism of ideology, and religious confession. So even if they didn’t think perestroika was a great idea, 60 to 80 percent say they’re happy with the changes it brought. Even those who voted against perestroika in this poll—they say that those benefits are good. They support those benefits.

I’m especially encouraged by the fact that 80 to 82 percent of all those respondents, when asked what kind of Russia they’d like to see in the future, say that they want a free, democratic country. So I think I’ll live to see that day. Mine is the usual fate of reformers: Either we get killed or our contribution is acknowledged only 50 years later.

Published at Crisis Magazine, February 1, 2002