The Problem With the Bishop’s View of “Faithful Citizenship”

Every four years the Catholic bishops publish a document entitled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

No substantial edits have been made to this document since the 2008 version. The 2008 version of “Faithful Citizenship” contained several passages (Sections 34-37) that are capable of overly broad interpretation. Groups like Catholics United and Catholic Democrats cherry-picked the following passage from Section 35 for prominent display on their web sites and in their printed materials.

“There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” [emphasis added].

This passage was also cited in discussions of “Faithful Citizenship” held across the nation’s parishes in both 2008 and 2014 and is being used presently in the 2016 election. Anyone who objected to the implication of this passage could have been met with an equally confusing citation from the previous paragraph, Section 34, which states:

“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.” [emphasis added]

In other words, a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate as long as he or she did not intend to support his pro-abortion position. What is a person to say to that? No one is capable of judging another person’s intention. The practical consequence of this statement is clear: Catholics can vote for any pro-abortion politician they want — all they have to do is have the right intention.

“The following passage, Section 36, adds to the confusion about whether or not a Catholic voter can or cannot vote for a pro-abortion politician:

“When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation,may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.” [emphasis added]

A Catholic voter, therefore, can vote for pro-abortion politicians as long as they do not “advance” that “morally-flawed position” but would “pursue other authentic human goods.”  Could it be more obvious that this a loophole that completely subverts any obligation a Catholic might feel to avoid supporting a pro-abortion candidate?

These sections contain three loopholes allowing Catholic voters to support pro-abortion politicians:

1) If they do not intend to support that position (34), or

2) if there are offsetting “morally grave reasons” (35), or

3) if a candidate will pursue “authentic human goods” rather than the “morally-flawed” position he holds (36).

After positing these loopholes, how can the bishops expect Catholic voters to make sense of the following paragraph, Section 37:

“In making these decisions,it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.” [emphasis added]

Why should a Catholic voter feel the weighty obligation to oppose “intrinsically evil acts” when the bishops themselves provide three different loopholes to put that concern aside?

There is one question the bishops should have answered in the 2016 version of “Faithful Citizenship” but did not:

What are the “grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons that would justify a Catholic voting for a pro-abortion candidate?

Since the bishops have republished the 2012 version of “Faithful Citizenship” without changes, they are providing Catholic voters another carte blanche to cast their vote for any pro-abortion candidate they want. The incoherence of Sections 34-37 do not serve the building of a culture of life in our nation.



10 Ways Catholics Can Elect the Next President

Deal W. Hudson

The 2016 election will be decisive for the future of our nation. Eight more years of leadership such as we have witnessed under Obama will stamp our culture so deeply it would take a century to undo the damage.

What damage, you ask? Eight more years will bring an end to religious liberty. Expressing the Christian view of human existence will become the occasion of bureaucratic and legal censure and punishment.

The fuse will be ignited by those who defend the Christian understanding of homosexuality, but the ensuring explosion will extend along an entire range of issues from the meaning of marriage, public school curricula, freedom of speech, control of the internet, radio and TV programming content, euthanasia and, of course, abortion.

To put it bluntly, if the Democrats win the 2016 election the United States of 2050 will be completely unrecognizable from the nation into which I was born in 1949.

The generations who fought and even died against the tyrants of ideology — the reduction of the human person to vacuous materiality — will have sacrificed for nought. The tyrants won without firing a shot. They took control of the culture by taking over the leadership of our basic institutions — education, entertainment, journalism, medicine, banking, social services, and religion.

To have any chance of impacting the next election, which as I have written will be difficult, Catholics should consider the following lessons that have been learned by those of us who have been actively involved in successful and unsuccessful political campaigns on behalf of life, marriage, religious liberty, and the protection of those near to death.

These are not merely my personal recommendations but represent a consensus of Catholics who have been active in leading political, grassroots efforts on behalf of worthy candidates.

1. Promote Mass attendance: All the exit polling since the late ’50s shows that Mass-attending Catholics, not self-identified Catholics, are most likely to vote for socially conservative candidates who oppose gay “marriage,”oppose abortion, oppose euthanasia, support the military, espouse traditional values, support fiscal responsibility, oppose the growth of federal power, and look upon the United States as an “exceptional” nation. If Mass attendance continues to drop, Catholic voters will have less and less impact at the ballot box. Their voting pattern will lose its distinctiveness.

2. Maximize the likely voters: Outreach to Catholic voters should focus on maximizing the identification, education, recruiting, and actual voting of Mass-attending Catholics. Effort spent going after historically hostile or indifferent groups is a waste of time and resources. Self-identified Catholics vote with the general population, as do Catholic groups bound by ethnicity. Yes, Catholics need evangelization, but that’s a long-term project which cannot be completed by 2016.

3. Watch your language: Most Catholic politicians and activists sound like Evangelicals. That’s not meant as a criticism of Evangelicals but a criticism of Catholics who do not bring the concepts and diction of their own faith into the public square. It’s also a criticism of Catholics who think they have to sound like an Evangelical preacher to gain a following or create applause. Catholics speaking about politics need to develop their own effective political language and their own powerful, persuasive rhetorical models.

4. Don’t ask for permission from clergy: The Church teaches that the Catholic layperson has a specific obligation to participate in politics, to be political all the way to the grassroots. Our clergy and religious have an obligation to vote but do not have the same obligation to engage politics in a partisan manner. Catholics make the mistake of asking for permission to create groups or support candidates when asking permission is not required. Our clergy teach us the moral-social principles upon which our participation is based, but they cannot — and should not — become obstacles to lay participation in politics. (The only exception is in the case of ex-communication when a politician is “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin,” such as abortion; see Canon 915.)

5. Collect lists, stop waving fists: Too many Catholics confuse public complaining with political participation. They spend their time making impassioned comments at political rallies, or in religious meetings, about the state of the culture and the need to change our political leadership. None of these impromptu speeches gain any votes because they are “preaching to the choir.” The fury, however, can be an effective starting point of genuine political outreach, which includes list-building, volunteer recruitment, volunteer and voter education, door-knocks, messaging through media, and get-out-the-vote programs.

6. Realize Catholics play dirty: One of the hardest lessons to learn and accept is that Catholics in politics will play dirty. By that I mean they will lie about the faith, misrepresent its teaching, ignore its non-negotiable moral principles, distort the views of pro-lifers and other socially conservative Catholics, and will proclaim “Church teaching” for policies that have no authoritative standing in the “sacred deposit of faith.” We have responsibility to expose those lies in a timely manner to keep them from becoming embedded in the public consciousness.

7. Politics is about passion, not reason: Catholics will have noticed that the candidate who “tells it like it is” is not necessarily the candidate who wins. That’s because political outcomes are not determined by who tells the truth but who stirs the passions — wins the admiration — of the most voters. Voters vote, first and foremost, for the candidate they “like,” who they are “favorable” toward. Politicians and their supporters who do not get this are beaten from the start. Of course, Catholics should support a politician who tells the truth about human existence, but they should also either recruit likable candidates or convince the grouchy ones they need to smile more and frown less.

8. Take sentimentality seriously: Catholics, for good reasons, are a sentimental tribe. Any acquaintance with the last 200 years of Catholicism in America will appreciate the hardships of generation after generation of Catholic immigrants. And before that, the America of the Founders was not at all hospitable to Catholics, an anti-Catholic attitude that was still evident in the 1960 presidential election. This fact makes the passionate nature of politics even greater among Catholic voters. Candidates and activists need to tread carefully and, most of all, know who they are talking to when they talk to Catholics.

9. Master Catholic symbols: Catholics, as liturgical worshippers, are naturally alert and vulnerable to the power of imagery and symbols. For example, I was told some years ago, “never wear French cuffs when you speak to Catholic voters.” Good advice, such symbols only remind voters – even if they wear French cuffs themselves – of the Protestant elites who looked down upon their Irish, Italian, or Slavic grandparents. You will not believe the pains taken by candidates to have “collars” or “habits” behind them during their stump speeches. This is why it’s rare for an Evangelical political consultant to successfully manage Catholic outreach.

10. Happy warriors win, grumps lose: Politicians are in sales. Voters are the buyers. When you are selling, you don’t browbeat the buyer, you don’t sadden the buyer, you don’t demean the buyer. No, you befriend the buyer, meet his or her eye with a smile, learn his or her name, shake hands warmly, and talk about how buying your product will make life better. In short, be the kind of person they like and trust, who they can believe in. Anger, condemnation, self-righteousness and such attitudes and tones of voice may delight a small percentage of angry, condemning, and self-righteous voters, but it won’t win an election.

*This column is the personal opinion of its author and does not represent an endorsement of any political party or candidate by the Morley Publishing Group, Inc.

Published at, Mar 13, 2015


Did the Bishops Punish Archbishop Burke?

Deal W. Hudson

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Archbishop Raymond Burke (St. Louis) lost an election at the annual meeting of the U.S. bishops last week.

Over the past three years, Burke has assumed the mantle of the late Cardinal John O’Connor in pro-life matters, challenging fellow bishops to take stronger stances in the defense of innocent life.

Nominated as chairman for the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, 60 percent of his fellow bishops preferred his opponent. As bishops’ conference expert Rev. Thomas Reese noted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an auxiliary bishop defeating an archbishop for a conference chairmanship is “very unusual.”

Archbishop Burke’s credentials as a canonist are widely recognized. In fact, he missed the bishops’ meeting because he was in Rome as a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s highest judicial authority.

Burke has been a controversial figure since early 2004 when, as bishop of La Crosse, WI, he began to challenge pro-abortion Catholic politicians publicly on their reception of the Eucharist.

Shortly after moving to St. Louis as archbishop, Burke said he would deny Communion to Sen. John Kerry if he presented himself. Although his position has been backed up by 13 other bishops, Archbishop Burke was clearly straining the boundaries of “collegiality.”

Father Reese, former editor of America magazine, says the bishops were sending a message: “Most of the bishops don’t want communion and Catholic politicians to be a high-profile issue, and he [Burke] is seen as a man who’s pushing that issue. . . . Had he been elected, it could have been interpreted as endorsing his position.”

Archbishop Elden Curtiss (Omaha), Archbishop Sean O’Malley (Boston), and Cardinal Francis George (Chicago) went on the record denying that there was any message being sent by the bishops to Burke. And supporters of Archbishop Burke have no reason to regret the selection of Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the Chicago auxiliary, whose reputation and credentials are similar to that of Burke’s.

The question still in the air after the bishops’ meeting, however, is whether Burke is being punished for not backing down after the controversy surrounding him during the 2004 election.

In response to the Kerry and Communion controversy, the bishops formed a task force, headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to study the issue and present a report. That report, “Catholics in Political Life,” differed sharply with Burke, finding that each bishop could decide for himself in such cases.

Archbishop Burke did not back down. Early this year, he published an article on Canon 915 in Italian law journal Periodica de Re Canonica arguing that the McCarrick report was incorrect.

Burke said that a bishop’s interpretation of what to do in the face of a pro-abortion Catholic politician “would hardly seem to change from place to place.” For Burke, enforcing discipline must go hand-in-hand with teaching:

No matter how often a bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices, and at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow.

He gave the names of bishops with whom he disagreed: Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Roger Mahony (Los Angeles), and Archbishop Donald Wuerl Washington, DC. Just as it’s very unusual for an archbishop to be defeated by an auxiliary bishop in an election, it’s just as unheard of for a bishop to take issue with another bishop by name.

In his article, however, Burke spread the net even wider. He argued that any Catholic who administers Communion – even a lay person – is required to withhold it from Catholic politicians who know they hold positions contrary to Church teaching.

Burke has said publicly that he will not stop addressing this issue. In an interview with Catholic News Service shortly after the 2004 election, he said:

It’s funny because some people now characterize me as a fundamentalist, or an extremist . . . . But these are questions that are at the very foundation of the life of our country. We just simply have to continue to address them.

The archbishop of St. Louis has been true to his word. His article on Canon law formalized his objection to McCarrick’s report.

If Father Reese is right, the bishops are distancing themselves from a fellow bishop who kept controversy in the air, a controversy most of them would rather see go away.

The bishops’ own document from last week, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” was a powerful indictment of Catholics who participate politically without demanding an end to abortion. Archbishop Burke, though he was not at the meeting, and though he will not chair the canonical affairs committee, must be given some credit for the strength of the bishops’ corporate voice in this statement.

Published at, November 19, 2007

WARREN, MI - AUGUST 19:  Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius attends a "Women For Obama" town hall meeting at the Macomb County Community College August 19, 2008 in Warren, Michigan. Sebelius has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential running mate for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama.  (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Closing Ranks on Canon 915

Deal W. Hudson

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius received some good news last week when abortionist Dr. George Tiller was found not guilty of breaking state laws regulating late-term abortion. The relationship between Tiller and Sebelius would surely have played a role in her upcoming confirmation hearings had he been found guilty.

But Governor Sebelius got some bad news as well — something not noticed much in Catholic media or the secular press. The bishops of Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia, confirmed publicly they would uphold the declaration of her ordinary, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, stating that Governor Sebelius should not present herself for communion.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Archdiocese, Susan Gibbs, said Archbishop Donald Wuerl would expect Sebelius to follow Bishop Naumann’s request while in Washington. Joelle Santolla, spokeswoman for the Arlington Diocese, announced that Bishop Paul Loverde would expect the same while she was in Northern Virginia.

That Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde would back up Bishop Naumann in regard to the future Secretary of Health and Human Services is a significant development in the effort of some bishops to enforce Canon 915: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

This will send the message to other bishops that if they choose to pronounce members of Congress from their dioceses unfit for communion, their authority will be respected in D.C. and across the Potomac in Virginia. The ramifications are enormous: For example, if Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston stated publicly that Sen. John Kerry was in violation of Canon 915, he would not have been able to receive communion at Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass in Washington, D.C., a year ago. Rep. Nancy Pelosi would not have been able to celebrate her elevation to speaker of the House with a special Mass at Trinity College,
if Archbishop Neiderhauer had found her wanting according to the standard of Canon 915.

Some will argue that neither Archbishop Wuerl nor Bishop Loverde will attempt, through their priests, to deny Governor Sebelius communion. But this misses the point, and the significance, of how the combined statements of Bishops Naumann, Wuerl, and Loverde have created a new and more vulnerable situation for the pro-abortion Catholic members of Congress. As Archbishop Raymond Burke has explained, Bishop Naumann did not impose a “sanction” on Governor Sebelius; Bishop Naumann asked Sebelius, not the clergy, to apply Canon 915 to herself.

But if Sebelius were to receive communion in D.C. or Northern Virginia, it would likely generate a news story that would mushroom quickly, involving the priest who administered communion and his bishop. This is not news coverage that Sebelius, or the Obama administration, would want to deal with.

No doubt there are priests in both dioceses who would have little compunction about giving communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, but whether they want to get into a media-generated spat with their bishop over a high-profile politician is another matter.
A final point: Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde’s collegial response to Bishop Naumann destabilizes the relationship between pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their bishops back home. The question will arise as to why Governor Sebelius should be the only politician in Washington who has been called to account under Canon 915. What about the dozens of others in Congress who have a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record? What about Vice-President Joe Biden himself?

Will other bishops seize this opportunity to apply Canon 915 to politicians in their dioceses, knowing that Archbishop Wuerl and Bishop Loverde will back them up? Given the determination of the Obama administration and the Congress to roll back all restrictions on abortion, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Published in Crisis Magazine, March 30, 2009


Audiobooks, The Word Spoken

By Deal W. Hudson

Homer, the first great poet of the West, wasn’t a writer but a performer, with the dining halls of ancient Greece as his stage. Before the advent of written literature, the medium of poetry was dramatic utterance and song. Eyes were no more necessary to the enjoyment of words than they were to blind Homer’s creation of his epics.

Now, thanks to sprawling suburbs and lengthy job commutes, united with the digital age, the Homeric practice of listening to literature rather than reading it is back in fashion with the burgeoning business of audiobooks. Taped literature originated in 1932, when the American Foundation for the Blind created the Talking Book on long-playing records (themselves an innovation). Two years later, the Library of Congress introduced the Readophone, which could contain as much as two hours and 20 minutes of literature and music.

The modern “recorded book” was launched in a moment of glory in 1952, when Dylan Thomas recorded his “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” for Caedmon at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. This may still be the most nearly perfect recording of anything by anyone. Listening to “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and other recordings of Thomas reciting his own poetry-or his lectures, often delivered while he was intoxicated, will likely convert anyone to the recorded-book medium. The unmatched beauty of Thomas’ voice will stick in your memory and become the measure of everything else you hear.

Several other early “star” readers deserve to be mentioned along with Thomas in the audiobook hall of fame. Sir John Gielgud left a large legacy of recordings, from early Argo vinyl disks to readings of Pilgrim’s Progress and Brideshead Revisited on the Caedmon label. Unfortunately, Gielgud’s version of the Brideshead is abridged. Jeremy Irons, the star of the 1982 television miniseries version of Brideshead, has an unabridged version of Evelyn Waugh’s novel nearly as good. Jeremy Irons made splash some years ago with a complete recording of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita for Random House to complement his appearance as Humbert Humbert in the 1998 film version of that novel. The reading is a total tour de force, for adults only, of course.

The recorded audiobook, so convenient for automobile listening, had its beginnings in 1948, soon after Ampex started mass-producing the tape recorder. The first taped audiobooks were designed not for commuters but for blinded veterans of World War II. Philips produced its first mobile audiocassette, known as the 8-track, in 1963. By 1975, the smaller cassette had replaced the 8-track in most cars and homes. The biggest boost to recorded books came in 1979, when Sony introduced the Walkman, adding joggers and bus riders to its pool of listeners. Then came digital files that could be downloaded and stored, or streamed through, on personal computers, tablets, iPhones, and Androids. You can listen to an audiobook anywhere.

A sure sign that recorded books came of age was novelist-journalist Tom Wolfe’s decision to write the first stand-alone audiobook, Ambush at Fort Bragg (1997), read by Edward Norton (Bantam Audio). That same year, Audible came into being offering digital audio players four years before the iPod was introduced. In 1998, Audible created its first website for downloading books onto personal computers. Though struggling in the first few years, Audible has experienced a meteoric rise in visibility and sales. This growth was stimulated largely by the launching of Audible Air in 2005, making it possible to directly and wirelessly download books to PDAs (personal digital assistant) – no computer needed. Audible’s content has burgeoned to over 150,000 audio programs amounting to over 1,500,000 hours of programming.

I joined Audible in March 2003, almost 10 years ago, and have experienced its move into the wireless age. So it seems like an appropriate time to take stock. Here are all the books I’ve downloaded in the past decade, and if I have listened to them completely I have rated them in tiers from 1 to 6, with two additional tiers to indicated those I have not finished or those I plan to read in the future. That I did not finish should not necessarily be regarded as a lack of a recommendation because my lack of interest could have been due to my mood at the time. More than once, I have returned to a book I didn’t care for in the past and enjoyed it thoroughly, Proust’s Swann’s Way comes to mind – loved it the second time around. A good audiobook will remind that the origins of storytelling, of all fiction, are in the word spoken.

Before the tiers, may I first offer a few awards to:

Most Enjoyable: Frank Langella, Dropped Names, Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them
Most Deeply Moving: Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel
Best Memoir: William Maxwell, The Folded Leaf
Best Classic Novel: Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Montecristo, read by John Lee.
Biggest Disappointment: Tom Wolfe, Back to Blood
Best Self-Help, Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
Most Funny: Justin Halpern, I Suck at Girls
Most Laughs: Stephen King, 11-22-63: A Novel
Most Touching: Tony Bennett, Life is a Gift
Best American History: Winston Groome, Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans
Best European History: Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956
Best Celebrity Bio: William J. Mann, How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood
Biggest Scare: Reginald Hill, The Woodcutter
Most Gripping: James L. Swanson, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer
Best Poetry: William Shakespeare, Ages of Man, read by Sir John Gielgud
Best Performance: Hartley & Hewson, Macbeth: A Novel, ready by Alan Cumming
Best Portrait of the Present Age: Deborah Moggach, The Ex-Wives, a novel.

Tier 1: The Best: a great place to sample an audiobook if have been reluctant or uninterested.

1. James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice
2. Philip Roth, American Pastoral
3. Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel
4. Paul Collins, The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars
5. Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Montecristo
6. Tony Bennett, Life is a Gift
7. Steven Pressfield, The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great
8. Roger Kahn, A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ’20s
9. James L. Swanson, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer
10. Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
11. Neal Bascomb, Hunting Eichman
12. Stephen King, 11-22-63: A Novel
13. Robert Zorn, Cemetery John: The Undiscovered Mastermind Behind the Lindbergh Kidnapping
14. Margaret George,The Autobiography of Henry VIII
15. Winston Groome, Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans
16. Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
17. William J. Mann, How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood
18. Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956
19. Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone
20. Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fy: A Novel
21. Compton MacKenzie, Whisky Galore
22. Emma Donohue, Room: A Novel
23. Frank Langella, Dropped Names, Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them
24. Reginald Hill, The Woodcutter
25. James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime
26. William Shakespeare, Age of Man, read by Sir John Gielgud
27. James Lasdun, Give Me Everything You Have

Tier 2: Please read this: (Which also applies the tier above)

1. Anton Chekhov, The Short Stories, v. 1
2. Somerset Maugham, Short Stories, v. 3
3. Carl Hiaasen, Skin Tight
4. Guy de Maupassant, Short Stories, v. 1
5. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
6. William Maxwell, So Long, See You Tomorrow
7. Joe R. Lansdale, Sunset and Sawdust
8. Erskine Caldwell, Tobacco Road
9. Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
10. Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
11. Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
12. William Maxwell, The Folded Leaf
13. William Maxwell, The Chateau
14. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
15. James Agee, A Death in the Family
16. Michael Caine, The Elephant to Hollywood
17. Jess Walter, The Financial Lives of Poets
18. Max Hastings, Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945
19. Ford Maddox Ford, Parade’s End
20. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
21. John Green, The Fault in Our Starts
22. Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
23. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
24. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
25. Hartley & Hewson, Macbeth: A Novel
26. Rachel Joyce, Perfect: A Novel
27. Donald Dewey, James Stewart: A Biography
28. Donald Spoto, Marilyn Monroe: The Biography
29. Philipp Meyer, The Son
30. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
31. Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles: A Novel
32. Theresa Anne Fowler, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
33. Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
34. Justin Halpern, I Suck at Girls

Tier 3: A strongly recommended read:

1. Mike Waltari, The Egyptian
2. Nancy Mitford, The Sun King: Louis XIV at Versailles
3. Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
4. Elmore Leonard, Pagan Babies
5. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
6. A. J. Langguth, Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence
7. Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
8. Bob Rotella, Putting Out of Mind
9. Emile Zola, Therese Raquin
10. Marion Meade, Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties
11. Anthony Doerr, About Grace
12. Edith Wharton, False Dawn
13. Boris Akunin, The Winter Queen
14. Ernst Junger, The Storm of Steel
15. George Eliot, Middlemarch
16. Simon Sebaq Montefiore, Young Stalin
17. Multiple authors, The Chopin Manuscript: A Serial Thriller
18. Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, Book 1
19. Jane Harris, The Observations
20. Adam Carolla, In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks
21. Kenneth S. Lynn, Charlie Chaplin and His Times
22. David Thompson, The Moment of ‘Psycho’
23. Tony Horowitz, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War
24. S. J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel
25. Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin
26. Michael Hauge, Screenwriting for Hollywood
28. Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmerman Telegram
29. Carl Hiaasen, Strip Tease
30. John Dos Passos, 1919
31. Gillian Flynn, Dark Places: A Novel
32. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
33. Melvyn Bragg, A Time to Dance
34. Compton MacKenzie, Monarch of the Glen
35. Andrew L. Mellen, Unstuff Your Life: Kick the Clutter Habit
36. Thomas, Hardy, Wessex Tales
37. Selden Edwards, The Lost Prince
38. Devin McKinney, The Men Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda
39. John Banville, Ancient Light
40. Patricia Wentworth, Spotlight
41. Maggie Shipstead, Seating Arrangements
42. Sol Stein, Stein on Writing
43. Robert McKee, Story
44. Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
45. Michael Frayn, Skios
46. Julian Fellows, Snobs
47. Judi Dench, And Furthermore
48. Patricia Highsmith, Selected Novels and Short Stories
49. Medavoy & Young, You’re Only as Good as Your Next One; 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films, and 100 for which I Should Be Shot
50. Bart & Gruber, Shoot Out: Surviving Fame and (Mis)Fortune in Hollywood
51. Deborah Moggach, The Ex-Wives
52. Jason Zinoman, Shock Value
53. Julian Fellows, Past Imperfect
54. Wyn Craig Wade, The Titanic: Disaster of the Century
55. Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
56. Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
57. Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins
58. Tom Standage, A History of the World in 6 Glasses
59. Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie
60. Joe Lansdale, Edge of Dark Water
61. Donald L. Miller, Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought Against Nazi Germany
62. Ethan Mordden, The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of Movies
63. Classic Christmas Stories
64. Classic Christmas Radio Plays
65. Anthony Horowitz, The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery Novel
66. Elizabeth von Arnim, Love
67. Edward Ball, The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures
68. Diana Preston, Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love and Politics in the Ancient World
69. James Dickey, Deliverance
70. Jane Ellen Wayne, Clark Gable: Portrait of a Misfit George Saunders, Tenth of December
71. D. J. Taylor, Derby Day: A Novel
72. Robert Lewis Taylor, W. C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes
73. Holly Goddard Jones, The Next Time You See Me
74. Dan Schultz, Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West
75. Michael & Elizabeth Norman, Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March
76. Erskine Childers, The Riddle of the Sands
77. Emma Donohue, Landing
78. William Landay: Defending Jacob: A Novel
79. Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
80. Bram Stoker, Dracula
81. Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent
82. Alyson Richman, The Lost Wife: A Novel
83. C.V. Wedgwood, The ThirtyYears War
84. Tony Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, the War of 1812
85. Javier Marias, The Infatuations
86. Charles Bukowski, Hollywood
87. Michael Dibdin, Cabal: Aurelio Zen, Book 3
88. Scott Weidensaul, The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America
89. Fred Anderson, The War That Made America
90. Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin
91. Simon Winchester: The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
92. Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism

Tier 4: A worthwhile and enjoyable read:

1. Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
2. James Meek, The People’s Act of Love
3. Rumer Godden, The Greengage Summer
4. Thomas Hardy, Two on the Tower
5. Guy de Maupassant, Normandy Stories
6. Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat
7. Stendhal, Scarlet and Black
8. Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers
9. Yasunari Kawabata, Beauty and Sadness
10. Joanne Harris, Blackberry Wine
11. Cormac McCarthy, The Road
12. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage, v. 1 & v. 2
13. Crimes of Passions (various short stories)
14. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four
15. Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children
16. Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles
17. Tiny Fey, Bossypants
93. Elmore Leonard, Road Dogs
94. Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich
95. Jo Nesbo, The Redbreast
96. P. G. Wodehouse, The Adventures of Bertie and Jeeves, v. 1
97. Dennis Miller, Ranting Again
98. Michael Diblin, End Games
99. Noel Coward, The Noel Coward Reader
100. P. G. Wodehouse, A Pelican at Blandings
101. T. C. Boyle, The Women: A Novel
102. G. J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918
103. Stephen Simpson, Play Magic Golf
104. Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
105. Brett & Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness
106. Martin Cruz Smith, Polar Star
107. Graham Gardner, Inventing Eliot
108. Joseph Parent, Golf: The Art of the Mental Game
109. Bob Rotella, The Unstoppable Golfer
110. Patricia Highsmith, Ripley Under Water
111. Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies
112. Martin Sixsmith, Russia: Part One: From Rulers to Revolutions
113. Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
114. Mark Kermode, It’s Only a Movie
115. Barbara Comyns, The Vet’s Daughter
116. Andrew Miller, Pure
117. Sean Ryan, Be the Ball
118. Suzanne Fagence Cooper, Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin, and John Everett Millais
119. Robert Louis Stevenson, The Master of Ballantree
120. Charlotte Rogan, The Lifeboat
121. Alex Grecian, The Yard
122. David Morrell, The Successful Novelist
123. Robert Goddard, Caught in the Light
124. Wiley Cash, A Land More Kind Than Home
125. Elfriede Jelinek, Greed
126. Gregory A. Freeman, The Forgotten 500
127. Gregg Hurwitz, They’re Watching
128. Robert W. Merry, A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent
129. Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Renaissance World
130. Ian Burma, The Year Zero: A History of the Year 1945
131. Schmidt & Rendon, Writers Between the Covers
132. Eve Golden, John Gilbert
133. Christopher Isherwood, Prater Violent
134. G. J. Meyer, The Borgias: The Hidden History
135. Dan Callahan, Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman: Hollywood Legends (read the new bio by Victoria Wilson)
136. Mason Currey, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
137. Lawrence Durrell, The Black Book
138. Michael Paterson, A Brief History of Life in Victorian Britain
139. Peter FitzSimons, Nancy Wake
140. Reginald Hill, A Cure for All Diseases
141. John Creasey, The Toff and the Fallen Angels
142. Barbara Leaming, If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth
143. Stephen King, Joyland
144. Billy Crystal, Still Foolin’ Em
145. Matthew G. Lewis, The Monk

Tier 5: Should have been better:

1. Tom Wolfe: Back to Blood
2. Julie Andrews, Julie Andrews, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
3. Karen Russell, Swamplandia
4. Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan
5. John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History

Tier 6: Avoid

1. Nick Tosches, Me and the Devil: A Novel
2. Kyung-Ran, Tongue

Tier 7: Left unfinished:

1. Peter Cary, My Life as a Fake
2. Alexander Lernet-Holenia, Count Luna
3. Collins and Lapierre, O Jerusalem
4. James Shapiro, A Year in the Life of Shakespeare
5. R.D. Wingfield, A Killing Frost
6. William Murray, City of the Soul
7. Eleanor Updale, Montmorency
8. Halldor Laxness, Under the Glacier
9. Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time: First Movement
10. Daniel Suarez, Daemon
11. Margaret MacMillan: The Modern Scholar: Six Months That Changed the World
12. Michelle Moran, Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution
13. J. Randy Taraborrelli, Elizabeth (The Mann bio is so much better!)
14. Elizabeth Douglas Jackson, Caligua
15. Justin Cronin, The Passage
16. Alexander Soderberg, The Andalucian Friend: A Novel
17. Michael Korda, Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
18. John Connolly, The Gates
19. Glenn Frankel, The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend
20. Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy
21. David R. Gillham, City of Women
22. Alison Moore, The Lighthouse
23. James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
24. Cervantes, Don Quixote (this is just so long!)
25. John Boyle, The Absolutist
26. John D. McDonald, The Deep Blue Good-By
27. A.L. Kennedy, The Blue Book
28. Stephen Harrigan, Remember Ben Clayton
29. George & Weedon Grossmith, The Diary of a Nobody
30. Margaret MacMillan, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World

Tier 8: On my reading list for the future.

1. Mitchell Zuckoff, Robert Altman: The Oral Biography
2. LeRoy Ashby, With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture since 1830
3. George Simenon, Pietr the Latvian
4. Amy S. Greenberg, A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1946 Invasion of Mexico
5. Ross King, Leonardo and the Last Supper
6. Terence Stamp, Double Feature
7. David Bordwell, The Way Hollywood Tells It
8. Henry James, Portrait of a Lady
9. Andrei Makine, A Hero’s Daughter
10. Andrei Makine, Music of a Life
11. Robert Goddard, Past Caring
12. Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
13. Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now
14. Florian Illies, 1913: The Year Before the Storm
15. Bruce Courtenay, The Potato Factory: The Australian Trilogy, Book 1
16. Ivan Turgenev, Torrents of Spring
17. Charles Emerson, 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War
18. Edmund Crispin, Swan Song
19. Marisha Pessi, Night Film: A Novel
20. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
21. Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War

Published at Catholic Online, 2002.



Catholic Opinion by the Numbers: A Revealing New Poll

By Deal W. Hudson

Nanci Pelosi calls herself a conservative Catholic. Sure, she may be in favor of abortion, women priests, and homosexual marriages, but according to the House minority leader, that has no bearing on her life as a Catholic.

How does she define “conservative Catholic”? In a January interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Pelosi explains, “I was raised… in a very strict upbringing in a Catholic home where we respected people, were observant, [and where] the fundamental belief was that God gave us all a free will and we were accountable for that, each of us.”

Pelosi’s brand of Catholicism—one concerned with culture, roots, and a vague notion of “respect”—is fairly common in the ranks of Catholic politicians. Believing their faith to be merely a cultural heritage rather than a living guide, they are happy to call themselves Catholic at election time and then, once in office, behave in conspicuously un-Catholic ways.

Unfortunately, this is not a problem reserved for campaigning politicians. Catholics in all walks of life, prelate and layman alike, manage to rationalize the disjunction between the demands of their faith and the reality of their voting habits. In an attempt to shore up the distance between faith and practice, the Vatican published its Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life earlier this year. Put simply, the document points out that “a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals,” specifically including such divisive issues as abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual unions.

Whether they are simply unaware of this fact or choose to ignore it, studies have shown that Catholic voting trends on these issues tend to be no different from those of the general public. Such studies have led many pundits to disregard the possibility of a unified Catholic vote to which a politician could appeal with any sort of regularity. Catholics may account for a quarter of the nation’s population and a third of its voters, but these numbers alone aren’t enough to effect any sort of positive change.

However, what the pundits fail to recognize—but most any Catholic could tell you—is that there’s a significant difference between the habits of a practicing Catholic and one who, like Pelosi, keeps the title as a cultural reference only. The number of such “inactive” Catholics is relatively high, and their voting practices will not differ substantially from the population at large. Group all these Catholics together in an opinion poll and the results will be inconclusive at best, with no clear voice prevailing.

This realization was the driving force behind a survey conducted by Crisis in 1998. The poll asked self-identified Catholics questions on issues of politics, faith, and morals, and responses were broken down according to how often that person attended Mass in a standard month. The results were telling: The more often a person attended Mass, the more likely his answers were in line with Church teaching. After clearing away the various views of inactive Catholics, what was left was a relatively uniform group of Catholic opinions. With a solid core of committed Catholics, the survey proved that active Catholics were indeed a well-defined constituency. Based on an analysis of their past voting trends, these Catholics were found to be moving out of the Democratic Party, where they had long been entrenched, and instead becoming the swing voters in any given election.

As a follow-up to the 1998 survey, Crisis conducted another survey in November 2002 structured in a similar fashion with many of the same questions regarding political and moral issues (for the full results of the survey, visit our Web site at This second survey established once again that when it comes to voting and public opinion, the distinction between an active and an inactive Catholic is crucial. Even then, however, Catholics still have a long way to go in acting consistently on the teachings of the Faith.

The Laity

No matter how else they may disagree, Catholics of all stripes identify the decline of individual morality in America as a serious problem. Seventy-three percent of all Catholics and 79 percent of active Catholics acknowledge the reality of this crisis, while similar numbers attribute the problem to the negative influence of popular culture. It can hardly be surprising that there should be such consensus, especially given recent revelations about the sex-abuse scandal in the Church. If such an erosion of personal morals could be found among leaders of the Church—the very institution responsible for guiding the laity in matters of morality—then it’s no wonder that Catholics have little faith in society at large.

But while both active and inactive Catholics can agree on the existence of a moral crisis, the two groups have little in common when it comes to political legislation regarding moral issues. Take the question of same-sex marriage: Inactive Catholics are generally opposed to laws that would grant married status to homosexual couples (66 percent), while active Catholics would oppose such a motion much more frequently (75 percent). The same holds true for abortion:

Only 36 percent of inactive Catholics would favor “enacting legal restrictions on abortion in order to reduce the number of abortions being performed,” compared with 55 percent of active Catholics. In the case of human embryo cloning, not even a majority of inactive Catholics would outlaw it: 55 percent would allow cloning for medical research, while 58 percent of active Catholics would outlaw cloning in all cases.

One may ask how inactive Catholics could be so out of step with Church teaching. The more pressing question, however, is why aren’t active Catholics more in step with that teaching? Though the numbers may be higher than a similar response from the general population, the fact that only 55 percent of regular church-goers would favor restrictions on abortion is baffling. Indeed, it seems to fly in the face of everything one would expect from committed Catholics. How could it be possible?

It’s likely that had the question been worded differently to emphasize the morality of the issue rather than the legislative procedures surrounding it, active Catholics might have stood more firmly behind the Church’s teaching on such issues. A small comfort, however, when one considers the implications of holding such beliefs without the commitment to act on them. As a result, many Catholics have fallen into a sort of Cuomo Catholicism, one that is active in private worship but not in public practice.

This sad conclusion is consistent with the reaction of some Catholics to political and moral questions of a lesser magnitude that were also in the survey. Seventy-six percent of active Catholics are in favor of school vouchers, for example, and 68 percent would oppose forcing Catholic hospitals to provide contraceptives and abortions to its patients. Just as these Catholics seem hesitant to force their beliefs on society, so too would they resent the advances of society on their own institutions and beliefs. The “live and let live” approach sits well with such Catholics.

But the Vatican says that isn’t enough. The doctrinal note maintains that “there cannot be two parallel lives in [Catholics’] existence; on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual life,’ with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.” The dignity of life is not the private opinion of select Catholics but a truth that transcends human institutions. “Democracy must be based on the true and solid foundation of non-negotiable ethical principles,” the note states, “which are the underpinning of life in society.”

The Bishops

While it’s ultimately the responsibility of the laity to make the connection between beliefs and voting habits, blame for letting such behavior pass without comment has often been laid at the feet of the bishops. Members of the clergy are called to task for being conspicuously silent on the standard hot-button issues of abortion, euthanasia, and their respective counterparts. After reports of sexual abuse surfaced, however, similar silence was seen not only as irresponsible but morally reprehensible. The lack of action by certain bishops is jeopardizing the authority of all bishops.

Should they think otherwise, the bishops need only read the results of the survey. Only a slim majority of active Catholics-52 percent—is supportive of the manner in which the bishops have responded to the abuse crisis; inactive Catholics are much more critical, with only 35 percent being satisfied by the bishops’ response. There is no group firmly in the bishops’ corner; even large donors and those who attend Mass more than five times a month have a high rate of dissatisfaction. Given that much of their support—monetary or otherwise—generally comes from these groups, all bishops will likely feel a strain in clergy-laity relations as a result.

The approval ratings for bishops may gradually recover over time. A more disturbing and, perhaps, more lasting trend is that a large percentage of Catholics have less faith in the moral teachings of the Church as a result of the scandal. Sixty-six percent of active Catholics claim their faith is unshaken, but the fact that even 29 percent would now doubt those teachings is a serious issue (5 percent remained unsure). And unfortunately, those in the best position to reassure the doubters are part of the cause for doubt.

Bishops can do a number of things to stave off further disappointment and disaster. For one, they must remain diligent in their work to repair past cases of abuse. But the laity also needs proof that everything possible is being done to prevent these crimes in the future. A full 65 percent of all Catholics believe the abuse is still occurring today, so an appeal to forgiveness for past mistakes will not be enough to allay those fears. Visible, public steps must be taken at this point: Whether going into seminaries or going out to comfort the abused, members of the flock need to feel that their shepherd is leading the fight in this scandal, not being dragged along unwillingly.

Once again, the Vatican has clear directives for those in power: “A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good. Nor can a Catholic think of delegating his Christian responsibility to others; rather, the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives him this task, so that the truth about man and the world might be proclaimed and put into action.” The bishops must shoulder this responsibility if the laity will ever be encouraged to follow.

The President

With such emphasis placed on the laity’s involvement in the political sphere, it becomes important for politicians—Catholic and non-Catholic alike—to understand where the support of active Catholic voters is likely to be found. The political press core identified the 1998 poll as providing a valuable tool to then-Governor George W. Bush in his campaign for the White House. President Bush was able to appeal to specific concerns and interests of active Catholics, attracting support with his platform of “compassionate conservatism.”

The work paid off: Bush was elected and is currently enjoying fairly regular support from Catholics. Seventy-two percent of active Catholics approve of the job Bush is doing as president (well above the usual numbers for general public opinion), and 57 percent feel that he’s supportive of Catholic values. One could say that Bush has won the respect of active-Catholic voters, but there are still a lot of voters who need to be convinced of his dedication. It’s one thing to note that 22 percent of active Catholics don’t think he’s supportive of their values; the fact that 22 percent aren’t sure one way or the other shows that Bush still has a lot of room to persuade them.

Part of the reason for this ambiguity among Catholics may be the result of the president’s stand on the war in Iraq. In a departure from the usual trend, support is greater among inactive Catholics on the issue. Only 52 percent of active Catholics favored intervening in Iraq. Most likely, the words of the bishops condemning the idea of war had a great impact on active Catholics—a reality that could be problematic for a president who may be largely remembered for his stand against Saddam Hussein.

How, then, does one win back those active Catholics who did not support the president’s stance on the conflict? This subsection tends to be more disapproving of Bush’s job as president, with only 50 percent supporting him, and is more skeptical of his support for Catholic values (32 percent). There’s room for improvement, however: 27 percent of these Catholics are unsure of his commitment—a window of opportunity for the president to convince them otherwise.

Most active Catholics who opposed Bush on Iraq identify themselves as Democrats; they were more apt to vote for Al Gore in the last election than the general population of Catholics but consider themselves more moderate than anything else. They had the same ambiguity regarding the question of abortion legislation, and yet—curiously enough—would more readily identify themselves as pro-life.

Bush can appeal to these voters by raising the bar. These Catholics are attracted to the ideas of compassionate conservatism: work permits for immigrants, protection of the unborn, tuition vouchers for schoolchildren. They want government out of Catholic institutions and evidence that the president is fighting the general moral decay they see in society. The answer is not to vacillate on these issues in the hopes of attracting greater numbers but to demonstrate that he will be a champion for life and those policies he already supports. Bush cannot present himself simply as the lesser of two evils but must be seen as a proactive leader who will attain results.

Whatever choices the candidates represent, however, the responsibility ultimately returns to the laity. Without the dedication to vote their Catholic conscience, an army of committed Catholic politicians will be of no use. Catholics—those in public office and those who vote for them—need to be reminded of their duty to the universal truths taught by the Church and upheld by natural law, a responsibility that can never be shirked.

Published in Crisis Magazine, March 1, 2003.


How Catholic Universities Fool Their Donors

By Deal W. Hudson

During my eight years at Crisis, the conversation that most often reoccurs is the one about the fate of the Catholic university and college. It begins inevitably with an alumnus complaining about the latest anti-Catholic outbreak on the hallowed grounds of their former college campus and ends with their asking me for advice. I always respond by asking them whether or not they’ve spoken to the administration with their wallets, either threatening to end donations and/or actually pulling the trigger. Nine out of ten times they shake their heads sadly saying, “No, I can’t do that; it’s better to keep a place at the table or the problem will only get worse.”

Wrong answer.

Most college graduates are nostalgic: Carefree days filled with books, sports, and sporting around. It’s difficult to get hard-hearted toward all that, especially when you add nuns and priests who taught you the Faith and the lessons of life. When the experience becomes multigenerational, the bonding to a particular campus is almost irresistible. And Catholics are nothing if not loyal. History has shown that they’ll forgive anything—from a decade of losing football teams to a theology department full of professors eager to bash, or slyly subvert, the Church in the national media.

By staying in touch with these alums, I’ve been able to observe how their colleges try to soothe them and keep them assured of their Catholic identity. The most obvious scheme is for the development department to ask them for a targeted gift—one that goes directly to some program that seems to reinforce orthodoxy. So programs in Catholic studies, lecture series, or campus ministries are created and offered to skeptical donors as a way of sticking with the institution while—wink, wink—the tenured faculty retires or moves on and younger, more faithful professors are hired.

Such philanthropy may salve the donor’s conscience, but it does nothing for the Catholic identity of the institution except distract everyone’s attention away from its primary concern: what’s being taught in the classroom. What good does it do to pay for a tasty dessert when the main course remains undercooked? Does an occasional lecture from George Weigel change the character of a university? (Even Weigel isn’t that good!) Does taking a group of existing courses from different departments and lumping them together under “Catholic Studies” ensure the Magisterial position is being taught and defended in the classroom? No—in fact, such programs may compound the problem, since the course on feminist interpretations of the “three Marys” is no longer solely in the province of the English department.

Next in line is what I call the “Ex Corde Ecclesiae Shuffle”—quite popular among college presidents and development directors. Concerned alums ask how the implementation and mandatum are going only to be warned of “those people in the Vatican” who are afraid of an educated laity. The inside story of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the alums are told, is that mean old Cardinal Ratzinger was uncomfortable with the “academic excellence” of the U.S. Catholic colleges and universities and didn’t really understand the tradition of “academic freedom” in this country. Ex Corde Ecclesiae, they’re told, is just another attempt by the Vatican to control the U.S. Church.

Perhaps the Vatican is concerned about an uneducated laity…one that’s uneducated in the Faith. Indeed, the anti-Roman antagonism on Catholic campuses rarely shows its face directly; rather, blunt comments are limited to the ears of those cognoscenti who earnestly wish for a “progressive” successor to John Paul II. For outsiders, it’s there to be seen and heard in the body language, the silences, and emphatic focus on “peace and justice” issues.

Interestingly enough, it doesn’t appear that any of the major Catholic institutions that fit this profile have any financial problems, although some smaller and mid-size schools have struggled and gone out of business. It may be that the more established schools have passed successfully through the period where donor pressure might have produced reforms: It’s unlikely that graduates from the 1970s will care enough about Catholic identity to withhold their money. Sadly, it appears that Catholic schools since the early 1970s have been producing the perfect donors: well-educated in the world of commerce and able to make enough money to give it away, but uneducated in the Faith and incapable of knowing when their beloved alma mater has drifted from its mission.

Published in Crisis Magazine, May 1, 2003