Is the Crisis crisis a big deal? Of course it is

hudson_ewtnFor the past four or five days — or whenever it was that I staggered out of registration here at the university and saw the wave of Deal Hudson reports — I have been trying to recover a piece of information lost in the file cabinets of my brain.

Don’t you hate it when (a) you forget who said something important that you read, but you can’t remember where, and (b) you can’t find the quote in Google, because if contains too many common words (or your middle-aged brain does not have enough of the words in the right order).

Whatever. I give up. Here is the gist, as I remember it. Right at the peak of the most recent wave of Roman Catholic clergy-abuse stories, a candid conservative commentator reminded his readers never to forget that sexual sin is not an issue of conservative and liberal, orthodox and progressive. The article was not in Crisis magazine, I know that.

In other words, there are skeletons rattling in conservative cloisters that affect important news stories, as well as in those on the liberal side of the church. The two doctrinal armies do have different responses to sexual sin and they do have clashing beliefs on what is sinful and what is not. But the larger truth is that everyone struggles with these issues and there is no evidence that it is any easier for conservatives to repent than for liberals to do so. Sin is sin. Repentance is repentance. Shame is shame. Secrecy is secrecy.

Which brings us, of course, to the National Catholic Reporter and its red-hot story about the sinful past of conservative Catholic leader Deal Hudson of Crisis magazine and the Bush campaign’s outreach program to Catholic voters (or one brand of Catholic voter).

A number of excellent blogs have been all over this story for nearly a week, led by the usual suspects — the crack teams at Christianity Today’s blog (for a sample go here) and the freewheeling folks at TheRevealer.org. At the latter, head hauncho Jeff Sharlet has more than made his feelings clear that this is a story that deserves more attention than it has been given. Are we seeing a strange case of pro-conservative bias, or at least nerves?

Washington Post’s Alan Cooperman gets in on the Deal (Hudson) deal with an A-6 snoozer. Why is the resignation of the Bush’s chief Catholic advisor — a position of much greater power than the governorship of New Jersey — getting so little attention? Even leaving aside the undisputed charges of profound sexual misconduct, why doesn’t this story rate? The resignation of the DNC’s religious advisor, for the crime of having supported the removal of “under God” from the pledge, won way more column inches. We’re not being rhetorical here: What gives?

To which Christianity Today’s online maestro Ted Olsen quipped:

Weblog thinks reporters are ignoring it just to see if The Revealer editor Jeff Sharlet merely starts walking the streets of New York in a sandwich board, or if he turns apoplectically into The Hulk, pummeling reporters who haven’t followed up on the story.

Sharlet is amused, but ready for another few rounds of debate. His bottom line: There is substance to this story that journalists are struggling to get into print.

The CT folks also chided us here at GetReligion.org a bit for our relative silence, which was, I assure you, based on the event catching Doug in the middle of a trip and me swamped with the opening of the semester here at Palm Beach Atlantic University. But I also have to admit that it took me a few days to sort through what I think is the heart of this story about a news story. Here are some of my other impressions:

* At this point, I agree with Sharlet that this story has been strangely undercovered. Let me state clearly that this is a major news story and its presence in the pages of daily newspapers cannot be written off as a blast of anti-traditional Catholic bias in big newsrooms.

* At the same time, there is no question in my mind that this was a degree of payback at work for the NCR editors, based on Hudson’s role in exposing the pro-Kerry work of an employee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is Cooperman on that angle (in a story that I thought was not spectacular, but not a snoozer).

Hudson himself may have gotten the ball rolling with a column early this year revealing that the moderator of the Catholics for Kerry Web site was an employee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference subsequently fired the employee, Ono Ekeh, for using his work computer to make postings to the political Web site.

Ekeh, 34, said yesterday that he sympathizes with Hudson.

“It’s come to the point where disagreements about doctrine or ideology have made people consider the other side as bad people,” he said. “So it’s moved from ideological disagreements to personal disagreements, and that’s bound to get destructive.”

As I have been saying all along on the Kerry Communion story, there is more to the situation than politicians trying to grab undecided Catholic voters. It isn’t news to note that there are bitter divisions in this country between Roman Catholics and American Catholics, to use the kind of spin that would be common in conservative Catholic publications — such as Crisis.

* The Hudson story is a valid news story. But, you know what? The Ekeh story was a valid news story and one that cuts to the heart of the Catholic wars in this nation. Conservative Catholics tend to get mad when church employees spend their time promoting the cause of a liberal Catholic politician who has never missed an opportunity to support abortion rights. The bishops conference is Ground Zero for these conflicts.

So what we have here are two valid, important stories — both of which broke in the pages of highly partisan publications. Thus, the mainstream coverage is, in part, being shaped by reactions to the prejudices of the competing Catholic armies. This is what happens — think Clinton scandals, if you will — when news stories are shaped by their first incarnations in fiercely partisan media.

Just ask yourself this question: Would reactions to this story be different if it had broken, not in NCR, but in the pages of Newsweek, written by veteran scribe Kenneth Woodward, or in an Associated Press piece by Richard Ostling?

* So I am hoping that there is more coverage of BOTH of these stories, both the Ekeh story and the Hudson story. They are part of the same larger story, a story that I don’t think is wrapped up yet.

At the same time, let me note that the NCR (this is war, remember) told the worst possible version of the Hudson story, even if the most sordid and sensational details of the story were accurate and valid. It is, for traditional believers, crucial to ask if Hudson confessed his sins, paid the price and has been a different man since then. In this case, I think repentance is part of the story, including the story of Hudson’s marriage and the future of his family.

Reporter David D. Kirkpatrick of the “issues that divide conversatives” beat at the New York Times ended his report on the crisis with this angle, noting that in his book “An American Conversion,” Hudson had:

… discussed his “past mistakes” and “the role they played in my conversion through the grace and the forgiveness I have found in the Catholic Church.” At one point in the book, published last year, Mr. Hudson wrote about the cooling of passion in a long marriage. “I experienced, the hard way, that passion does subside, and I was foolish not to realize that the love that follows is better,” he wrote. “No doubt this led to unfortunate and destructive behavior on my part,” he added. “I am blessed that I have not gotten what I deserve.”

He concluded the book by recalling a romantic episode that took place a year before his conversion: “I was jolted by the sudden departure of someone I loved but who I had not treated well. The hurt was compounded by my sense of failure. I spent many months hoping to win her back but without any progress. I was to blame and I knew it.”

He wrote that in despair, he prayed to the Virgin Mary at his local parish, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “My prayers brought me both relief from my loss,” he wrote, “and a sense of forgiveness for my failure.”

Hudson has spoken out twice on these matters in recent days, first in a “hang a lantern on your problem” piece for National Review Online that tried to knock down some of the affects of the upcoming National Catholic Reporter piece. He also sent a letter to a Crisis e-mail list that was posted in one of the most serious Catholic niches on the World Wide Web, Amy Welborn’s “Open Book” blog. For examples of the threads that have spun out of this, click here or here.

Writing to Welborn, Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News (and friend of this blog) sent this sober reminder to his fellow Catholic conservatives. The bottom line: This is a news story, folks. Admit it. When shoes drop, they drop.

Powerful and charismatic older male violates his vows by taking sexual advantage of troubled, emotionally unstable young person, using alcohol. This is a familiar Catholic narrative of late, isn’t it?

I wish it weren’t so, but come on, y’all, if this were about a liberal priest, or involved two men, most of the people here would be calling for the wrongdoer’s head. I used to write for Crisis about a decade ago, and know Deal Hudson a little bit, so I’m not going to kick him while he’s down. This is an ugly and sad situation for his wife and children. I only want to say that it’s important for those of us who consider ourselves conservative Catholics remember not to be hypocrites when one of our own, so to speak, is revealed to have had feet of clay. Attacking the alleged motives of NCR and its reporter does not make the facts go away, or any easier to take.

Posted by: Rod Dreher at August 19, 2004 03:32 PM

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.therevealer.org Jeff Sharlet @ The Revealer

    I guess I’ve made clear my frustration with the mainstream press for ditching the story, but apparently not why I think they’ve done so. Not because of any conservative bias, but because of a lack of intellectual ability. If Hudson was a smarmy evangelical (relax: not suggesting all evangelicals are smarmy), they’d be all over this. But he’s a Catholic intellectual. Sex scandals they can understand; it’s the other part of his story, the nature of his political influence, that I suspect is too confusing. He doesn’t fit any archetypes.

    For the record, I didn’t mean to insult the Post’s Cooperman, but only to suggest that by putting it on A-6 the Post was underplaying the story.

    As for whether the NCR had an axe to grind: So what? If The Nation dug up conclusive proof that Dick Cheney was hiding Osama in his basement, would anyone dismiss the story as politically motivated? I tend to believe Feuerherd — his column on how he got onto the story is persuasive — but even if he was seeking vengeance, what does that have to do with the facts of the story?

    Ekeh, I agree, should have gotten more coverage. But it’s not as clear cut, since Ekeh didn’t have nearly as much power, and didn’t do anything nearly as bad, and didn’t lie about it, and wasn’t a public figure. Those are important distinctions, right?

    Lastly, I have fully embraced my new identity as the INCREDIBLE HULK in my latest Revealer post.

  • Keith Gottschalk

    Perhaps a fear of William Donohue has now began to stalk the mainstream media. And its Donohue, IMHO, who sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind on the Hudson issue.

    To wit: `The only question now is whether John Kerry and the DNC have finally got the message. When we exposed Mara Vanderslice as a Left-wing activist who cavorts with anti-Catholics, the Kerry camp silenced her as its Religious Outreach Director. When we exposed Rev. Peterson as a Left-wing activist who went into the U.S. Supreme Court on the side of atheist Michael Newdow to censor the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge, she was forced to quit her role with the DNC. The first hire may have been a mistake, but it is not credible to maintain that the DNC erred in hiring Rev. Peterson: they knew what they were getting and they knew what happened to Vanderslice, and yet they persisted anyway. ”

    Donohue’s body count is 2, the left strikes back and claims a victim of their own. Yes, folks, as a mainstream religion writer whose thinking is perhaps, outside the mainstream, that’s what I think this is all about — war by surrogates.

    Why the lack of coverage? Perhaps the mainstream media doesn’t feel comfortable piggy backing on an NCR exclusive, as expressed above. But maybe there’s a concern for whose ox might get gored in the echelons of access above the reporter-editor level. Just speculating, mind you.

    As for the Hudson allegations, I find it incredible that after all this time this story was out there the NCR chooses this moment to expose them in all their lurid glory? Please. Not that I don’t think it wasn’t a story that should have been reported (when it happened), but the timing is too coincidental.

    I think the real story not being written about here is the chill on religious people becoming advisors in partisan political campaigns. Want to advise Bush, Kerry or any other major political figure on the religious aspect/vote of a campaign? Only living saints need apply. This is pure hardball territory now (as Bob Dole reminded John Kerry recently) and claiming an affinity for the Divine is no longer any protection.

    Sort of like what Sean Connery told Kevin Costner in the movie “The Untouchables.”

    “If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way, because they’re not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead,” he says. “You wanna know how you do it? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?”

    Would I as a prominent religious figure want to step into this political maelstrom?

    Keith Gottschalk

    Faith and Values writer

    The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA)

    PS: Donohue’s faxes here, I suspect, are raising our paper costs.

  • Kathryn

    Keith Gottschalk writes: “As for the Hudson allegations, I find it incredible that after all this time this story was out there the NCR chooses this moment to expose them in all their lurid glory? Please. Not that I don’t think it wasn’t a story that should have been reported (when it happened), but the timing is too coincidental.”

    There are a couple problems with Keith’s complaint: As Feuerherd writes, it was not until he was already reporting on the Hudson profile that he learned of the Fordham events, and so the timing of NCR’s publication of the story has more to do with when they got the story than anything else. Also, when the events happened Hudson wasn’t the prominent political figure he later became (due to his resignation from Fordham, no less). I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but I doubt that all settled-out-of-court sexual harassment cases make it into print. Not to say they should or shouldn’t — that’s another debate — but the newsworthiness of this story is far greater today than it was then, because of the power and access Hudson was later given.

    Also, Kirkpatrick’s summary of Hudson’s memoir is misleading. The “past events” he refers to as partially leading to his conversion could not have been the abuse of the student; that occured four or five years after his conversion.

  • Rod Dreher

    Keith: Would I, as a prominent religious figure, want to step into this political maelstrom?

    Um, no, not if you didn’t want to become public the fact that you took sexual advantage of an emotionally vulnerable girl under your authority, and had sex with her while she was drunk and your wife was at home waiting for you unawares.

    That’s one amazing thing about this: that Deal didn’t have enough savvy to understand that if you have that in your past, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to have been given a second chance to rebuild your life and career, you don’t risk it by taking imprudent chances — such as aligning yourself closely and publicly with a highly partisan political figure in a bloodthirsty political environment.

    Keith again: I think the real story not being written about here is the chill on religious people becoming advisors in partisan political campaigns. Want to advise Bush, Kerry or any other major political figure on the religious aspect/vote of a campaign? Only living saints need apply. This is pure hardball territory now (as Bob Dole reminded John Kerry recently) and claiming an affinity for the Divine is no longer any protection.

    Oh come on, I’m sitting here at my desk watching a local news report on Jerry Falwell speaking out in favor of Bush at a Fort Worth seminary. Falwell has been aligned with GOP politicians for years. He has not, as far as we know, gotten a girl under his authority drunk and had sex with her in violation of his marriage vows and professional duties. I’d say that if you’ve led a pretty clean life, you have nothing to worry about. Most religious figures, and most people, I’d wager, have never stumbled as grotesquely as DH did at Fordham with that girl. And if they have, and want to keep it quiet, that will necessarily limit the public role they will play subsequently. It just stands to reason.

    Similarly, if Deal had remained content to be the publisher of Crisis, and not gotten full of hubris and become a politico, he would likely have gone to his grave someday with this Fordham story safely buried.

    Of course this is war by other means between factions within American Catholicism. The problem I have with my tribe (the Catholic Right) is that too many of us see it as only that, ergo the fact that the liberal National Catholic Reporter broke the story some obviates the facts reported therein. I simply cannot believe they would have been in similar high dudgeon had Crisis similarly outed some high-ranking Catholic who was John Kerry’s religion adviser.

  • http://www.therevealer.org Jeff Sharlet @ The Revealer

    Rod’s has been the most eloquent voice in this whole affair, which has now become much uglier than it had to be due to the incredible pretzel twisting of Deal backers and story hushers, and, most of all, those who cannot see any event in the world as unrelated to the campaign. It reminds me of sports fanaticism. Keith: What in the world does the campaign have to do with sexually abusing a drunken student?

    As for this being retaliation against Donohue for knocking down two Dems, that hardly seems likely. Donohue’s stature rises as Hudson’s plummets. He would have been in a sweet position had he not mouthed off about “drunks.”

  • amy

    One correction, tmatt: the Hudson letter was not sent to me and my blog – it was sent to all who are on the Crisis e-letter mailing list. I don’t think it’s generally put up on a web page anywhere, but anyone who’s on the list got it…maybe you could correct that impression in the post here?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Correction noted and made.

    And a note to Jeff/The Hulk: The key in the Ekeh case is not so much what he did — but the symbolism that he was working for the U.S. bishops when he did it. Come to think of it, that isn’t a mere symbol. At least, I predict there are some people in Rome who would consider that more than a symbolic issue.

    Also, my point about NCR breaking the story was not to downplay the facts reported. Not at all. My point is that when partisan things happen to valid stories, this can result in arguments about the SOURCE of the story instead of the facts. Again, like the early coverage of the sins of Clinton.

  • Keith Gottschalk

    If you wish to believe the timing of this article has nothing to do with a tit for tat political exhange by proxy, you’re welcome to that belief. It doesn’t pass the smell test with me — Feuerherd’s “revelation” doesn’t translate into a rationale for the timing and play devoted to the article. My suspicions remain. Hudson may not have been the political figure he later became (and he was still fairly unknown outside the beltway as a political player) but he was a rising star in academia at Fordham nevertheless.

    Rod: “That’s one amazing thing about this: that Deal didn’t have enough savvy to understand that if you have that in your past, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to have been given a second chance to rebuild your life and career, you don’t risk it by taking imprudent chances — such as aligning yourself closely and publicly with a highly partisan political figure in a bloodthirsty political environment.”

    Hudson’s reply to Ekeh’s firing seems pertinent here. When you play in the sandbox, after all. When a man implodes the way Hudson did at Fordham, do you expect a man with that ego and overwheening ambition to slink away into a small job for the rest of his life? He took a chance that this indiscretion would not cost him in the future — a chance that countless others like him have taken time and time again. Stay with Crisis when the White House comes calling? The ambitious always believe there are second and even third acts in American life. And even in this, the worst case scenario, Hudson’s loyalty will be rewarded with some other job. For people like him, its almost always worth the risk.

    To compare Falwell to Hudson is borderline ridiculous. Falwell has never served as a political staffer for any campaign precisely for the reason that he’s too polarizing a figure. Who I’m talking about is not the obvious media whores like Falwell but the Vanderslices and Petersons who largely work out of the media limelight — a big difference.

    Jeff: What in the world does the campaign have to do with sexually abusing a drunken student?

    On the surface, nothing. But the incident now revealed, used as a weapon of revelation, has led to the dismissal of a Bush campaign advisor. If you honestly don’t believe that there are backchannel routes that drop information tidbits in the laps of the William Donohues of this world (and certain journalists)for strategic release then nothing I say will seem plausible.

  • http://www.kellner.us Mark Kellner

    I’ll bow to Rod Dreher’s expertise and experience in matters Roman Catholic: I’m just way the heck on the outside, looking in. But while I understand Bro. Dreher’s assertion that bad news must be reported, even about our friends and ideological colleagues, what continues to distress me is the way in which such items are being reported. We don’t need the level of granularity that NCR offered. I just don’ think so. Dr. Hudson’s past could have been discussed without the soft porn scenario unfolded in NCR, for pity’s sake.

    There was a very, very long interval between the initial reporting of the Lewinsky matter, for example, and the exhaustive testimony about anatomy, events and stained articles of clothing. And THAT involved a sitting President accused of lying under oath.

    By contrast, the NCR/Hudson story transports the reader — prepared or not — into a corner of Dr. Hudson’s past he might have imagined dropped into God’s sea of forgiveness, as well as the confidentiality of a settlement agreement. Now it’s out for the world to read, and I keep wondering if there wasn’t a more sensitive (pace, John Kerry) way to have done that.

    kellneronline.blogspot.com

  • Elizabeth Josephine Weston

    Reading about the Deal Hudson story I am thinking about this fine review in Commonweal about two recent books, one about Joseph Califano and the other about Sargeant Shriver. The difference between the political and intellectual sobriety of these men and the sordidness of the current situation makes it all the more depressing. Theirs was a coherent Catholicsm — what we have now is personalized foolishness.

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php?id_article=889

    I also wonder why Deal Hudson was so outspoken about the bishops handling of the sex abuse scandals knowing how closely it mirrored his own past. I remember people commenting on the uncomfortable silence Sen. Edward Kennedy had to maintain during the Clarence Thomas hearings because of his own reputation vis-a-vis women. If you lack credibility, even if no one knows about it, it requires prudence and prayer rather than reckless taunting.

  • TSO

    I’m having a hard time figuring how Deal Hudson is more important than the New Jersey governor. A governor is an elected official who exercises quantifiable power over a state. An “advisor” is someone upon whom we can project any degree of power our minds want to. Thus Cheney is Bush’s brain and we assign great Machiavellian powers to someone who gets to shake the President’s hand first at Catholic events. If we believed in personal responsibility we’d know that Bush is responsible for what Bush does, not some obscure advisor (no Catholic I know outside of blogdom have ever even heard of Deal Hudson).

    We are increasingly defining the term “public figure” down. I don’t think the character of the guy who tells Bush’s chief of staff which Catholic cardinal to visit, or that pro-life issues are important in Catholicism, matters, except with respect to his own immortal soul.

    I’m not sure if the Ekeh story was newsworthy, but at least Ekeh didn’t get character-assassinated unless one considers voting for Kerry the same as adultery. Most people can find another job but a reputation is ruined forever.

  • Kathryn

    TSO, Hudson’s crime was not adultery. It was sexually abusing an incapacitated, emotionally damaged young woman under his care and authority. You can fixate on the sin of adultery all you want, but the real crime here was date-rape.

    And as for Hudson being obscure to many Catholics, well okay. But shouldn’t that make it stranger that someone so beyond the pale was chosen to represent a large, and generally more moderate, constituency?

  • Michael D. Harmon

    Psst! Would someone tell the NCR that I heard that a prominent Roman Catholic U.S. senator from a northeastern state was responsible for the death of a woman he was driving somewhere to have sex with her while he was married. Now he’s become a chief advisor and surrogate speaker for a Democratic candidate for president. And he has never paid any legal penalty for this hidden offense, either. (Oh, wait, I heard his driver’s license was suspended. That means it’s all OK, then. Sorry to have brought it up.)

  • Filpot Schwer

    In all fairness, as someone who was watching this thing develop minute-by-minute, Donohue dropped his “drunk” bombs after the Times reported the Deal story (and the Times did say that the incident occurred after she got “drunk”) but ^before^ the full story was reported in the National Catholic Reporter. That doesn’t make what he said gentlemanly, or right. But it puts it in perspective, if only slightly mitigating.

    And Mr. Sharlet, you get one thing wrong. Donohue and Hudson are old friends. Donohue’s response was an instinctive lashing out, coming to the aid of a friend under fire. Implying otherwise (“Donohue’s stature rises as Hudson’s plummets”) is way off base.

    And as for the Deal case receiving less press–look at the press where it matters. The Times may have had its story on Deal, but it had absolutely nothing on Mara Vanderslice or Brenda Peterson.

  • Ann L.

    Mr. Schwer, I’m unclear what you mean by looking at the press “where it matters.” Are you saying the offense of Brenda Peterson’s signing the “under God” petition is worse than Hudson’s abuse?

  • http://work.org John Heavrin

    If The Nation could prove Dick Cheney was hiding Osama in the basement, that has implications for national security (extremely good ones, actually, because it would mean we have him in custody rather than not knowing where he is and still trying to find him), and also, it would rightly be the end of Cheney. I can’t think of a thing Deal Hudson has ever done that has the slightest bearing on the security of this country or its protection or anything of the sort, except, arguably, politics. Half the Catholics in this country can’t stand Bush and will vote for Kerry, even though he’s unapologetically committed to maintaining abortion rights. So much for Hudson’s ability to get Bush any Catholic votes he wouldn’t be getting anyway. My layman’s opinion is that the secular press could care less about Hudson is because, after a bit of chortling, they realize that his “influence” was virtually non-existent. Somebody, or nobody, will take his place, and the Catholic share going to Bush will be what it would have been.

    To me, this is a story about what the Catholic press should be doing and not doing, and whether NCR should have the same standards as regular journalists. The guild-proud journalists all seem to be saying that maybe they would deign not to reveal the lurid details of Hudson’s private life, as long as he stayed sufficiently anonymous — but as soon as he embraced “hubris,” he deserved to be destroyed, and NCR was right to do it. Maybe if Feuerhard couldn’t get anybody on Hudson’s “side” to return his calls, he should have held the story, instead of concluding that, gee, even this guys friends can’t stand him. Bombs away!

    It was a hit piece, Rod, period, and it worked. You think Hudson “deserved” it and had it coming and should have expected it. I don’t. I also don’t think a “liberal” should be ruined in this fashion, and, sadly, I’m sure it will happen, probably pretty soon. It’s touching that you think Hudson’s terrible skeleton is so rare. And I’m sure that some will call it “following the story where it leads, we had no choice.” Of course NCR had a choice; are we to believe that the pieties of journalism demand this sort of thing? Before you tell me I know nothing about how journalism “works,” allow me to admit that.

    But I have learned a lot in the last week.

  • Rod Dreher

    Mark K. writes: “Dr. Hudson’s past could have been discussed without the soft porn scenario unfolded in NCR, for pity’s sake.”

    Y’know, I don’t think it could have. I didn’t like reading the sordid details, but they were important in the sense that they demonstrated cruel and predatory behavior. If it had been left at the level of “Hudson had sex with a student,” the reader may have concluded that there was an element of consensuality here, or that it was not as bad and as exploitative as it clearly was. The details matter because of what they say about the character of the incident and its professorial protagonist.

    I seen this over and over again in discussing the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal on the blogs. People naturally want to believe that what Father did was not as bad as all that, and using euphemisms like, “The priest molested the boy that night in the rectory” doesn’t have quite the same weight as, “The priest forced the boy to fellate him to orgasm as he said the Angelus and told the child he would go to hell if he breathed a word about it.” As a general rule in reporting these sexual abuse cases, it is absolutely necessary, I believe, that people be forced to confront the ugly details, because of the mind’s strong tendency to avoid facing the reality of what happened. You look at the way the files in the Archdiocese of Boston euphemized what Fr. John Geoghan did, and you see that the attempt to write around the salacious details of the molestation served as a way for those in a position of leadership to avoid having to deal with a situation they’d rather have ignored (and indeed did ignore).

    John Heavrin: “It was a hit piece, Rod, period, and it worked. You think Hudson ‘deserved’ it and had it coming and should have expected it. I don’t.”

    Hang on. I don’t say he “deserved” it. I do say that he should have expected it, and was foolish to have thought that he could get involved in secular politics at his level and not have it come out. His hubris, as much as the act itself, brought about this act of self-immolation. As someone famous said recently, you can’t be naive if you want to play in that sandbox.

  • Tom Harmon

    Rod,

    Do you think Hudson’s repentance, confession, and reconciliation with both the Church and his family should have been part of the story NCR put out? I think tmatt got that one right.

  • thecosmopolitan

    But shouldn’t repentance, confession and reconciliation begin with the victim and their family/community? So would you report his apparent failure to reconcile with the victim and their family alongside the mention that his own have forgivin him?

  • Tom Harmon

    Well, no. If you’re a Catholic, as Deal Hudson is and as the NC Reporter claims to be, you start with if Hudson’s right with God. Reconciliation with victim and community are critical, as well, but the most important thing is: Has he repented, confessed, been absolved, and done penance? The Reporter wasn’t interested in this most basic thing.

  • Christine

    I only want to say that it’s important for those of us who consider ourselves conservative Catholics remember not to be hypocrites when one of our own, so to speak, is revealed to have had feet of clay.

    I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. Or how about this–not reveling in the sin of detraction regardless of whom it concerns, or where you stand politically?


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