Deal W. Hudson
Published April 2, 2009
The rising temperature of the debate over President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Notre Dame has created some heated rhetoric on both sides. Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg criticized Notre Dame’s decision but was himself criticized for complaining about the “uncivil and venomous” comments made by those opposing the honor being bestowed on President Obama.
Bishop Lynch is exactly right in raising this concern. Here is what he says:
The rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child, and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life (emphasis added).
Granted, some will label as uncivil any assertion about the truth of the Catholic Faith. These tactical accusations of incivility are exactly what they appear to be – an attempt to silence and discredit all who defend the Church. Putting that tactic aside, it does weaken our case for orthodoxy when it is couched in vicious name-calling, profanity, and unsupported generalizations.
Some say the coarseness of their rhetoric is justified by the truth they speak or by the crimes they decry, such as abortion. In my opinion, they either don’t care about persuading anyone who’s listening, or they don’t know they’re providing an excuse for people to ignore what they say. A good illustration of that approach is the effort of Randall Terry at Notre Dame. Terry has gone to such an extreme that Archbishop Raymond Burke had to dissociate himself from the use Terry was making of his comments.
The last thing orthodox Catholics need to do is bring discredit to a bishop who has the courage to speak his mind.
Archbishop Charles Chaput, another bishop who speaks his mind, recently spoke in an interview with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life about his experience with e-mail rudeness. He attributes the vitriol to the “immediacy” of Internet communication, “which means we immediately speak out of our emotions rather than write a letter.” Just as important is anonymity behind which most people hide when making comments or posting on Web sites.
Some of the most vicious e-mails Archbishop Chaput has received, he says, are from “Catholic conservatives” who want him to excommunicate pro-abortion Catholic politicians. But he has noticed an interesting difference between how conservatives and liberals are impolite.
“The Left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. The Right is meaner, but they’re not as foul.”
The Right is mean, and the Left is foul – that observation matches my experience in the virtual world. The Left often resorts to expletives to express their disapproval; whereas the Right, including Catholic conservatives, will indict your faith, your intelligence, and your love for your mother if you happen to disappoint them.
Rudeness has nearly become the rule, rather than the exception, on the Internet. Blogs, forums, e-mails, and comment sections are hothouses for the unedited savagery of the miscreant, the coward, and the Pharisee. Yet it is the place where we have chosen to speak with a Catholic voice. As Archbishop Chaput has said of his own reaction to hateful e-mails: “The Lord reminds us that we are sheep among wolves, but it’s important for us not to become wolves ourselves because of our experience.”
It’s a sore temptation to respond in kind to such attacks. Most Catholics will agree with Bishop Lynch and Archbishop Chaput that our best chance for changing minds and being successful evangelists is speaking with a tone of voice that offers no excuse to turn away.
Deal W. Hudson
Published October 9, 2008
An Obama victory on November 4 is far from certain, but the momentum behind his campaign prompts me to wonder: What impact could an Obama administration have on the Catholic Church?
The Bush victories in 2000 and 2004 brought a flood of commentary on the so-called red and blue states. If Obama wins in 2008, I would not be surprised to see the emergence of a similar division among Catholics.
Many will finally realize, and admit to, the power of the political Left in their Church. This may lead to a kind of red state, blue state divide among Catholics in the United States. Such a divide could extend to the dioceses, reflecting both regional differences and the leadership of present and past bishops.
Most Catholics miss the institutionalized dissent, political liberalism, and Democratic Party alignment that exists throughout parts of the Church in this country. It exists in a network that includes parts of the USCCB and extends through chanceries, universities (especially Jesuit), Catholic organizations, and much of the Catholic media.
This network has become adept at cloaking its dissent, its political intentions, and its disdain for the agenda of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It’s a well-chronicled story that is gaining traction with more Catholics because of events surrounding this election.
Some evidence of the red-blue separation is anecdotal. I have received many reports of priests touting the virtues of Obama from the pulpit. These are the same parishes where Respect Life Sunday was completely ignored. People are shaking their heads in disbelief; they didn’t realize it was “that bad,” they told me.
But there have also been public indications of this red/blue tension. This election year, a record number of individual bishops (see the list below) have made public statements in response to Catholic supporters of Sen. Barack Obama. All of them have reminded Catholic voters of the Church’s teaching on when life begins, and the issue’s relevance in politics.
Although the number of bishops speaking out is remarkable, there are another 200-plus who have said nothing individually. Furthermore, Catholic supporters of Obama are referring to the outspoken bishops as a “rogue group” and are lecturing “one-issue bishops” on the “correct” interpretation of Catholic teaching.
The aggressive style of Obama Catholics in this election was presaged back in February when a prominent Catholic journalist wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post ending with, “Sounds like I’ll be voting for the Democrat [Obama] — and the bishops be damned.”
There is no public record of how the bishops responded, but the still-growing list of prelates who have publicly corrected Biden, Pelosi, or defended life in this election suggests they are not cowering.
Some of these bishops come from blue states like New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Illinois — a fact that might prove my thesis about the coming divide wrong. Yet the Catholic vote in these states has consistently been in support of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. These heavily Catholic states are blue because Catholics have made them so.
If Catholic voters help to elect Obama, it will be a wake-up call for some in the Church and a cause for celebration to others. The theological and political divide among Catholics, along with regional differences, could be exacerbated. Dioceses may begin to appear more red or blue as a result.
The following is a list of those bishops who have made public statements about Catholics in politics in this election. Regarding those bishops not on the list, it should be mentioned that the joint statement by Justin Cardinal Rigali, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, Chair of the Committee on Doctrine — as well as the follow-up statement from Cardinal Rigali and Bishop William Murphy — carries the unified voice of all the bishops.
1. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver
2. Bishop James Conley, auxiliary of Denver
3. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
4. Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities
5. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine
6. Edward Cardinal Egan of New York
7. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo
8. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh
9. Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs
10. Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio
11. Bishop Oscar Cantu, auxiliary of San Antonio
12. Bishop William Murphy of Rockville
13. Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa
14. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas
15. Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin
16. Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston
17. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando
18. Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul/Minneapolis
19. Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, President of the USCCB
20. Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker
21. Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse
22. Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland
23. Bishop Ralph Nickless of Sioux City
24. Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco
25. Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles, LA
26. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn
27. Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton
28. Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
30. Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte
31. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh
32. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, KS
33. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MI
34. Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, WS
35. Bishop Ronald Gilmore of Dodge City, KS
36. Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina, KS
37. Bishop Michael Jackels of Wichita
38. Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach
39. Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth
40. Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford
41. Daniel Cardinal Dinardo of Houston
42. Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden
43. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, NJ
44. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, PA
45. Joint Statement by the bishops of New York State (22 bishops)
(Please let me know if I have left any bishops off this list.)
Deal W. Hudson
Published July 5, 2010
The phrase “Après moi, le déluge” is attributed to Louis XV on his deathbed. Fifteen years later, in 1789, the French Revolution confirmed his prediction: “After me, the flood.” Whether the king felt a sense of foreboding of things to come or simple indifference, the expression seems an apt description of where our nation stands on its 234th birthday.
Princeton’s Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman set off a lively debate with his New York Times op-ed from June 29, observing we are in the “early stages of a third depression.” Conservative commentators like Larry Kudlow and Steve Forbes were quick to respond that Krugman’s solution of more federal spending, rather than less, was at the heart of the economic downturn.
As Forbes put it, “Well, it’s like the old physician who continues to bleed the patient and wonder why the patient isn’t getting better and then bleeds the patient even more.”
The spiraling national debt has become such a prominent national issue that Gallupnow reports that 30 percent of Americans identify themselves as Tea Party supporters, while 28 percent oppose it. Thirty-five percent of those polled remain neutral, but that number will go down as the ramifications of national debt and the creation of the health-care entitlement hit home.
On June 1, the national debt went past the $13 trillion mark for the first time. In the first 15 months since President Barack Obama took office, the debt increased $2.4 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush presidency, the deficit increased $4.9 trillion. Yet when President Obama addresses the issue of the deficit, he continues to blame his predecessor.
National unemployment continues to rise, with 15 million out of work and another 8.8 million unable to find jobs. Writing for FoxNews.com, Liz Peek rightly calls this situation “a horror.” Peek’s argument, aimed at Krugman’s suggestion of more spending, is that we have reached the “Debt/Stimulus/Confidence Frontier”:
The concept is simple: while deficit spending is sometimes necessary in the early stages of a recession to jolt the economy and especially to provide the consumer with some extra buying power, there comes a point at which increased indebtedness has a negative effect – on confidence, and then on GDP.
The more the public becomes aware of the increasing deficit, the lower goes consumer confidence, which dipped sharply and unexpectedly by ten points to 52.9 in May. Liberals never seem to take into account human nature, Peek notes. People will start compensating for what they perceive an overspending government: “The liberal notion of all-purpose government sustenance is irreconcilable with the very human instinct of self-protection.”
Even Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report, warns that both political parties are avoiding the central issue and have
failed to explain how we are going to address our future debt and accept the limits of what the federal government can do. If they fail, we will be saddling the young with huge debts and immense taxes, and the American ethic of believing in a better future for our children will be in jeopardy.
For example, because of an aging population, Zuckerman warns that taxes will have to double if the country is to continue our current level of Social Security and Medicare payments to men and women over the age of 65.
With that challenge lying ahead, the Congress and the president passed a health-care package with the promise it would reduce the deficit. The financial reality, as doggedly explained by Catholic congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office, is that the new health-care bill increases the deficit by $260 billion in the first ten years and $600 billion in the second decade.
The next big agenda item for the Obama administration was to be immigration reform, a piece of legislation strongly urged by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, recent signals suggest an immigration bill is at least a year away. It’s not known whether or not the delay has to do with its price tag,estimated at $30 billion and adding another $15 billion to the deficit. That cost could run double if health-care expenses for the 11 million undocumented immigrants are included in the legislation.
Growing awareness of the national debt load is already driving down consumer confidence and leading many into the Tea Party movement. Average people are getting the sense of foreboding, that something bad is waiting for them in the future – in short, they are losing hope. It’s past time for our elected representatives, starting with the president, to realize the limits of government, or to put it bluntly, the limits on spending.
Deal W. Hudson
Published December 27, 2010
At a restaurant in Jerusalem last August, I listened incredulously as two prominent Israeli journalists explained to me that President Obama did not care about a second term. Obama, they told me, was going to forge ahead toward an Israeli-Palestinian agreement with total disregard for any political fallout. It was Obama’s nature, they each asserted, to put his ideals ahead of pragmatism, and the two-state solution was going to be the greatest achievement of his first – and only – term in office.
I disagreed, and I told them so. President Obama, like every first-term president, doesn’t want to vacate the Oval Office wearing the sad smile of a leader rejected by his nation. If any character trait of Obama is obvious, it is his ambition. Such men rarely put a cause ahead of a career.
These Israeli journalists must have been scratching their heads lately watching the president’s so-called “move to the middle” during the lame-duck session of Congress. Obama’s compromise on the Bush-era tax rates was the gesture of a politician who did not want to suffer the same fate in 2012 that many fellow Democrats underwent last November.
President Obama is a man who wants, badly, to be reelected, and who can blame him? For his effort, he is now viewed as belonging to neither the Left nor the Right. Conservatives will always see him as a committed leftist, no matter how deftly he scrambles to preserve his office, and many liberals now call him a traitor.
But I also explained to the journalists that I applauded Obama’s initiative in bringing Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table. During that week in late summer, politicians in both Ramallah and Jerusalem were whispering stories about the United States’ “strong-arm” tactics in setting a course toward negotiations.
Yet the failure of those negotiations thus far is not due to Obama’s pragmatism but a brashness not usually suited to foreign affairs. To link the entire negotiating process to a freeze on the building of settlements in East Jerusalem appeared to be a miscalculation of Obama’s from the start.
The question of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem involves too many highly inflammatory variables and put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an impossible situation. Netanyahu was willing to pay a political price for joining another round of negotiations, but the U.S. insistence on a settlement freeze of indeterminate length insured the window would stay open only a short length of time. By late November, negotiations were being described as “deadlocked,” with each side blaming the other for the breakdown.
Still, there are signs that at least some Israeli and Palestinian leaders are anxious to return to the table. At a weekly cabinet meeting on December 26, Trade MinisterBen-Eliezer urged the Israeli government to get back to negotiations, “even if it costs us a settlement freeze for a few months.” Ben-Eliezer, a senior labor minister, went even further in stressing the need for more Israeli initiatives:
I wouldn’t be surprised if within one year the whole world supports a Palestinian state, including the United States. Then we’ll ask where we were and what we were doing.
The article in Haaretz points out that five Latin American countries have already recognized Palestinian statehood; more seriously, a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, drafted by the Palestinian Authority and unnamed Arab countries, has been circulated to members of the United Nations Security Council.
A copy of the resolution, obtained by Haaretz, states that “Israeli actions in constructing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and are the main obstacle to peace on the basis of a two-state solution.”
The members of the UN Security Council, with the exception of the United States, favor the resolution, which also “condemns all actions by Israel to change the demographic component, character and status of the territories.” A vote on the resolution will likely take place in January when the United States is replaced as the president of the security council by Bosnia and Herzegovina. America will be standing alone if it vetoes the resolution. Whether the Palestinian resolution passes the UN Security Council or not, it will have the effect of further uniting world opinion behind the Palestinian cause of achieving statehood.
Ben-Eliezer is pointing out the obvious: Support for the continuation of the Israeli occupation is waning. Keeping the status quo will only further isolate Israel and isolate its major ally, the United States. A few days prior to the comments of Ben-Eliezer to the cabinet, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in a rare television interview, told Israel’s Channel 2, “We should not give up,” and he thought it was “possible to get this process to move forward.”
A few days later, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated his support for continued negotiations in a speech to Jewish activists: “The quest for peace is important, and my government shall continue to move toward this goal. We want peace, because we don’t want war.”
The stage is set for Obama to reengage the process. During the lame-duck session of Congress, President Obama displayed a remarkable flexibility in dealing with the aftermath of the midterm elections. My New Year’s wish is that he will apply those same skills to reinvigorating the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, making it his number one priority in foreign policy for the second half of his presidency. Obama can leverage the threat of the UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, as well as the likelihood of a U.S. veto, in pursuit of a new middle ground on the settlement freeze that brings both Palestine and Israel back to negotiations.
As yet, none of his political achievements has earned President Obama the appellation of “statesman,” but the pressing need for the two-state solution is his opportunity to earn respect even from those who abhor his domestic policy.
Deal W. Hudson
Published July 2, 2008
Infanticide is becoming a touchy subject for Barack Obama.
So much so that his supporters either deny that their candidate ever voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, or they describe his votes as “procedural,” as if Obama never really opposed providing medical treatment for infants who survived an abortion.
The facts show otherwise.
The Born Alive Infant Protection Act was first introduced in the Illinois legislature in 2001 after nurse Jill Stanek revealed that babies born alive in Christ Hospital in botched abortion procedures were left to die, unattended by medical personnel.
That same year Stanek testified before the Judiciary Committee, where Obama asked whether the bill would subvert a woman’s right to abortion. Obama voted against the bill in committee but “present” on the Senate floor.
When the bill was reintroduced in 2002, Obama again voted against it in committee and was the only state senator to speak against it on the Senate floor. Again the bill was defeated with Obama voting “no” and leading the opposition.
Here is what he said:
“Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a — a child, a 9-month old — child that was delivered to term.
That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it — it would essentially bar abortions, because the Equal Protection Clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute.”
2002 was the year the U. S. Congress passed and President Bush signed the federal version of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Unlike Obama in Illinois, Sen. Hillary Clinton voted to support the bill. In fact, the bill passed the Senate 98 to 0 with pro-abortion senators like Boxer (D-CA) and Reid (D-NV) supporting it.
In 2003, the bill was introduced in the Illinois legislature for the third time and directed to a committee chaired by Obama, Health and Human Services. They refused to bring the bill to a vote.
Only when Obama left for Washington in 2005 did the Born Alive Infant Protection Act pass the Illinois legislature. It’s for good reason Barack Obama has been called “the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever.”
The Roman Catholics for Obama Web site has no mention of his opposition to the Born Alive Infant’s Protection Act. Look under its section “Life and Dignity of the Human Person,” and you will find statements on the death penalty, the Iraq War, gun control, and the promise to nurture “a socio-economic environment” that will provide “a safety net that will make abortion increasingly unnecessary and rare.”
Some of Obama’s infanticide apologists argue that since the declared intention of Obama in voting against the BAIP Act was to uphold Roe v. Wade then it was not evidence of “support for infanticide.” Such poor logic completely detaches Obama’s act of voting against the bill from its consequences. Without the passage of the bill, infants born in Illinois remained vulnerable to the lack of treatment witnessed first-hand in Christ Hospital by Jill Stanek.
It would be like a senator arguing that his vote to approve Iraq War funding was just to “support the troops” but not the war. How can you put a gun in a soldier’s hand without taking responsibility for what happens when he shoots it?
Democratic pundits don’t want to talk about Obama on abortion or infanticide, either. On a recent CNN broadcast, Wolf Blitzer asked Bill Bennett what he would ask Obama, if given the chance.
Bennett said he would ask Obama about his abortion extremism and why he “doesn’t see a problem with killing a baby after it’s been born after eight months.”
Donna Brazile, well-known Democratic consultant, reacted strongly: “You want to have a conversation about narrow issues, but the American people want to talk about gas prices.”
Brazile can be sure that $4.00 per gallon gasoline isn’t going to divest the millions of religious conservatives who care about the dignity of human life of their repugnance for infanticide. The last thing the Democrats want to hear are questions raised about Obama’s “moral judgment,” as Bill Bennett did on CNN.
Obama’s attempt to move to the middle of the political spectrum will have to overcome two major obstacles: the memory of Rev. Wright at the National Press Club and Obama’s voting record on the BAIP Act.
Obama does seem to have distanced himself successfully from his old pastor, but once Americans start asking why he would allow doctors to deny medical treatment to a newborn child, it may raise larger questions about moral judgment.
Deal W. Hudson
Published September 28, 2012
The head of a pro-life committee at a parish I know just received a call from the Obama campaign. The caller asked for her daughter by name, and when she was not there then asked where she could be contacted. Her mother responded by telling the Obama supporter, “not to waste her time as my daughter is supporting the pro-life candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.”
When the caller hesitated and acted surprised, the mother, a staunch pro-life Catholic, said:”My daughter is a practicing Catholic and would never cast a vote for a pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage, pro-embryonic stem cell research, pro-euthanasia candidate who supported the HHS mandate that will take away religious freedoms from Catholic hospitals, Catholic charities, and Catholic institutions.”The Obama supporter then launched into her “canned response” and started reading from her call script: “Well, I am a practicing Catholic, and I strongly support President Obama.” The mother then asked her if she was “familiar with the Pope’s five “non-negotiable’s.”‘ The Obama supporter had no idea what she was talking about and explained that it was only the Pope’s “opinion” to ban the use of contraception.The Obama caller then went back to her script, asking these clever questions:1. How can you support a “Mormon” who does not believe in Jesus Christ?
2. What to you think about the “Nuns on the Bus” who support Obama?
The mother replied, “How can you support a man who supports the killing of innocent pre-born children for all nine months?”Then, she added, “How can you support a president who denigrates the Sacrament of Marriage by supporting same sex marriage which is against the teaching of the Church?”The Catholic mother then concluded with, “How can you as a Catholic support a president who supports partial birth abortion and did not support the Born Alive Protection Act when he was a state senator in Illinois?”Now, get this! The Obama supporter, again reading from her call script, countered, “President Obama did not support abortion.”As the chair of a pro-life committee, this Catholic woman was more than up to the task of correcting the caller. She asked her “to do some homework.” For example, did she notice that as recently as the Democratic Convention “pro-abortion speakers and supporters of Planned Parenthood were the featured speakers?”Then came the biggest whopper of all. The Obama supporter said, “Planned Parenthood helps children get health care and prenatal care and does not promote abortion.”Stunning, isn’t it? The lies people are willing to tell…The pro-life Catholic then asked the caller her name, but she would only reveal her first name, Cheryl, to a “crack pot.” Rather than “losing her cool” at being addressed in such a manner, the mother continued to educate the Obama supporter about the things she was misrepresenting about Planned Parenthood and its abortion business; about abortion itself.”Have you ever watched an abortion?” she asked the caller. The mother had been an RN and volunteered at a crisis pregnancy clinic. She suggested to the Catholic Obama supporter to “enlighten herself on the abortion procedure; that it was the slaughter of innocent children and not a penny of my tax money should support the killing of an innocent child.”As far as the “nuns on the bus” were concerned, she told the caller, “The Vatican is in the process of investigating their activities.” As far as Mitt being a Mormon she said, “I support him.”Catholics across the nation should be prepared to receive these deceitful and dissembling phone calls. They should learn from this Catholic mother, this pro-life warrior and RN, to speak the truth, with charity, to those who are willing to tell lies in support of their favored political candidate.These Catholics for Obama calls are coming your way – the scripts are written, their call centers are ready, and they are well-funded.