Catholic Church

Catholic Bishops Gear Up to Beat Trump in 2020

Deal W. Hudson
June 18, 2018

The Catholic bishops met in Fort Lauderdale a few days ago. The dominating topic of discussion was politics, specifically, their official guide to Catholic voters, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

The Pope Francis faction, led by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, called for a complete rewriting of the document since it no longer represented “the new body of teaching” as taught by the present pontiff, specifically mentioning climate change, poverty, and immigration.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego went a step further saying the present document doesn’t represent “Catholic teaching as it is now.”

These two are not the only ones who believe that in the space of five years, since Bergoglio’s 2013 election, the moral and social teaching of the Church has been so fundamentally altered Faithful Citizenship no longer speaks with the true voice of the Church. So much for an institution considered slow to change.

Other leading bishops, however, including Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, opposed writing a new document, arguing what was needed was a more straightforward, significantly redacted version of Faithful Citizenship along with an accompanying video for YouTube, etc.

When the votes were tallied, 77 percent of the bishops voted for the creation of shorter materials — a letter, video, and other “resources” to supplement Faithful Citizenship.

During this discussion there was no mention of Trump being the most pro-life president in our nation’s history. It should not surprise us at that omission since the intent behind the beefing up of Faithful Citizenship is to deny Trump a second term in office.

The bishop’s present silence about the president’s achievement is only another iteration of their attempt during the campaign itself to camouflage Hillary Clinton’s pro-abortion stance by arranging with moral indictments Trump about “The Wall.”

The strategy didn’t work. Faithful Catholics would not be bullied into seeing moral equivalence between killing the unborn and insisting on secure national borders.

Trump/Pence won 52 percent of all Catholic votes and 56 percent of mass-attending Catholics. In the election aftermath, the weeping and wailing at the USCCB must have matched that of Hollywood, the EU, and the mass media.

As it stands, the 2015 version of Faithful Citizenship is a flawed document. A close reading of it offers the Catholic voters several loopholes allowing them to ignore a candidate’s abortion stand if other “morally grave reasons” prevail. It remains to be seen, whether the new supplements will magnify these flaws or keep them buried in theological mumbo-jumbo where they belong.

We can fully expect, however, the redacted version of Faithful Citizenship to put the immigration issue front and center. This placement will create the impression of a de facto moral equivalence with settled life issues such as abortion. The bishops approved language that virtually guaranteed these new shorter materials will “apply the teachings of Pope Francis to our day.”

But just as in 2016 when the bishops pressed the immigration issue, it won’t work in 2020. For one thing, Pope Francis has spent all the capital of good will created by his election and his successful U.S. visit. Pope Francis, as it were, has no ‘coattails.’

If the bishops produce election materials that recast Faithful Citizenship to fit the Pope’s vision, it will only create greater distance between the bishops and their faithful. They will be relegating themselves to becoming just another cadre of grumpy Never-Trumpers.

At the very least, the bishops could have expressed common ground with the Trump administration on his efforts to defuse the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. After all, doesn’t this come under the rubric of “world peace”?

The bishops, instead, focused on the president’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement. The USCCB itself has been asked to sign the Paris declaration by its own Catholic Climate Covenant created in 2006. How much money will it cost Catholics if the bishops decide to play in European politics on that issue?

Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, the bishops ignored the opportunity of voicing solidarity with the president’s pro-life agenda and his the quest for peace between North and South Korea. Instead they prepared to sharpen their knives for the 2020 election. Is this what we now call “evangelization”?

Read Newsmax: Catholic Bishops Gear Up to Beat Trump in 2020 |
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Why Should the Church Continue to Perform Marriages for the State?

Deal W. Hudson

Published January 2015

We take for granted that priests, and other ministers, sign a couple’s marriage license after a wedding ceremony. At that moment the state, both the individual states and the United States, legally recognizes the marriage. Priests and ministers, thus, act as agents of the government and are duly recognized as “Celebrants” or “Officiants” under the laws of all 50 states.

Since over half of the United States — 35 states — now recognize same-sex marriage, a simple question is raised:

Should Catholic priests, and for that matter other clergy, continue to act as agents of the state by signing marriage licenses?

To read the remainder on The Christian Review please click on this link.

Mortimer J. Adler–The Great Philosopher Who Became Catholic

Deal W. Hudson
Published June 29, 2009

Reprinted with permission from our good friends at, the leading online journal of Catholic faith, culture, and politics.

Eight years ago today, a famous American philosopher died who had lived as a Catholic the last year of his life. Not so long ago, his name – Mortimer J. Adler – was synonymous with the “great books” approach to education he had pioneered with Robert Hutchins at the University of Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s. His edition of The Great Books of the Western World is still often seen if you survey the bookshelves of the homes and offices you visit.

Adler’s pedagogy, like his Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy, was rejected by the academy he left in mid-career. He continued to edit, read, and discuss great books at seminars – like those he taught at the Aspen Institute – and to write scholarly books. But these were increasingly ignored, so in the late 1970s he took his case to general readers in an excellent memoir, Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Autobiography, and books like Reforming Education and Aristotle for Everybody. Adler’s career began to revive.

But it was Bill Moyers’s several PBS specials with Adler – especially his “Six Great Ideas” seminar from the Aspen Institute in 1981 – that brought Adler back into the public eye. Adler capitalized on the attention with a series of readable books, winning him a new generation of readers. I was one of them. As a young philosophy professor teaching both St. Thomas and the great books, I regarded Adler with awe, knowing that he was a living link to Thomists like Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson, who had been his friends.

The first time I met Adler I mentioned my fondness for a novelist I was reading, the Australian Nobel Prize winner Patrick White. Adler immediately pulled out a notebook to write down his name and the novels I had mentioned. I was amazed that a philosopher of his stature would care about the opinions of a punky young professor! He encouraged me to stay in touch, and I did.

Some years later, Adler asked me to spend three summers with him at the Aspen Institute assisting him in his seminars. Afternoons were often spent smoking cigars and talking philosophy and religion (usually Catholicism). Talking to Mortimer was like talking to nobody else – his intellectual energy seemed to super-charge my mind, pushing me to think beyond the places where I had stopped before.

There was no question too dumb for Mortimer and no assertion so lame that it couldn’t be the source of another 30 minutes of conversation. During those summers in Aspen we talked for hours and never noticed the time passing, until someone would finally come to remind us about dinner. (It was Adler, by the way, who told me that cigars never taste better than first thing in the morning.)

When I met Mortimer he had not yet suffered the heart condition that led him to his late-life conversion in 1986 to Christianity. When I asked him, at our first meeting in Atlanta, why his love for St. Thomas Aquinas had not led him into the Church, he replied, “Faith is a gift, and I have not received it.” Rather than ending the conversation, that turned out to be a darned good beginning.

He had been attracted to Catholicism for many years, but when he finally received “the gift of faith” he joined a different church. (Rumor has it that his wonderful – and ardently Episcopal – wife, Caroline, made sure of that.) Mortimer became a serious, church-attending Christian, albeit of the liberal variety, reading books by Bishop Spong and others. He once took me to an bookstore to buy me the latest title by Spong, but fortunately they were out.

The more we talked the more I realized Mortimer really wanted to be a Roman Catholic, but issues like abortion and the resistance of his family and friends were keeping him away. I tried to show him that his own Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics of act-potency led him to understand the necessity of protecting unborn life. But just at that moment, Mortimer would uncharacteristically mutter, “It’s all too complicated,” and change the subject. But I knew that he knew he was being inconsistent. I didn’t have to press him – because I knew he knew, and it was only a matter of time before he acquiesced.

At several of our seminars was the Catholic prelate of San Jose, Bishop Pierre DuMaine. The bishop and I would sometimes tag-team the philosopher on the Catholic Church, and we would all end up laughing about how Mortimer deflected the inevitable conclusion. As it turns out, Bishop DuMaine did not stop the Aspen conversations.

After Mortimer finally retired, and Caroline passed away, he moved to the West Coast to spend his final years. We kept in touch by phone, and I called him as soon as I heard from Bishop DuMaine that he had been received into the Catholic Church. To my ears, Mortimer sounded relieved and at peace that he had finally taken that step. The philosopher who had helped bring so many into the Church had himself finally arrived.

♦ ♦ ♦

Five Books to Read by Mortimer J. Adler:

Aristotle for Everybody – The best introduction to Aristotle (especially his ethics) that I know.
Ten Philosophical Mistakes: Basic Errors in Modern Thought—How They Came About, Their Consequences, and How to Avoid Them – Here is everything you need to know about what is wrong with modern philosophy, written in a way you can understand.
The Angels and Us – One of my personal favorites. Adler has fun using St. Thomas’s treatise on angels to explain how the human mind works.
The Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Autobiography – An important book to understand the course of American education, in addition to Adler’s own life.
The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes (with an introduction by yours truly) – This, I think, is one of Adler’s most original contributions to philosophy: an argument for the immateriality of the intellect making human beings different in kind, not degree, from other animals.

Bishop Robert F. Vasa — We Need More Like Him!

Deal W. Hudson
Published August 16, 2010

Too often, Catholic commentators, including myself, speak about American bishops in the plural. The existence of a national bishops’ conference unfortunately encourages this habit, one that obscures a basic fact about the Catholic Church: It is individual bishops who are responsible for sanctifying the lives of the Catholic faithful.

There’s no better antidote to the chatter about “the bishops” than focusing attention on one bishop who, by all accounts, is doing his job exceedingly well. Bishop Robert F. Vasa is a shepherd who has been steadily gaining a national reputation for his articulate leadership on controversial issues and generous support of lay apostolates.

Vasa was named bishop of Baker, Oregon, in late 1999. Most of his life as a priest has been spent in Nebraska, where he was born in 1951. Ordained to the priesthood in 1976, Vasa served as a pastor, teacher, and advocate to the marriage tribunal before going to Rome for post-graduate study in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1979.

Returning from Rome two years later, Bishop Vasa spent nearly two decades serving the diocese of Lincoln – first under the leadership of Bishop Glennon Flavin, then under Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who came to Lincoln in 1992. Bishop Vasa held all the positions of responsibility available to a priest from pastor, judicial vicar, vicar general, to finance officer and chairman of the Diocesan Building Commission.

In just over his ten years as a bishop, Vasa has made a series of bold decisions and released several incisive statements. In April 2004, he issued “Giving Testimony to the Truth,” a document addressed to the lay ministers of the Baker diocese that included an oath of fidelity. Reminding those who serve the diocese that it is the bishops who commission them to exercise these works, Bishop Vasa made the oath a requirement for employment, because the Church “teaches that anyone commissioned to a lay apostolate in the Church should be fully accepting of all Catholic teachings.”

The following year, Bishop Vasa may have ruffled a few feathers when he rejected the USCCB’s imposition of the “Talking About Touching” program as a response to priest sexual abuse. Preferring to create his own “safe environment program,” Bishop Vasa argued that “Talking About Touching” left too many unanswered and troubling questions:

Are such programs effective? Do such programs impose an unduly burdensome responsibility on very young children to protect themselves rather than insisting that parents take such training and take on the primary responsibility for protecting their children? Is it true that other groups, actively promoting early sexual activity for children, promote these programs in association with their own perverse agendas?
In 2006, Bishop Vasa weighed in again on a controversial subject, what he called the “heresy” of pro-abortion Catholic politicians:

There is a point at which passive “tolerance” allows misleading teachings to be spread and propagated, thus confusing or even misleading the faithful about the truths of the Church… There is a very strong word, which still exists in our Church, which most of us are too “gentle” to use. The word is “heresy.”
Interviewed by LifeSiteNews at the Catholic Leadership Conference in 2008, Bishop Vasa stated that abortion support “disqualified” a Catholic for political office. The USCCB’s controversial “Faithful Citizenship” document of 2007, according to Bishop Vasa, contained the same view. He rejected the spin on “Faithful Citizenship” that a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate for “proportionate reasons” when facing a politician who supported capital punishment and the Iraq War:

When we have someone who has that stand on a disqualifying issue, then the other issues, in many ways, do not matter because they are already wrong on that absolutely fundamental issue.
Bishop Vasa’s interest in health care is longstanding and informed, as he created self-funded medical insurance for his former diocese of Lincoln as well as Baker. He also serves on the board of the Catholic Medical Association, which described him as having “visionary wisdom.” In February 2010, explaining that the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, “gradually moved away” from Church ethical and religious standards, Bishop Vasa announced it can no longer be “called Catholic.” St. Charles was performing sterilizations in the form of tubal ligations.

A month later, Bishop Vasa described the health-care bill – which was supported by Catholic politicians like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden – as “positively evil.” He rejected the arguments used by Catholic supporters that it was necessary to pass in spite of its flaws:

The demand that such a provision [i.e., abortion] be eliminated is not a demand for ‘perfection.’ Such a demand, in this case, is not the enemy of the good, it is standing in the face of evil.
In all these actions, Bishop Vasa is viewed by those who know him as a leader who expresses, without hesitation, the common sense of the Catholic Faith. When Gene Zurlo, a lay leader who has worked with Bishop Vasa, heard I was writing this column, he urged: “Say that he is holy, wise, faithful, and courageous, and that we need more like him!”

Mortimer J. Adler, Catholic

Deal W. Hudson
Published July 1, 2000

The most influential American philosopher of the 20th century was received into the Church this past December. Those familiar with the trajectory of Mortimer Adler’s work, not just the Great Books Program, should not be surprised. Born December 28, 1902, Mortimer has been a catholic philosopher all his long life, and now he will spend his final years in the arms of the Church.

Mortimer’s conversion must not elicit any Catholic triumphalism. There is no need to besiege him with requests for his conversion story. The story can be written—most of it can be found in his books, especially his two volumes of memoirs. The rest can be filled in by his friends.

I spent three summers with Mortimer at the Aspen Institute in the early 90s, serving as the institute’s first Adler fellow. In addition to assisting with Mortimer’s fabled seminars, I would meet him in the late afternoon and talk shop, and naturally the conversation would turn to Catholicism. Mortimer had been a practicing Episcopalian since 1984, when he was baptized in a Chicago hospital room. He had resisted becoming a Christian, saying he had the “will to believe” but lacked the gift of faith. Finding himself, miraculously he says, repeating the Lord’s Prayer in his hospital room, Mortimer asked for a priest. His wife Caroline, an ardent Episcopalian, helped her husband of many years to join her church.

Mortimer became very active in his Aspen parish and started writing more explicitly about religion, even risking his longtime friendship with Bill Moyers by criticizing his interviews with myth-guru Joseph Campbell. Mortimer was a man of prayer, to the one true God, and a reader of Scripture, about the revelation of His only Son, Jesus Christ, and made no bones about it.

It was clear that Mortimer the Christian was a great gift to the Episcopal community, and his conversion must have deepened his bond with his wife and their two sons. Catholics, like myself, who kidded with Mortimer, in front of his Aspen friends, about failing to “cross the Tiber” were treated with unfailing politeness but slight discomfort.

Only one time did this discomfort with the Catholic question become public. During my third summer at the Aspen Institute, I organized a conference on Mortimer’s legacy to celebrate his 45 years at the Institute. Some names familiar to Crisis readers were there—Ralph Mclnerny, Russ Hittinger, Jeff Wallin, and Otto Bird. During the question-and-answer session, an Aspen Institute official complained that most of the invited speakers were Catholics. I’m still not sure why that was objectionable, but my reply was obvious: Nearly all the philosophers who continue to read his work and pass on his legacy are Catholic. Why? Because they are metaphysical realists in the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas! Bird, I remember clearly, was quite eloquent later at the banquet in his explanation of Mortimer as a catholic philosopher. Bird’s tribute, however, left the Aspen audience puzzled.

Mortimer’s fans have forgotten, or never knew, that his entire career was propelled by an initial encounter as a Columbia University undergraduate with Aquinas’ “Treatise on God” from the Summa Theologica. His earliest works were written in a densely scholastic style, and although he learned to communicate with a broad audience, the Thomistic habit of dialectical thinking was infused into everything he touched.

It may have been this dialectical gift that allowed him to be beloved by both relativists and realists. Relativists could revel in his unparalleled gifts for comparative analysis and safely avoid any conclusions. Realists could devour books like How to Think About God and be grateful that there was still a philosopher who followed rational inferences to conclusions about what is real and not another half-baked version of radical doubt.

Why did Mortimer become a Catholic? He followed the path he started at Columbia in the early 20s all the way to the end. Mortimer would not stop, as long as he drew breath, with less than the entire truth. That’s the man I came to know during those memorable summers in Aspen.

At the closing of our final seminar, I noticed Mortimer sitting alone and looking sad. I thought he would be feeling nostalgic, so I went over to say something about his great legacy. He waved these comments aside saying, “Why did all those philosophers listen to Kant?” That’s Mortimer J. Adler, always wrestling with the truth, never looking back. We should know better than to be surprised.