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August 19, 2004



One expectation--perhaps I should say hope--that I have of public Catholics is a dose of humility. I rather like the fact that John Kerry, for example, does not present himself as a holier-than-thou Catholic. This does not exempt him from criticism on abortion or any other moral issue. But on religiosity Kerry comes off well, I think, compared to the incumbent. The Democratic candidate at least does not pretend to be personally informed by God when he argues, say, for a higher minimum wage or a different course in Iraq.

Humility if nothing else can save oneself from a lot of embarrassment. Recall Henry Hyde prattling about the sins of President Clinton, then trying to explain away what Hyde called his "youthful indiscretion''--a man in his mid-40s carrying on a long-term affair.


I agree that humility is important, as well as charity towards one's fellow man. I do think of the "ye without sin cast the first stone", but even more often that "those in glass houses should not throw stones" (as Whitcomb notes of Hyde's own blunder).

The only thing that really gets me hot and bothered from fellow Catholics is a misrepresentation of the faith. I've heard all sorts of stupid things from people (oh yeah, getting a vasectomy is just fine...) who portray themselves to Catholics and non-Catholics as knowledgeable in the faith, when either they've got a very obvious interest in the misrepresentation and/or it's definitely beyond their expertise. I've dealt more with this on a person-to-person level, but "public Catholics" doing this would annoy me even more.

Those who know the Church's teaching, and admit that's the teaching, but publicly try to change it don't irritate me so much as those who deny the teaching to begin with.


As Christians we should all ask for the grace to avoid being a scandal to others. Those in ministry should certainly be subjected to a higher standard of behavior than others, and to a lesser degree, I suppose, this goes for church employees.

But pundits? Journalists? If having committed grave sins at some point in your life means you forfeit your right to an opinion, I should definitely shut up right now. Is it presumptuous or realistic of me to think that that probably goes for most folk here?


Well, tt, that was the point I was trying to make. Or question I was trying to ask.


And tt, Hudson was more than a pundit or a journalist - he was a liason on Catholic issues to the president of the United States. In a sense, he did represent us, whether we asked him to or not.

Nancy B.

The thing that seems wrong about all this, is that Deal, instead of facing the music and saying, "You know, I'm not a great Catholic, but I'm trying. I've made mistakes in the past, but I'm trying, with the help of God's grace and mercy, to live a more virtuous life. Every day is a struggle for me, and like St. Paul, I have a 'thorn' in my side that I wish God would take away, but I have to deal with it."
But instead, he cowers down, and immediatly resigns, and that seems like he is backing away from a facade of being a "Good" Catholic, which is exactly what the reporter is accusing him of. The reporter is saying, "here's a man who is 'claiming' to be a 'good' Catholic (see my quotes from the magazine, hear what he said about the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, what a hipocrite) and look who he really is. If Deal had been who he really was, told the truth, said he was a sinner with a fallen nature, but trying, I don't think the whole thing could have blown up this way.
On the other hand, this reporter seemed to be on a mission to dig into the past dirt, and I can perfectly understand Deal's desire not to go there. However, how Deal's handled it feuled the fire instead of putting it out. Maybe he just needed a PR person to help him out. Maybe he needed more, I don't know.
I think any "expectations" of public Catholics is judgemental, but a lot of it depends on their level of humility, their ability to tell the truth about themselves. And before we expect public Catholics to do anything, we need to be humble and telling the truth about ourselves, as well. No one is perfect, but there are public figures who pretend they are. That's when a journalist can easily get you into trouble.


But Amy: did he represent us badly? That was my point in my posts in the earlier threads. I think the answer to my question is no. I mentioned it my other posts here but I will state it again, the Hudson's have gotten no financial or personal gain from his position. I know that for a fact. I think Deal has done a good job. His past is none of my business.

I think we have a huge problem if we, as Catholics, choose the course of the NCR. My guess is that Deal's public life is over. Hopefully he will suggest someone else who can do the job he has done, maybe even better because they have no past. But he saw an opportunity and did the best he could with it, to his own personal loss, obviously.

I wish we lived in a world where there are perfect Catholic leaders. Our own priesthood shows that this is not true. Maybe there are perfect laity and priests, I just don't know any of them. But for those that I know, who are the most educated and involved, I can't think of a present saint. I simply don't want the Catholic message to be silenced. There is too much at stake.

It reminds me of the all or nothing approach of arguments within the pro-life community. Some say unless a candidate is completely pro-life you can't vote for them. In most elections there would be noone to vote for and even more babies would be dead because nothing would get done. I just can't make sense of that.

The bottom line for me is, show me a perfect set of Catholic priests and laity and I'll be behind them all of the way. But do we have that now? That's my question. I know I am certainly not in that category.

And I don't know who it was on another thread who said this is another example of the liberal Catholics pointing to a self-professed reformed Catholic being two-faced, but he/she was right. I think the NCR article probably has many motives. My guess is that amongst them are to sell the "there are no-saints, even in GWB's campaign" line, and to get back at Deal. Maybe there are other angles, I don't know.


Well, Kathleen, you can bet that Deal didn't win any fans in Kansas City when he described the NCR as "that venerable old institution of tedious (and increasingly gray-haired) dissent."



Kathleen, on the face of it no- but how many times has such an argument made on behalf of clergy who have abused - "He did so much for the parish, this was so long ago". The situations are not exactly comparable, because of course Hudson is not an ordained minister of the Church. But we are back to this discussion we have had so many times in relation to people like, say, John Bertolucci and others. It is a conundrum.

I think the question of whether Hudson's public life is "over" is up to his core constituency, not outsiders to that or enemies of it. He may not be working for the Bush administration, but if the board and readers of Crisis want him to remain, he will. The same was said of Bill Bennett - in regard to a less serious matter, of course - but he's still around and respected by his audience. As is Dr. Laura, as is Newt Gingrich...etc.


Amy: agreed. My point is your question. And I don't know the answer. Except to say that we, like the non-catholic public, might not have anyone to offer if we use the "I've never done anything wrong" standard. I hope I'm wrong.

Also, regarding your reference to priests, very few of the heirarchy have stepped down. They never paid any price, in my estimation. And by heirarchy I mean bishops who enabled the repeat offenders. I wish they had. It would have done so much for the Church. So much. Not to mention the Pope should have been more forceful on this issue (DISCLAIMER I am an orthodox Catholic revert), in my opinion. However, Deal has no guarantee of any future income. And as far as I can tell, no one to cover for him and move him to "yet another transfiguration" or parish. He and his wife knew of the risks they were taking and took it for the benefit of the teachings of the Church. I will add another bit of info. These are not wealthy people. For those who wish them the dollar store (I'm not suggesting Amy is doing this in this thread) unless you are perfect, don't go there. One of my points is that knowing his past sins he did what he thought was best for the Church with the consent of his wife.

I'm not trying to make him out to be a saint, but he's certainly born the brunt of his past sins, now, more than once.

You are right, a total conundrum where private and public are concerned, esp. with orthodox Catholics. I have no idea how the board of Crisis will react at all and that also is a direct feed into your question. I wish I lived in a time, myself included, where I could even reasonably form a thought about where the line is drawn as to who is fit to hold office or represent or be a liason (as I believe Deal has been in this case, not a representative).

Jimmy Mac

It was rather presuptuous of "Bad Deal" to assume that he represented me or anyone I know. Just because this president canonized him as a Catholic liaison to the White House doesn't mean squat to me, particulary when the canonization came from THIS president.


"As is Dr. Laura, as is Newt Gingrich...etc."

Effectively less effective though. And the names are greeted with a fleeting thought..."there was something about them that wasn't right... what was it...?"

Something is bothering me... some of the best prolife speakers are women who have had abortions, and not all of them admit it publically... I don't know if this situation is the same? It stikes me that if we as Catholics are going to muzzle every serious sinner who is not now living a life of sin and who shows by their life that they have reformed, we are doomed to become a small group of puritan Catholics.

I'm with meep... "The only thing that really gets me hot and bothered from fellow Catholics is a misrepresentation of the faith." --- those who would sever or weaken the tie with Rome and leave us adrift to our own sinful devices and the confusion of and from sin resulting.

As disgusting and as horrible as the sin of Deal Hudson WAS, I think this was a hachet job by NCR. I wish I had subscribed to NCR just so I could write a letter detailing why I am unsubscribing. If Crisis had done this to a comparable progressive Catholic, I would think the same thing --- dirty and a notch lower in the Catholic journalism hair pulling wars.

The good news is this.. if you polled the people in the pews, 99% of them have no idea who Deal Hudson or the National Catholic Reporter are.

And life goes on.


Jimmie Mac:

Argue something, PLEASE. Have you been reading this blog? It's thoughtful. You might learn something rather than implying that GW took glee in getting advice from someone who has a past. Do you have one?

I need to sleep. Amish might be in the city, but tonight, I want to be in the Amish.

Loudon is a Fool

I think that maybe the feelings of disappointment we suffer when a sad revelation about a person we respect is made, and the changes that revelation might cause in the way we view that person's body of work, might lead us to the erroneous conclusion that we somehow had a "right" to the information about that person.

But an initial matter is whether these sorts of things should be revealed. I think the general rule is no. Only in very particular circumstances are we justified in sharing the failings of others. Maybe in some cases with respect to elected officials running for election or re-election, information that reveals the current character of a person may be justified. And, of course, sharing information regarding a crime with police and similar disclosures are appropriate. Issues regarding clerics and representatives of the Church are less clear, but at some point the continued acceptance of a cadre of dissident and/or homosexual priests is more scandalous than publicly acknowledging a cadre of dissident and/or homosexual priests. But with respect to public persons generally I don't see how the sharing of personal failings can be proper in but very few cases.

Of course, this principle of charity is in tension with our individual concern regarding the credibility of a particular messenger. It is likely that we'll put less trust in the arguments put forth by a public figure who has been unfaithful to his wife. Because sin affects us and clouds our judgment and the bad habits that follow repeated grave sins can seriously damage the proper formation of conscience. Though we are all sinners, some sins are worse than others and it is appropriate to reconsider our adulation of an individual if he is revealed to be an adulterer, or a covert visitor of rest stops, or a man who fails to pay his workers their wages, or a person who has a subscription to the National Catholic Reporter. Nevertheless, even though it may be appropriate for me to be disappointed about such a revelation, it is not appropriate for me to think that I have a "right" to that sort of information, even if it would affect my behavior were that information made available.

So I think it's appropriate to be disappointed. And it may be appropriate to look on that person's work with a more skeptical eye. Which, as you suggested, is likely very common in readers of books. Oscar Wilde may have some great insights, but if the allegations regarding his lifestyle are true, those activities may have caused him to get some things very wrong. So you read him and enjoy what there is to enjoy and discount what is appropriately discounted. What is inappropriate is to share the failings of others without serious reason, or to expect that those failings be shared merely because the individual is in the public eye. We have become so accustomed to detraction under the guise of "accountability" that we often don't even recognize detraction and rash judgment any more. Journalists, I think, bear a great deal of responsibility for this turn of events.

On the other hand, maybe there are opportunities to be taken in the sordid business of sin-sharing. Anyone have any dirt on Feuerherd? Maybe Crisis is looking for some free-lance work. (I'm kidding, by the way, so please don't share with me any dirt on Feuerherd.)

Victor Morton

The thing is that we (meaning the society at large, and therefore all of us to a greater or lesser degree) no longer believe that hypocrisy is a good thing; truthful authenticity is what's in. But the public-private distinction requires hypocrisy to grease the ordinary interactions of daily life and to make tolerable the knowledge that we are all sinners. We can acknowledge that fact in the abstract or in vaguenesses, but not in details (which may have been why is so underwhelmed/annoyed by the NCR article). But the Confessional is private for *many* reasons, one being that nobody would even want to know me (or our hostess or Deal Hudson or Bill Clinton or anyone else) if he had to hear what was said there -- frankly, I marvel that a Catholic priest can avoid Dostoyevskyan insanity.

Gerard E.

Our expectations of public Catholics should be similar to those for anyone in public life- politicians, athletes, show business figures- obey the law, come clean when you mess up. The NCR hit piece on Deal Hudson- and when all is said and done, despite Tom Fox's explanation, it's nothing but one- eerily similar to the one run by the L.A. Times last September. Four days before Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected as California governor. Outlining his history of hitting on attractive women, during and after his marriage to Maria Shriver. Or ABC's Nightline broadcasting the names of U.S. military personnel who died in Iraq- at the start of the all-important May ratings period. Connection to all three- the information probably was true. The timing for its disclosures was extremely suspect. Leading NCR to be questioned for how willing it is to protect certain friends in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. Definitely not Deal Hudson, however.

Frank Elliott

Given that Deal Hudson was one of the greatest proponents of designating homosexuals as _potential_ sexual predators against the young, the fact that he was/is such an _actual_ sexual predator of this type is extremely relevant. How can anyone say that a homosexual man who has never shown the slightest interest in or had any history of sexuallly exploiting younger people (or anyone for that matter) should be made to wear a scarlet letter by a sexual predator like Deal Hudson? More importantly, how is it that the conservative Catholic laity can approve of this merely because Deal is one of their own?


In a sense, he did represent us, whether we asked him to or not.

This brings up what I think is a far more important story than a particular individual's moral character: What is the nature of Catholic involvement in the public square, and what should it be? If, as seems to be the case, it is a matter of a small number of people representing the "Catholic face" to those in power (interesting that journalists can play both roles), how concerned should I be about who they are, how they got where they are, and what they are saying?

In short, how do things work now, how should things work, and how do we get from here to there?


If Satan himself reads the Catechism out loud even from the pulpit, I will still accept the Catechism as true.

c matt

What we should expect of public Catholics - that they would assent to Church teachings and follow them. Repent and confess when they fail. Same as we would expect of any Catholic.

By that standard, seems Deal has passed. Kerry still fails. I have not seen Deal advocating adultery as a positive good. Kerry continues to advocate abortion as a positive good. Thus, I cannot agree with your first poster that Kerry exhibits humility - quite the opposite. He exhibits an extreme arrogance by insisting on reception of communion while publicly advocating heresy as though he knows better than the Church and its 2,000 year tradition. McGreevy, whatever else you may think of him, exhibited more humility in that regard by refraining from communion.


I would have respected DH more if he would have shoved it back in the faces of NCR; he knew they were going to hatchet him. One joyful benefit of this expose is that other qualified individuals will remove themselves from the spotlight in order to avoid similar scrutiny/scandal. This is surely one of the goals NCR was seeking to achieve.

Frank Elliott


Deal Hudson didn't merely read the Catechism. He used it together with casual bigotry and fatuous arguments to advance a fascist political agenda. Since the NCR has done us the favor of demonstrating the fact that Mr. Hudson's untidy life undermines his arguments, I can only applaud the NCR.


bigotry, fascist...wait I forgot to racist and homophobic into my original text; must rewrite. Give it a rest.


From my perspective, Hudson resigned simply to protect the President. Public officials—Catholic and otherwise—do this all of the time. It's particularly appropriate when election day is less than 3 months hence.

Had protection of the President not been necessary from Hudson's perspective then my guess is that he would have responded much differently. He would have "engaged" more—not combatively, but on a more substantive, more humble level.


Susan F Peterson

In the comments on the other page, under the original story, some people were calling the event in question "date rape." I think this is inaccurate. It was an inappropriate relationship because of the teacher/student dynamic, and would have been inappropriate and punishable by dismissal even if the professor had not been married. However it is very likely not rape. If the young woman did not say no, it is not rape. She may well have been very flattered by the professor's attention. She may have been very attracted to him by the aura of power (which attaches to professors even if they are not powerful in the larger world.) If she was from an abusive background and especially from a sexually abusive background, she may well have behaved seductively, as women who learn to have that sort of relationship to adults/authority figures often expect to have the pattern repeated and behave according to those expectations. None of this means it was ok for the professor to have sex with his student. But it doesn't make it rape, and it is not criminal anywhere. There is a distinction between unprofessional and criminal. (And between sinful and either of the above.) As for writing about it, once assigned to do a profile, and once having discovered it, I would say it was either not write the article or cover the incident. The professor now in a public position, ought to have said right out, Yes, I did that; it was wrong, I am sorry. I think that would have ended it and he should not have had to resign.
Susan F. Peterson



The question you have presented is a good one. Since I'm a lawyer, allow me to make an analogy from the law that may or may not be useful.

In criminal and civil trials, the outcome of the case depends on a determination of the facts and an application of existing law to those facts. The presiding judge, or the jury in a jury trial, is charged with determining the facts. They do this by hearing the testimony of "witnesses".

What does the law expect of those witnesses?

Well, publicly, the law expects them to tell the truth about the facts.

Privately, the law expects nothing of them.

If a witness is a drinker or a philanderer or a cheater or an abuser, that's his problem. His family, and his neighbors and employer, and his God, no doubt have greater expectations of him, but the law has no expectations of him in terms of his private behavior. All the law asks is that he tell the truth in his trial testimony. To back up this distinction, the law will not permit the truthfulness of a witness' public testimony to be questioned by attacks on his private character. So-called "character evidence" about a witness is not admissible in a trial.

What does this all have to do with Deal Hudson and the question you have posed?

Readers may recall Cardinal George's recent ad limina remarks in which he posited that our public discourse is badly broken. In both Catholic and civic matters people seek more to participate in an "arena of ideological warfare" than to pursue a "way of discipleship" or the "common good". Cardinal George's comments were extremely insightful, it seems to me. Our public discourse is VERY broken. One of the ways in which the public discourse is broken is in the misapplication of the public vs. private distinction.

The phrase "politics of personal destruction" became popular during Bill Clinton's term. It's an interesting phrase. On one level, it tells you exactly what the "bad thing" is: the destruction of a public person. On another level, however, it doesn't communicate the other casualty: the public person's "witness". The "politics of personal destruction" can badly tarnish an individual, but in our public discourse it also neutralizes the value and worth of the person's public acts and statements. In the broken forum of our public discourse, ad hominem logic is the rule, not the exception. If society learns that a public man has committed a private wrong it thereupon rejects as discredited all of his public acts and statements. Indeed, that's why arguments "against the man" are so popular in an arena such as that of our public discourse.

What society does in the square of our public discourse a judge or jury is not permitted to do in a court of law. Interesting, isn't it? It's too bad that "court rules" don't apply in the public square.

Deal Hudson is no dummy. He may feel, as many do, that he shouldn't have to resign. On the other hand, he knows how things work in our broken public discourse. He knows that if stays in the ring he will only hurt the President. Sadly, he's right.



With all due respect, Mike, as another lawyer, I have to disagree. There is a difference, after all, between the search for factual "truth" that is supposed to be the goal of a trial at law, and the search for "truth" within the court of public opinion or policy, be it religious or seculary. One person with 20/20 vision can be an eyewitness as another, even if one is a jerk of one sort or another and the second is a saint. And even so, the rules of evidence do permit some impeachment of character, albeit limited.

But if one is advocating for a policy, one's past, one's economic underpinning, in essence, one's biases, do (or certainly can) have relevance to how much credence someone might give to a particular position. Can it be overdone? Oh yes, and what (at least I think) you might be saying is that when the ugly truth has zero relevance to the policy in question (like, say what does adultery have to do with the Clean Water Act?), then we are overdoing it. In fact, we are likely to make bad decisions and behave rather irrationally if we can't look past someone's sins and discern true expertise, logic and common sense. But I have to say that when the policies in question (such as advocating for the Federal marriage amendment) are so closely intertwined with moral positioning it really can be hard to separate out the merits of an opinion from the character of the opinion giver.



Your points are well stated.

There can be no absolute exclusion of "character evidence" in public discourse, just as the exclusion, in court, is not absolute.

However, I wonder if you would agree that the whole concept of "relevance" is not well understood or practiced in public discourse as it relates to "character evidence". The vast majority of debate participants, including politicians, journalists and the proverbial "man on the street" wouldn't argue, as you have, that "character evidence" is SOMETIMES relevant. They simply assume that it is ALWAYS relevant.

This, it seems to be, is a bad thing for the public forum at large.


Patrick Rothwell

"But I have to say that when the policies in question (such as advocating for the Federal marriage amendment) are so closely intertwined with moral positioning it really can be hard to separate out the merits of an opinion from the character of the opinion giver."

It may be difficult, but I think we have an obligation to abstract arguments from the person making the argument. Just as it is intellectually dishonest to dismiss Andrew Sullivan's arguments for gay marriage and against the FMA because of his promiscuity, it is likewise dishonest to dismiss Deal Hudson's arguments against gay marriage and in favor of the FMA because he has a history of adultery. Arguments stand or fall on their own merits.

A different question is whether one should engage Sullivan or Hudson on the arguments because of their histories. One could say to them - legitimately - "I am quite willing to enter into a discussion or dialogue on the subject, but not with you because of your histories, biases, etc. Goodbye." Each person would have to answer that question for himself in a particular case. There are some people I simply will not engage...unless I am really pissed off. But that's not genuine engagement either, usually.

Susan F Peterson

After reading the actual description of the incident, rather than just, went to his office with an 18 year old student and had sex, I still don't think it was rape but I think he was considerably more guilty than I thought before. It seems, as someone said, that he was sober enough to go home and tell his wife he was taking a student home so he was probably sober enough to know that she was NOT sober enough to know what she was doing. Even had the woman been older, and not a student, and he not married, he would still have been, not behaving like a gentleman. Since he was married, it was immoral. Since she was a student, it was unprofessional. I wouldn't call it rape.

I also wouldn't call it lurid or disgusting; it is just sex.

I would question the young woman's judgement in staying at the restaurant when he was doing the French kissing thing, in going on drinking...no one made her...in going to his office at all, at night after drinking. But she was young,he was her teacher, and he misused his position.
This was wrong. Considering the positions he holds and the company he now keeps, one has to hope that he has repented and confessed, and that it was embarrassment and shame which made him unable to come clean about it in the first place.

One more thought, in one of these threads, there were guys talking about what young girls wear.....can that stuff, will you? They wear what the magazines and the stores tell them to wear, mostly to look cool and with it. They may know that they look good to guys but most of them really don't know anything about how that feels to guys. Should they have to? By being young and attractive, are they responsible for YOUR reactions to them? They could wear jeans and a long shirt in the fall and you would still think the jeans were still too tight on their butts and they are responsible for arousing you. Start there and you wind up with the Chador.(the all over clothes that fundamentalist Muslims make their women wear.) I think YOU have to take the responsibility for turning your eyes, your head, and your mind, elsewhere.
Susan F. Peterson



Did you see Deal Hudson's "Dear Friends" email that he sent to Amy? You can see him battling the "character evidence" issue in that email. Should all of Crisis Magazine (and its staff) have to wear the "scarlet letter" that's now been pinned on Mr. Hudson (or that he pinned on himself)? Not in my view, and not in Mr. Hudson's. But will the public see things otherwise? Undoubtedly. Such are the rules of evidence in the public forum.


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