Crisis Magazine 2002

On Being Divisive

By Deal W. Hudson

Every group has its code words. These words serve an important social function they enable the members of the group to deliver a harsh judgment on others without accountability. In the Catholic world, when someone is called “divisive,” it means he is too conservative to be trusted. Those who are “divisive” threaten the “unity of the Church” by raising questions about the loyalty of its leaders to its teachings. Strange, isn’t it?

Not everyone understands the code, but not everyone is supposed to. The code serves to protect those who don’t want to be troubled by troubling questions. The code kept Church leaders from answering questions about the growing influence of active homosexuals in the priesthood. When Catholic publications such as Crisis raised this question, they were labeled “divisive.”

If Church unity must be protected from the Church’s teaching, then what kind of unity do we have? It is the kind of unity that keeps priests from reminding their parishioners of the Church’s position on birth control or homosexuality, the kind that allows a college to call itself Catholic while its faculty consistently misrepresent the Church’s teachings.

This arrangement may be appropriate for a big-tent political coalition. Parties form coalitions in order to achieve a majority vote; if they excluded everyone who doesn’t affirm every plank in the platform, they’d lose. But is this the kind of unity the Church should be seeking—a unity preoccupied with numbers? Such is the pseudounity of those leaders who don’t want the “divisive” influence of sound Church teaching to embarrass cafeteria Catholics.

Some will say, quite rightly, that the unity of the Church is first of all a unity in Christ—a person, not a principle. They will argue that faith is a personal journey rather than the intellectual acceptance of a creed and moral teachings. “Pastoral care” thus requires that Catholics should not be made to feel less Catholic for the rejection of this or that teaching.

Some, in fact, may use pastoral care as an excuse to ignore the content of the faith, but the moral dimension of the spiritual life cannot be dismissed. The question remains whether we will continue calling all Catholics to a full recognition of Catholic teaching. This type of evangelism—an evangelism directed to those already in the Church—risks the very divisiveness that most of the present leadership abhors. Dissent is so often encountered and so rarely challenged that is has been normalized. It begins to look imprudent—that is, divisive—even to remark on it. At least those who dissent within a political coalition are more honest about it. And political leadership rarely fears invoking the platform to pull coalition members into line.

Looming very large for our bishops is the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood. This issue will test their willingness to discuss the real causes of the sex-abuse scandal. Whether they are ready to meditate seriously on the intersection of homosexual orientation as an “objective disorder,” homosexual acts as morally evil, and the vocation of the celibate priesthood remains to be seen.

Given the obvious state of affairs in our priesthood, anyone who pushes these questions will likely be shoved aside as a divider. To borrow a phrase from St. Thomas Aquinas, now is the time to distinguish in order to unite. There is no real unity in the Church as long as its people are deceived and its teaching ignored.

Published in Crisis Magazine, September 1, 2002

After 15 Years-Adoption: A Love Story

Note: Cyprian Joseph Hudson will be graduating from high school on June 18, 2016. The doctors who examined him after he arrived in the US over fifteen years ago told us that he would never get that far.

By Deal W. Hudson

I was relaxing in my favorite armchair and watching golf when my daughter, Hannah, strode into the room. “Dad,” she said, “we need to have a serious talk.”

“Okay,” I replied, turning toward her.

She frowned. “You’re going to have to turn the TV off.”

“Oh.” I tapped the remote control. This was serious.

Almost automatically, she began. “Dad, I don’t really want to be an only child. I think we should adopt a baby brother.”

Silence.

After picking my jaw up off the coffee table, I found my voice. “Where did this come from?” I asked. “It’s kind of out-of-the¬blue.”

She shook her head. “Not really. I just don’t want to live the rest of my life without any brothers or sisters. What would happen to me if something bad happened to you and Mom? I’d be alone.”

Sure, I understood what she meant…intellectually. My own mother was an only child and had always warned me against letting Hannah become one. Still, here I was, approaching 50. Hannah was becoming a teenager, and I was thinking more about financing her college days than decorating a baby’s room. I was comfortable, but I also felt stretched to the limit with running the magazine and trying to make a graceful trek through middle age. Another child just wasn’t part of the plan.

“Let me think about it,” I said. It was the best I could do at the moment.

Hannah wouldn’t be turned away so easily. She moved her lobbying efforts to my wife, Theresa, who is not only younger but also wiser in these matters. I don’t know that she was necessarily won over by Hannah—in fact, I suspect she’d been thinking about adopting all along. She just hadn’t told me.

That soon changed.

When they approached me together, I really felt the female pressure. Let me point out: My household is almost exclusively female. The only male soul mate I have is a white Bichon Frise named Willie who caves in instantly to anything our overstrung female standard poodle, Darcy, demands of him. And needless to say, Musette, the cat, isn’t exactly in my camp either.

I was standing against the full phalanx of female power—my wife, my daughter, and several members of the animal kingdom.

Hannah began the negotiations, “Dad, Mom and I have come to a decision: We want to adopt a baby brother.”

We? I turned to Theresa. She smiled weakly and nodded in agreement.

This was going to be harder than I thought.

I put on my toughest face and asked them if they were prepared for the demands of an adopted child. “Hannah, you know this will mean less for you; you’ve had everything to yourself for a long time—all your parents’ attention and your own time and space to do what you want. You’d have to share everything, including us.”

She didn’t even flinch. “This is my brother we’re talking about here. Of course I won’t mind sharing.”

“You’d also have to split the inheritance,” I offered, a little sheepishly. That got a serious eye-roll from Hannah.

Fine. It was time for the big guns. I turned to my wife. “With Hannah going into seventh grade, you were just starting to get a little freedom during the day to do what you wanted. Do you really want to give that up?”

She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “I just always saw myself with more than one child. I don’t feel like that’s all there is for me as a parent. Besides, it’s the best thing for Hannah.”

They didn’t shrink from my questions, and frankly, I felt like a jerk asking them. But I know my family—we have a habit of diving into projects before counting the cost. This time I was going to make sure everything was out on the table.

So, with their arguments concluded and their eyes searching for my answer, it was time for me to render my decision: I said I’d think about it.

The following week, as I was still “thinking about it,” I walked past Hannah’s room, peeking in as I passed. What I saw floored me. There, beside her bed, my daughter was praying the rosary—for her brother!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Hannah is a strong Catholic. She has gone to the local parish school since first grade and knows her faith. But she’s never been outwardly pious. That’s why her prayer stopped me cold. If she’s praying for her brother, I thought, then her brother must really be out there. Somewhere.

I walked into the kitchen, told Theresa what I had seen, and asked, “How do we get this adoption started?” She smiled. “The paperwork is on my desk.”

Finding the Other Hudson

Theresa started her adoption inquiries immediately. She first called Bill Pearce, who was then the head of the National Adoption Council. He gave her some good leads, including an enthusiastic recommendation for the Small World adoption agency in Nashville, Tennessee. Two Baptists, Jim Savely and Jim Savely Jr., run Small World, whose excellent services eventually helped us to find Hannah’s unknown brother.

But we wanted to check out the Catholic agencies first. Unfortunately, that’s where we hit a brick wall. Of all the groups Theresa called, the Catholic organizations were notable only for their rudeness and red tape. The staffers at Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., offered nothing more than clipped one-liners to her questions. This wasn’t exactly the kind of approach we needed in dealing with such an important and intimate process.

So we turned back to Bill Pearce’s recommendation. Small World had been working in eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Because of our combined ages, Theresa and I had decided to look into an overseas adoption. We initially considered adopting in the tiny country of Moldavia because of its friendly attitude toward Christian couples looking for children. Later, we turned to Russia when we learned that more children were available and that things would move faster.

The process of adopting overseas is arduous and expensive. After finding the agency and deciding on the place and age of the child, you must be fingerprinted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and fill out an 1600A form that opens a file at the INS. Then you start what’s called a “home study.”

The home study—conducted by a licensed agency—is a state requirement that determines a parent’s financial and psychological fitness to adopt a child. It costs about $1,800. Once this has been completed and approved—about three months from start to finish—the INS passes on an approval letter to the country from which you are adopting. Agency fees are about $7,000 for a foreign adoption, and the country fees for eastern Europe run between $10,000 and $12,000. The one-week trip adds another $5,000 to the total, plus what my wife calls the “a la carte charges” such as the cost of translating your documents into a foreign language.

All told, this was going to be an expensive venture.

Our INS letter, sent to Moscow in July 2000, was good for one year. But in August we got some bad news: President Vladimir Putin stopped all international adoptions until new regulations could be put in place to safeguard the children. Our adoption ground to a halt. For how long, we could only guess.

Cyprian

After hearing nothing from Russia for months, Jim Savely called to tell us about Cyprian, a four-year-old up for adoption in Romania. It was mid-November. If we said yes, we could have a child by March.

We really hadn’t planned on an older child; we’d been looking for a boy between one and two years old. From everything we’d read and heard, we knew that the younger the child, the less likely he was to have been hurt by his surroundings or lack of nutrition. And like everyone else, we knew the horror stories about Romanian orphanages.

But by then, Jim had a good feeling for us and for what we wanted. He assured us that Cyprian was in excellent health and was a perfect fit for the Hudson family. Pictures would follow, he promised.

In spite of our trust for Jim, we were skeptical. about our situation: We’d gone from considering an anonymous one-year-old boy in Russia to a specific four-year-old in Romania. It was all very sudden.

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That changed the next day when the photo arrived. We looked into the face of a smiling boy with remarkably big eyes—Omar Sharif eyes, I called them at the time. Cyprian radiated well-being. Nothing about him seemed beaten-down or deprived. He looked extraordinarily alive, and we couldn’t wait to get our arms around him. This was our boy, the one Hannah had been praying for. No doubt about it.

The trip was set for March. We painted Cyprian’s room blue and decorated it with an airplane motif—he’d be seeing a lot of airplanes on his trip to America. Showers were held; clothes and toys collected. Everything was ready when word arrived that there would be yet another delay: The Romanian legislature had changed the laws regarding adoption, and our legal papers had to be returned to the judge for another signature.

We waited again. The delay by the Russian government was disappointing, but we were glad the adoption procedures were being cleaned up and that the children would be safer as a result. But the delay by the Romanian legislature came as a blow. We kept looking at Cyprian’s picture, trying to imagine what he’d really be like. And was he safe and being taken care of?

We didn’t know.

As summer approached, we had no idea when we would be traveling. Airfares were getting higher, and seats, especially four in the same row, would be hard to book. Matt Wray, my associate publisher, tried to keep me cheered up by scouring the Internet and sending me cheap airfare rates to Bucharest.

In mid-May, the green light came: We had an appointment with the Romanian judge on June 21, and later that day, we would meet Cyprian. Theresa bought the tickets—four in a row—immediately. She also invested in a new digital videocamera, which I thought was a bit overboard. But what the heck! This was an event we’d want to remember.

Shortly after our plane touched down, we heard that Romania, like Russia, was suspending international adoptions on that very day. We were there just under the wire!

Our Romanian host, Tudose Diaconu—a man I fondly nicknamed “the Deacon”—met us at our hotel in Bucharest. He was an attorney and former government bureaucrat who made the wheels turn in the courts and agencies that control adoption. He spoke excellent English and dressed in impeccable European fashion.

As we learned the next day, he also liked to drive fast.

The road to Galati, where we were to meet the judge, was two lanes all the way. We passed at least a dozen horse-drawn gypsy carts. Our driver, urged on by the Deacon, drove the way I did when I was a college student trying to get from Austin to Lubbock for a Friday-night date. The countryside passed in a blur as we swerved between horses and cars, blazing our way. Thanks to much prayer, we arrived safely.

Happily, the judge who would decide the adoption didn’t change his mind when he met me. Of course, he didn’t smile at me either. No matter. He gave us Cyprian’s passport.

We were ready to meet my new son in Bucharest, but there was something I needed to do first. Galati is the town where Cyprian, we were told, had lived from birth with a foster family. I wanted to meet the family. The Deacon tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted. This was important.

The apartment where he’d lived was pleasant enough, by Romanian standards. Still, it had a cell-block quality that made me sad. How remarkable it was that the smiling boy in the photograph could have spent so many days in such surroundings. He must be a pretty resilient character, I thought.

From the foster mother, I got another bit of unexpected news: Cyprian hadn’t lived with her for three and a half years, as we’d been told. Cyprian had only been with them a year. He had actually been raised in a Galati orphanage. My stomach dropped out. Life as a Romanian orphan is a hard one, sure to leave long-term scars. I told the Deacon I wanted to see the orphanage. He said we couldn’t because of all the bad publicity Romanian orphanages had been receiving from the media. It could be dangerous.

But I wasn’t leaving Galati without seeing the place where my son had spent the first three years of his life. Seeing that I was stubborn, the Deacon sighed and nodded his head.

We arrived at what looked like a concrete bunker surrounded by a tall, gray fence. Behind a rusting iron gate, I could see an asphalt playground—consisting of nothing more than the asphalt. Really, it looked more like a prison than an orphanage. Visitors were obviously not welcome.

Being impulsive, I jumped out with the video- camera and started filming the buildings. I was suddenly surrounded by a horde of curious children, crying to have their pictures taken. Their excited voices attracted the orphanage security guard, who started running toward me. The Deacon, a quick-thinking and sensible man, grabbed my elbow and pulled me back into the car. As we zoomed away, I wondered if anyone would ever be back to save all those beautiful children.

Preparing for the Big Moment

In Bucharest, Theresa and Hannah, were ready for our meeting with Cyprian. A Bucharest physician and his wife had been kind enough to take care of our son for the past month. He welcomed us warmly and seated us in the living room of his upper-middle-class house.

“I’ll get him,” he said.

Sitting alone, Theresa, Hannah, and I looked at one another knowing life was about to change in a big way. Would Cyprian be ready to leave this place, never to return? We were excited…and nervous. There wasn’t much talk.

Cyprian was rubbing his eyes when he came in. He’d just been napping. I was surprised by how small he was—the large personality I saw in the photograph had made me expect a bigger child. Theresa took the first turn trying to give Cyprian the stuffed bear we’d carried from home, but he wasn’t interested and stayed close to his foster father, hiding his face behind the man’s leg. Small talk didn’t seem to work either; it was an emotional stalemate, and we all felt awkward.

A green balloon lay nearby, and the foster father, seeing our discomfort, had the good idea of throwing it to Cyprian. He immediately tossed it back, and the ice was broken. His face went from a shy neutral into a laughing drive: Around the room he followed the balloon, from me to Theresa to Hannah. We all shared in the game and were a family from that moment on.

As we were getting into the car, Cyprian grabbed my sun-glasses and put them on his face, laughing and smiling, just like the big-eyed boy in the picture. We pulled the car onto the main drive and turned back to wave a last time to his foster father. The kind man had tears in his eyes.

We had one last appointment before things were made official: A doctor had to approve Cyprian’s health. When we arrived for our meeting, I had one very simple task: to keep Cyprian from destroying the doctor’s office while we waited. It was much harder than it sounds. Believe me. Still, chasing Cyprian around was great. I already loved him, and this made running around after him okay with me. Losing control and getting out of my comfort zone felt pretty good. I was smiling so hard my face hurt.

After the physician examined Cyprian, she turned to me and said, “You have come in time for this one.” I’ve often wondered what she meant. I can only assume that she’d seen other children who had suffered the ravages of Romanian orphanages and knew about the recent moratorium on adoptions.

Cyprian kept up his fast pace as we returned to the hotel. I imagine it was highly entertaining for the staff to watch the American dad chase his four-year-old Romanian son across the lobby on the first day of their lives together.

We spent another three days in Bucharest, and thanks to Archbishop Sohu, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Romania, we learned more about that remarkable country. Supplied with an introduction, I phoned the archbishop to ask for a meeting. I was excited to meet the man who, since becoming a bishop in 1984, had been such a strong leader of Romanian Catholics under communism. After an initial interview, he invited me and my family back for dinner.

As we ate, the archbishop told us that Romania has about two million Catholics—roughly 7 percent of the population. He oversees two thriving seminaries serving more than 300 students. Catholics maintain a friendly relationship with the dominant Orthodox faith in the country. In fact, he recalled that Orthodox leaders were shocked at the enthusiastic reception given to John Paul II during his 1999 visit.

After dinner, the archbishop brought out gifts for our family, including a rosary for Cyprian. He put his arms around our son and prayed the Ave Maria in Romanian. Yes, we are very blessed, I thought.

Home With Our Son

We left Romania the next day, wishing we could bring a plane full of children like Cyprian home to the States. Romania is a beautiful country, with an attractive and charming people, but it will be many years before it recovers from decades of Soviet control and the corruption of the post-Soviet government.

For my part, I’m grateful my family has taught me once again the lesson of the “gift of self” that our Holy Father has so often mentioned. It hasn’t been all sweetness and light: Hannah feels the loss of attention, Theresa is often run ragged, and I’m learning every day how much harder it is to raise a boy than a girl. But it’s worth it. All of it.

Cyprian Joseph Hudson was baptized a few months ago here in Fairfax, Virginia. It was what’s called a “conditional baptism” because there’s no way to know whether he received the sacrament as a baby. His godfather, Tom Murray, had to do the honors of holding Cyprian over the baptismal font because his dad was recovering from an emergency appendectomy.

“Chippy,” as he calls himself, didn’t flinch as the water rolled off his brow. He handled the baptism just like he has everything else: as if he had always been with us, as if being a Hudson had been in the cards all along.

First published in Crisis Magazine, February 1, 2002.

A Portrait of Catholic Clergy

By Deal W. Hudson

In a survey of 1,854 Catholic priests, the Los Angeles Times has provided a fascinating—and troubling—report on the state of the priesthood. The poll tells us that our priests are more satisfied with the priesthood than is generally assumed but lack conviction about central moral teachings of their Church.

The Los Angeles Times poll was the most extensive survey of Catholic priests since its last poll in the mid-1990s. Questions were sent out to 5,000 priests, a representative sample of the nation’s 45,382 Catholic clergy. The questions were comprehensive, covering fundamental attitudes toward Catholic teaching, the sexual-abuse crisis, and the leadership of Pope John Paul II. Partial results can be viewed at http://www.latimes.com; the Times promises to release the full results at a later date.

The good news is that priests are not demoralized in the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal. Ninety-one percent of all respondents report being satisfied with their way of life as a priest. Those who think celibacy is a negative factor for priestly life should note that only 2 percent of all priests regard celibacy as “not relevant to [their] priesthood.”

As many Catholics have surely noticed, younger clergy are much more faithful to the magisterium than priests from the baby boom generation. In the poll, four in ten priests under the age of 41 described themselves as conservative while three-fourths said they are “religiously orthodox.” Younger priests evince more appreciation for the Holy Father, his moral teachings, and the magisterium of the Church in general.

But, not surprisingly, among Vatican II–generation priests between the ages of 42 and 59, 51 percent support the ordination of women, 72 percent say Catholics can disagree with Church teachings and “remain faithful,” and only 60 percent say John Paul II’s moral views are “about right.”

The results of questions about homosexuality in the priesthood were mixed but telling. Thirty-one percent of those ordained within the last 21 years said there was a homosexual subculture at their seminary. Reports from older generations of priests were markedly lower. Sixty-seven percent of all respondents said they were definitely heterosexual, while 28 percent reported being either somewhere in between or definitely homosexual (5 percent refused to answer).

While many of these statistics reflect what we might have already assumed about the state of the American priesthood, some of the numbers in the poll are shocking. For years we have been saying that the Catholic laity would be better off if only their priests would teach them. As it turns out, many priests do not themselves accept the moral teaching of the Church on culture-of-life issues. Take, for example, the following numbers:

• Only 71 percent agreed that abortion is always a sin.

• Only 59 percent agreed that committing suicide if suffering from a debilitating disease is always a sin.

• Only 49 percent agreed that homosexual behavior is always a sin.

Is it surprising that a large part of the laity dissents from the Church’s moral teaching when the clergy themselves don’t believe it? No wonder we don’t often hear homilies on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia—many of our priests lack a firm conviction that these acts are intrinsically sinful. It is possible that by using the word “sinful” rather than, say, “wrong,” the Times invited a confused response; as they are formulated, the questions seem to elide the important distinction between personal culpability and objective evil. Perhaps the low numbers reflect an appropriate hesitation on that point. But it is also possible—and all too likely—that they reflect the popularity of situational ethics, which has nothing to do with Catholic moral theology.

“Cafeteria Catholicism” evidently exists among the teachers of the faith as well as among those who learn from them. But we shouldn’t despair quite yet. After all, perhaps the most important fact about this poll is that these numbers are actually better than the ones from the Times’s earlier poll. I have no doubt that this is in part due to the tenacity of the Holy Father in his commitment to speak the truth at all costs. The other good news is that the fervor and fidelity of our young priests is helping to rejuvenate the Church across the country. Let’s hope this trend continues.

Published in Crisis Magazine, December 1, 2002

A Portrait of Catholic Clergy

Deal W. Hudson

Published December 1, 2002

In a survey of 1,854 Catholic priests, the Los Angeles Times has provided a fascinating—and troubling—report on the state of the priesthood. The poll tells us that our priests are more satisfied with the priesthood than is generally assumed but lack conviction about central moral teachings of their Church.

The Los Angeles Times poll was the most extensive survey of Catholic priests since its last poll in the mid-1990s. Questions were sent out to 5,000 priests, a representative sample of the nation’s 45,382 Catholic clergy. The questions were comprehensive, covering fundamental attitudes toward Catholic teaching, the sexual-abuse crisis, and the leadership of Pope John Paul II. Partial results can be viewed at http://www.latimes.com; the Times promises to release the full results at a later date.

The good news is that priests are not demoralized in the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal. Ninety-one percent of all respondents report being satisfied with their way of life as a priest. Those who think celibacy is a negative factor for priestly life should note that only 2 percent of all priests regard celibacy as “not relevant to [their] priesthood.”

As many Catholics have surely noticed, younger clergy are much more faithful to the magisterium than priests from the baby boom generation. In the poll, four in ten priests under the age of 41 described themselves as conservative while three-fourths said they are “religiously orthodox.” Younger priests evince more appreciation for the Holy Father, his moral teachings, and the magisterium of the Church in general.

But, not surprisingly, among Vatican II–generation priests between the ages of 42 and 59, 51 percent support the ordination of women, 72 percent say Catholics can disagree with Church teachings and “remain faithful,” and only 60 percent say John Paul II’s moral views are “about right.”

The results of questions about homosexuality in the priesthood were mixed but telling. Thirty-one percent of those ordained within the last 21 years said there was a homosexual subculture at their seminary. Reports from older generations of priests were markedly lower. Sixty-seven percent of all respondents said they were definitely heterosexual, while 28 percent reported being either somewhere in between or definitely homosexual (5 percent refused to answer).

While many of these statistics reflect what we might have already assumed about the state of the American priesthood, some of the numbers in the poll are shocking. For years we have been saying that the Catholic laity would be better off if only their priests would teach them. As it turns out, many priests do not themselves accept the moral teaching of the Church on culture-of-life issues. Take, for example, the following numbers:

• Only 71 percent agreed that abortion is always a sin.

• Only 59 percent agreed that committing suicide if suffering from a debilitating disease is always a sin.

• Only 49 percent agreed that homosexual behavior is always a sin.

Is it surprising that a large part of the laity dissents from the Church’s moral teaching when the clergy themselves don’t believe it? No wonder we don’t often hear homilies on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia—many of our priests lack a firm conviction that these acts are intrinsically sinful. It is possible that by using the word “sinful” rather than, say, “wrong,” the Times invited a confused response; as they are formulated, the questions seem to elide the important distinction between personal culpability and objective evil. Perhaps the low numbers reflect an appropriate hesitation on that point. But it is also possible—and all too likely—that they reflect the popularity of situational ethics, which has nothing to do with Catholic moral theology.

“Cafeteria Catholicism” evidently exists among the teachers of the faith as well as among those who learn from them. But we shouldn’t despair quite yet. After all, perhaps the most important fact about this poll is that these numbers are actually better than the ones from the Times’s earlier poll. I have no doubt that this is in part due to the tenacity of the Holy Father in his commitment to speak the truth at all costs. The other good news is that the fervor and fidelity of our young priests is helping to rejuvenate the Church across the country. Let’s hope this trend continues.