Crisis Magazine 2002

An Interview with John Cornwell

By Deal W. Hudson

John Cornwell is controversial. The best-selling author of Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII has been widely condemned both for the quality of his research and for the alleged heterodoxy of his Catholic faith.

In his newest book, Breaking Faith: The Pope, the People, and the Fate of Catholicism, Cornwell opens himself up to still more criticism by taking on Pope John Paul II and the conservative current in the Church.

But if you think Cornwell is a mere toe-the-line theological liberal, you’re wrong. Deal Hudson sat down with him at his home in England to talk about Pius XII, liturgy, and the future of the Church.

Deal Hudson: When I first saw the title of your book, Breaking Faith, I thought it meant that the Holy Father had broken faith with the Church, but it has a very different meaning, doesn’t it?

John Cornwell: I wanted the book to have an arresting title, as well as a true one. Breaking Faith refers mainly to my own loss of faith, which happened in about 1965, when I was 25 years old, and took me away from the Church for more than 20 years. Although my book is not an autobiography, I wanted it to have a subjective, autobiographical dimension. When one writes about the faith, leaving out the phenomenology of personal belief, there is a danger that you’re telling people everything and yet telling them nothing. Sociological and journalistic accounts that attempt to be totally objective are always flawed. So Breaking Faith is certainly a survey—where the Church is at this time—using the Church’s own statistics, or the Vatican’s statistics, but it is also about one individual’s sense of the faith.

And I have to say that my own break with the Church was a crucial and positive thing in my life; it was providential, because I returned with a much stronger, more mature approach to belief. One would never advocate apostasy, but sometimes it may be necessary for those whose faith is immature and based on egotism and self-seeking.

In the first few chapters of the book, you describe the hurt you felt over the reception of Hitler’s Pope, the book on Pius XII and Hitler. Do you feel like your intentions or motives for writing that book were misunderstood?

I did not object to those who criticized the arguments and disputed the historical evidence. But I was dismayed by those who used ad hominem arguments, claiming that I was not a Catholic and disputing that I had started out intending to defend Pius XII. The facts are these: I spent an evening with some young Catholics who were arguing that the Church had sided with all the worst right-wing elements in the history of the 20th century. I did not believe that this was true. About that time, I had read a book by the historian Owen Chadwick called Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War, which seemed to me to be an important defense of Pius XII’s conduct during the war—certainly the best to date.

But Chadwick’s book was very academic—an uninviting sort of book.

It seemed to me that if I took that as a basis and I did the whole of Pius XII’s life, including his undoubted growth of spirituality, his youth, it would provide a riposte to the young critics I had talked to. But that’s not the way it worked out. As I went through the documents, I got a completely different picture of him. I had to revise my opinion of Owen Chadwick’s work. After the book came out, a segment of the Catholic media simply focused on whether I was lying about being a Catholic, making me out to be part of an almost demonic conspiracy to undermine the Church. Ronald Rychlak, for example, has written almost a whole book about how I was a liar and apostate.

In Breaking Faith, you have a chapter about coming back to the Church after 20 years and being horrified by the liturgies that you experienced. I was surprised when I realized this chapter could have been published in Crisis. You write about the dumbing-down of liturgical music and the banality of the “me-ism” in hymns. Yet you also seem to be struggling to accept the way God may be speaking to people through this form of music, though you find it unpleasing. Where do you stand on that question at the present time? Do you still grudgingly accept it or feel like it’s just not your cup of tea?

Well, what really concerns me about liturgy is the Mass itself. It’s not so much the translations I oppose or the music accompanying it; it is that the Roman missal has been undermined in a way that aids this general process of Pelagianism in the Church, robbing us of our sense of unworthiness and also robbing us at the very heart of the Mass of the sense of the Trinity.

You mean as in, “Lord, I am worthy to receive you”?

Yes. So I have to make that the starting point. It’s not a question of taste in music, although I must say that I deplore the dumbed-down jauntiness and egotism of much that passes for Church music, or even the loss of dignity and elegance. My greatest concern is the loss of the repetitions and the doxologies, which exemplify the truth of the Holy Trinity. I have to say I am deeply depressed about it, because I don’t know how, when, and where that will be rectified.

Conservatives believe those you call the “progressives” are trying to make being a Catholic easier for people. They do this by allowing people to measure Catholic issues by a personal standard. In doing this, liberals want to lower the bar, lower the standards, of both belief and action. I detect a tension between the higher standard for liturgy that you would like to see and your insistence that the Church become more inclusive and more participatory.

Surely, the inclusive, participatory Church doesn’t imply a destruction of the traditional liturgy. This was not envisaged by the Second Vatican Council.

Let me give an example. You tell a lot of poignant stories about people who have been divorced, and they don’t want to get an annulment, so they are excluded from partaking of the Eucharist. You seem to be suggesting that this is a barrier that should be removed. Now, isn’t that an example of lowering a standard and thereby making people who don’t want to go through the annulment process seem OK with where they are?

You are right of course. I guess we can’t have it both ways. But we are living in very difficult and confused times within the Church itself. A very large proportion of Catholic marriages founder: It is the way the whole of our culture and society is drifting. But are we right to use annulment as a form of divorce by another name? There are, I should think, hundreds of thousands of people who get annulments even though they know that they were married. Some 60 percent of all annulments in the Church occur in the United States. This can’t be right. It is beginning to look like a cynical exercise in legalism and suggests that perhaps we need a new theology of marriage and annulment.

I must confess that I feel muddled, as do many Catholics, because part of me feels very firmly that the Eucharist is a litmus test of our Catholicism. I believe that those Catholics who do not go up to the Eucharist because their situation is not right in terms of marriage—remarried divorcees, for example—are acting as witnesses for other Catholics. Part of me agrees with that. But part of me also knows, and especially from the research I did for Breaking Faith, that there are millions of Catholics drifting away from the Church because of sheer spiritual inanition. I do think that compassion and love and sympathy have got to reign, because it’s such a prodigious problem involving millions of people across the world who are being lost to the Church.

I am conscious that this is a muddled answer. But I hope that I make myself clear about one thing: Receiving the Eucharist is a huge privilege. If one’s personal situation, or marriage situation, is not right, being deprived of the Eucharist is a form of desert spirituality; it can be a positive thing. But not all of us are capable of seeing it in that light, and it worries me that so many millions of people are drifting away.

The thrust of your new book, if I understood it correctly, is that under the pontificate of John Paul II, there has been almost a parallel phenomenon. On the one hand, John Paul II has tremendous personal appeal, both to Catholics and to non-Catholics, and in this sense, the Church has benefited from his pontificate. But on the other hand, in terms of the infrastructure and management of the Church, it has been a negative experience because of the centralization, the management style—the micromanagement style—the multiplication of strictures on bishops. Do you think that those conservatives who read this entirely differently simply have a fundamental blind spot when it comes to that second issue?

We could argue forever about the issue of centralization and collegiality in the Church—whether we have the balance right. I’m not a Church historian or a theologian; I’m just trying to make a contribution from the periphery to a debate. And it’s a debate that has so many dynamics.

For example, much of my thinking on these questions comes from the work of Henri de Lubac, the Jesuit theologian who inspired much of the thinking and direction of Vatican II. And yet, de Lubac turned out by 1970 to be one of the sternest critics of the progressives, and in a curious way, he’s probably right. It’s just absolutely undeniable that people went shooting off in all kinds of damaging directions. I guess that we’ll still be arguing about the balance between collegiality, subsidiarity, and centralization of Vatican II in a hundred years’ time.

But the point I tried to make in my book on Pius XII is, I hope, a valid one for discussion. Excessive centralization, I argue, weakened a powerful German Church during the 1930s, rendering it weak in the face of Nazism. Contrast that with the strength of the local German Church during the Kulturkampf 60 years earlier, which took on Bismark and won. Think, too, of the strength of the local Church in Poland through the grassroots power of Solidarity. These are issues we need to discuss and to debate openly within the Church, and I hope that I have at least made a contribution.

Published in Crisis Magazine, March 1, 2002

Bad Times in Nazareth

By Deal W. Hudson

The angel Gabriel announced the birth of Christ at a town called Nazareth. Most people know that—it could be a $4,000 question on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

What most people don’t know is that the largest church in the Middle East stands at the site: the Basilica of the Annunciation. Within a few feet of that sacred site, Islamic extremists are trying to build a mosque with the support of the Israeli government.

Nazareth is an epicenter of Arab power in Israel: 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab and mostly Muslim. An extremist Muslim party called the Islamic Movement began controlling the city council in 1999. That’s when the trouble started.

In preparation for the thousands of millennium pilgrims, the Christian mayor of Nazareth, Ramez Jerayseh, began building a plaza in front of the basilica. To create more open space, a small and unused Muslim school was knocked down, which led to an Islamic backlash and a movement to build a large mosque next to the basilica.

There is no religious justification for this structure a mosque already exists at the site along with several others throughout the small city. The attempt to build this one amounts to nothing less than an act of religious intimidation against Christians.

Astoundingly enough, the Israeli government gave permission for the cornerstone to be laid in November 1999. Exactly why is something of a mystery. Some have suggested that the Israelis are cynically manufacturing a conflict between Christians and Muslims (a conflict that would tip the Christian West more favorably toward Israel). Whatever the reason, the construction was moving forward until international pressure brought it to a halt on January 10.

Pope John Paul II almost canceled his 2000 visit in protest. President George W. Bush put the Nazareth mosque on the table during his March 2001 meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Dozens of religious leaders—including Yasser Arafat and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith—have issued protests against the building, and an International Coalition for Nazareth has been formed.

Israel’s political leaders are obviously pondering the cost of all this. On the one hand, they want to appease the Arab electorate by supporting the Nazareth mosque. On the other, they know the possible fallout among Christians in the United States—especially evangelicals. Visits to the Holy Land have enormous significance for all Christians, but for evangelical Protestants, who have no other pilgrimage sites, the Holy Land is it.

Tourism to Israel was down 55 percent in 2001 due to the fear of terrorism. Anger over the Nazareth mosque will not help. Perhaps the Israeli cabinet will wisely follow through with plans to find an alternate site for the new mosque. Moshe Fox, the minister of Public and Interreligious Affairs of the Israeli Embassy, told me that a committee assigned to look for an alternate site has not yet found one.

Meanwhile, the government is reaching out directly to its evangelical tourist base. On January 26, the Washington Post published an article describing how Israel’s U.S. embassy is promoting tourism to the Holy Land. They’re willing to pay for 30 top evangelicals to visit Israel and endorse tourism there. On the list are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, Tim LaHaye, and Janet Parshall.

In addition, there’ll be “Israel Solidarity Days” in 100 cities from February to March where evangelical leaders will urge their brethren to visit Israel for a “solidarity visit.”

It would be an awkward situation, at best, for Americans to enjoy the Holy Land on Israel’s dime when the government is allowing (or possibly encouraging) extremist Muslims to intimidate Christians and create hostility and division in a historically peaceful city.

In the meantime, Israel will be sending a letter to the 100,000 largest evangelical churches and a postcard to 350,000 others urging their members to visit Israel.

It would be nice if the Israeli government received 450,000 letters saying, “Our deepest wish is to visit the land where our Lord Jesus was born, lived, died, and was resurrected. And when we visit the sacred city of Nazareth, where Mary heard the voice of the angel Gabriel, please make sure we can do so without hostility or hindrance. A place of worship and prayer should not be transformed into a political weapon.”

Imagine the response to that.

Published in Crisis Magazine, March 1, 2002

Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev

By Deal W. Hudson

Mikhail Gorbachev was the final president of the Soviet Union, serving from 1985 to 1991. His policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness) led to the end of communism in the USSR and the birth of a new, democratic Russia.

Currently, he heads the Gorbachev Foundation, an international think tank. He sat down with Deal W. Hudson in his office in Moscow, under-neath a large portrait of his late, beloved wife, Raisa.

Deal W. Hudson: The United States and its allies are now at war with terrorism. How do you see that proceeding?

Mikhail Gorbachev: Even as we’re witnessing a new euphoria from the victory over the Taliban, we have to state firmly that resorting to bombing of entire countries and peoples each time we battle with terrorism is absolutely unacceptable. We need to decide this on a case-by-case basis. There are economic, financial, and other means to go about combating this threat.

Do you think, in some cases, the same objective can be achieved through nonviolent methods?

Yes, of course. I was talking to Margaret Thatcher when she called for NATO strikes against Serbs in Bosnia. I asked her why she didn’t use this method of bombing in Belfast with all the problems with the IRA in northern Ireland—even when she narrowly escaped the bombing in a hotel. Why was it all right to bomb the Serbs? I saw her on the TV screen, and she was saying, “Bomb them, bomb them.” My answer was very harsh: I told her not to resort to violence.

What would you suggest?

Recently, I did an interview with a German newspaper in which I pointed out that there are many other nonmilitary options available. I was one of the first to suggest going the financial route. My proposal was to take ten banks that offer support to terrorist groups and revoke their licenses. You can be sure the next day 120 percent of the other banks would change their practices. When the newspaper ran the article, the headline said, “Gorbachev wants to revoke licenses of German banks.” [Laughter]

I understand you met with former President Clinton recently?

Yes, I met President Clinton in Madrid. My relationship with President Clinton was quite strained, if not downright tense. Of course, it was not because of Monica Lewinsky. I was highly critical of his foreign policy. He is guilty for the fact that the U.S. has wasted those ten years following the end of the Cold War.

What should he have done? How did he waste those years? Do you mean against terrorism?

I think he missed out on opportunities to develop a new world order. I discussed this at length with the president of the United States, George W. Bush. I think [the United States and Russia] should have worked more on the NATO issues and the issues of European security. Following the end of the Cold War, little had been done. I think Mr. Clinton, as a freshman in foreign politics, was spending too much time on the little details, and as a result, none of us was ready for the challenges of globalization.

So [Mr. Clinton and I] were the two principal speakers at the Madrid conference, and Mr. Clinton delivered a very interesting address. Put bluntly, he was rather self-critical. I asked, “Why bother with self-criticism? You’re interested in the poverty issue, and something must be done about it.” He said, “It wasn’t really me who caused the growth of poverty, but I didn’t do very much to address it.”

Are you encouraged by the strong relationship between President Bush and President Putin?

Very much so. It would be good if no one paid attention to those who criticize Bush in the United States or those who tend to criticize Mr. Putin in Russia. Mr. Putin has great support among the ordinary people, but some scholars and intellectuals who cater to the party interests of ruling elites try to criticize him. We shouldn’t only talk about the need

What kind of mechanisms do you have in mind?

Take NATO, for example. Russia, together with NATO, is addressing some of the really critical problems of today, and Russia’s contribution to this process is much bigger than that of all those aspiring states who want to join NATO. And it’s going to be this way in the future. If we consolidate this strength, I think we will all benefit. It’s not necessary that Russia join NATO; the main thing is to have a mechanism of cooperation between Russia and NATO. This mechanism should give Russia equal footing not only in the decision- making process but also in discussing all those issues.

Recently, my old acquaintance and friend, Mr. Colin Powell, came to Moscow and said yes, we should give Russia a bigger role with NATO, but we shouldn’t give it the right of veto. I told the secretary of state that he’s moving too fast and that he should warn his allies not to give in. The president should know that if Russia will participate more in decision-making in NATO, then NATO would be guaranteed not to make mistakes in the future.

Putin has the same stance that we had in Malta during our meeting with Mr. Bush: We don’t consider our countries to be enemies. But America does have to understand that just as you have interests—vital interests—that we understand, we have ours as well. If there’s dialogue, if there’s a mechanism, we’ll discuss issues and find mutually beneficial solutions. If NATO is really ready for a partnership, it couldn’t find a better partner than Russia.

Some people say that the United States and Russia are natural allies. Do you agree?

Yes. Objectively speaking, they should be allies. It’s significant that today we can speak of a partnership between the two—that we could be allies. We see both the Russian and American sides working in this direction, So, you are correct.

But there’s work to be done right now. If we don’t consider seriously all Mr. Putin’s proposals regarding domestic and foreign policy, we may miss another chance—because, you know, these proposals are really far-reaching.

Right now, we see new challenges, new problems. We were discussing the problems concerning the anti-terrorist coalition—the war on the Taliban. Of course we’re sure the United States will win this war. Following this victory, there will be euphoria, and we will forget about everything we’ve just gone through. We’ll forget about the main challenges, about what we should really be doing.

You speak of the changes between Russia and the West. What are some of the changes you’ve seen in Russia itself? What were some of the challenges you faced as president?

I’ve often been invited to speak about the transition from totalitarianism to democracy. I think it’s a very interesting subject. In our case, we were all learning to pronounce this term “private property,” and it was almost like a second revolution. In each of my speeches, the members of the Politburo would look for words that in some way or another might be understood as critical of socialism. Those, they tried to replace. You must understand, by 1985, 90 percent of all the Soviet population was born under socialist rule after the October Revolution. They knew nothing of power, private property, and so on. So the main obstacle for Russian progress is our set of preconceptions. Our friends in the West wanted to think that because Gorbachev declared freedom, democracy, pluralism, glasnost, and so on that everything would change overnight.

But for now, without an efficient legal system which is truly able to enforce federal law, Russia will not be able to get back on track with democratic reforms.

How do you see your legacy? What will the history books say about your leadership of the Soviet Union?

There was a very interesting poll conducted by the All-Russian Poll Center. The results of this poll were wonderful. Everyone is for reform now, but they’re arguing about whether we ever needed to start perestroika at all. Forty-two percent of the people think that we needed to start perestroika and 45 percent say we shouldn’t have. This 45 percent who say that we shouldn’t have are mainly senior citizens. So the most active, young, middle-class part of the population say that it was worthwhile.

Another peculiar feature was that even those respondents who said that it wasn’t worth starting perestroika at all say that they are for pluralism—pluralism of ideas, pluralism of parties, pluralism of ideology, and religious confession. So even if they didn’t think perestroika was a great idea, 60 to 80 percent say they’re happy with the changes it brought. Even those who voted against perestroika in this poll—they say that those benefits are good. They support those benefits.

I’m especially encouraged by the fact that 80 to 82 percent of all those respondents, when asked what kind of Russia they’d like to see in the future, say that they want a free, democratic country. So I think I’ll live to see that day. Mine is the usual fate of reformers: Either we get killed or our contribution is acknowledged only 50 years later.

Published at Crisis Magazine, February 1, 2002

On Being Divisive

By Deal W. Hudson

Every group has its code words. These words serve an important social function they enable the members of the group to deliver a harsh judgment on others without accountability. In the Catholic world, when someone is called “divisive,” it means he is too conservative to be trusted. Those who are “divisive” threaten the “unity of the Church” by raising questions about the loyalty of its leaders to its teachings. Strange, isn’t it?

Not everyone understands the code, but not everyone is supposed to. The code serves to protect those who don’t want to be troubled by troubling questions. The code kept Church leaders from answering questions about the growing influence of active homosexuals in the priesthood. When Catholic publications such as Crisis raised this question, they were labeled “divisive.”

If Church unity must be protected from the Church’s teaching, then what kind of unity do we have? It is the kind of unity that keeps priests from reminding their parishioners of the Church’s position on birth control or homosexuality, the kind that allows a college to call itself Catholic while its faculty consistently misrepresent the Church’s teachings.

This arrangement may be appropriate for a big-tent political coalition. Parties form coalitions in order to achieve a majority vote; if they excluded everyone who doesn’t affirm every plank in the platform, they’d lose. But is this the kind of unity the Church should be seeking—a unity preoccupied with numbers? Such is the pseudounity of those leaders who don’t want the “divisive” influence of sound Church teaching to embarrass cafeteria Catholics.

Some will say, quite rightly, that the unity of the Church is first of all a unity in Christ—a person, not a principle. They will argue that faith is a personal journey rather than the intellectual acceptance of a creed and moral teachings. “Pastoral care” thus requires that Catholics should not be made to feel less Catholic for the rejection of this or that teaching.

Some, in fact, may use pastoral care as an excuse to ignore the content of the faith, but the moral dimension of the spiritual life cannot be dismissed. The question remains whether we will continue calling all Catholics to a full recognition of Catholic teaching. This type of evangelism—an evangelism directed to those already in the Church—risks the very divisiveness that most of the present leadership abhors. Dissent is so often encountered and so rarely challenged that is has been normalized. It begins to look imprudent—that is, divisive—even to remark on it. At least those who dissent within a political coalition are more honest about it. And political leadership rarely fears invoking the platform to pull coalition members into line.

Looming very large for our bishops is the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood. This issue will test their willingness to discuss the real causes of the sex-abuse scandal. Whether they are ready to meditate seriously on the intersection of homosexual orientation as an “objective disorder,” homosexual acts as morally evil, and the vocation of the celibate priesthood remains to be seen.

Given the obvious state of affairs in our priesthood, anyone who pushes these questions will likely be shoved aside as a divider. To borrow a phrase from St. Thomas Aquinas, now is the time to distinguish in order to unite. There is no real unity in the Church as long as its people are deceived and its teaching ignored.

Published in Crisis Magazine, September 1, 2002

After 15 Years-Adoption: A Love Story

Note: Cyprian Joseph Hudson will be graduating from high school on June 18, 2016. The doctors who examined him after he arrived in the US over fifteen years ago told us that he would never get that far.

By Deal W. Hudson

I was relaxing in my favorite armchair and watching golf when my daughter, Hannah, strode into the room. “Dad,” she said, “we need to have a serious talk.”

“Okay,” I replied, turning toward her.

She frowned. “You’re going to have to turn the TV off.”

“Oh.” I tapped the remote control. This was serious.

Almost automatically, she began. “Dad, I don’t really want to be an only child. I think we should adopt a baby brother.”

Silence.

After picking my jaw up off the coffee table, I found my voice. “Where did this come from?” I asked. “It’s kind of out-of-the¬blue.”

She shook her head. “Not really. I just don’t want to live the rest of my life without any brothers or sisters. What would happen to me if something bad happened to you and Mom? I’d be alone.”

Sure, I understood what she meant…intellectually. My own mother was an only child and had always warned me against letting Hannah become one. Still, here I was, approaching 50. Hannah was becoming a teenager, and I was thinking more about financing her college days than decorating a baby’s room. I was comfortable, but I also felt stretched to the limit with running the magazine and trying to make a graceful trek through middle age. Another child just wasn’t part of the plan.

“Let me think about it,” I said. It was the best I could do at the moment.

Hannah wouldn’t be turned away so easily. She moved her lobbying efforts to my wife, Theresa, who is not only younger but also wiser in these matters. I don’t know that she was necessarily won over by Hannah—in fact, I suspect she’d been thinking about adopting all along. She just hadn’t told me.

That soon changed.

When they approached me together, I really felt the female pressure. Let me point out: My household is almost exclusively female. The only male soul mate I have is a white Bichon Frise named Willie who caves in instantly to anything our overstrung female standard poodle, Darcy, demands of him. And needless to say, Musette, the cat, isn’t exactly in my camp either.

I was standing against the full phalanx of female power—my wife, my daughter, and several members of the animal kingdom.

Hannah began the negotiations, “Dad, Mom and I have come to a decision: We want to adopt a baby brother.”

We? I turned to Theresa. She smiled weakly and nodded in agreement.

This was going to be harder than I thought.

I put on my toughest face and asked them if they were prepared for the demands of an adopted child. “Hannah, you know this will mean less for you; you’ve had everything to yourself for a long time—all your parents’ attention and your own time and space to do what you want. You’d have to share everything, including us.”

She didn’t even flinch. “This is my brother we’re talking about here. Of course I won’t mind sharing.”

“You’d also have to split the inheritance,” I offered, a little sheepishly. That got a serious eye-roll from Hannah.

Fine. It was time for the big guns. I turned to my wife. “With Hannah going into seventh grade, you were just starting to get a little freedom during the day to do what you wanted. Do you really want to give that up?”

She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “I just always saw myself with more than one child. I don’t feel like that’s all there is for me as a parent. Besides, it’s the best thing for Hannah.”

They didn’t shrink from my questions, and frankly, I felt like a jerk asking them. But I know my family—we have a habit of diving into projects before counting the cost. This time I was going to make sure everything was out on the table.

So, with their arguments concluded and their eyes searching for my answer, it was time for me to render my decision: I said I’d think about it.

The following week, as I was still “thinking about it,” I walked past Hannah’s room, peeking in as I passed. What I saw floored me. There, beside her bed, my daughter was praying the rosary—for her brother!

Now, don’t get me wrong. Hannah is a strong Catholic. She has gone to the local parish school since first grade and knows her faith. But she’s never been outwardly pious. That’s why her prayer stopped me cold. If she’s praying for her brother, I thought, then her brother must really be out there. Somewhere.

I walked into the kitchen, told Theresa what I had seen, and asked, “How do we get this adoption started?” She smiled. “The paperwork is on my desk.”

Finding the Other Hudson

Theresa started her adoption inquiries immediately. She first called Bill Pearce, who was then the head of the National Adoption Council. He gave her some good leads, including an enthusiastic recommendation for the Small World adoption agency in Nashville, Tennessee. Two Baptists, Jim Savely and Jim Savely Jr., run Small World, whose excellent services eventually helped us to find Hannah’s unknown brother.

But we wanted to check out the Catholic agencies first. Unfortunately, that’s where we hit a brick wall. Of all the groups Theresa called, the Catholic organizations were notable only for their rudeness and red tape. The staffers at Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., offered nothing more than clipped one-liners to her questions. This wasn’t exactly the kind of approach we needed in dealing with such an important and intimate process.

So we turned back to Bill Pearce’s recommendation. Small World had been working in eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Because of our combined ages, Theresa and I had decided to look into an overseas adoption. We initially considered adopting in the tiny country of Moldavia because of its friendly attitude toward Christian couples looking for children. Later, we turned to Russia when we learned that more children were available and that things would move faster.

The process of adopting overseas is arduous and expensive. After finding the agency and deciding on the place and age of the child, you must be fingerprinted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and fill out an 1600A form that opens a file at the INS. Then you start what’s called a “home study.”

The home study—conducted by a licensed agency—is a state requirement that determines a parent’s financial and psychological fitness to adopt a child. It costs about $1,800. Once this has been completed and approved—about three months from start to finish—the INS passes on an approval letter to the country from which you are adopting. Agency fees are about $7,000 for a foreign adoption, and the country fees for eastern Europe run between $10,000 and $12,000. The one-week trip adds another $5,000 to the total, plus what my wife calls the “a la carte charges” such as the cost of translating your documents into a foreign language.

All told, this was going to be an expensive venture.

Our INS letter, sent to Moscow in July 2000, was good for one year. But in August we got some bad news: President Vladimir Putin stopped all international adoptions until new regulations could be put in place to safeguard the children. Our adoption ground to a halt. For how long, we could only guess.

Cyprian

After hearing nothing from Russia for months, Jim Savely called to tell us about Cyprian, a four-year-old up for adoption in Romania. It was mid-November. If we said yes, we could have a child by March.

We really hadn’t planned on an older child; we’d been looking for a boy between one and two years old. From everything we’d read and heard, we knew that the younger the child, the less likely he was to have been hurt by his surroundings or lack of nutrition. And like everyone else, we knew the horror stories about Romanian orphanages.

But by then, Jim had a good feeling for us and for what we wanted. He assured us that Cyprian was in excellent health and was a perfect fit for the Hudson family. Pictures would follow, he promised.

In spite of our trust for Jim, we were skeptical. about our situation: We’d gone from considering an anonymous one-year-old boy in Russia to a specific four-year-old in Romania. It was all very sudden.

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That changed the next day when the photo arrived. We looked into the face of a smiling boy with remarkably big eyes—Omar Sharif eyes, I called them at the time. Cyprian radiated well-being. Nothing about him seemed beaten-down or deprived. He looked extraordinarily alive, and we couldn’t wait to get our arms around him. This was our boy, the one Hannah had been praying for. No doubt about it.

The trip was set for March. We painted Cyprian’s room blue and decorated it with an airplane motif—he’d be seeing a lot of airplanes on his trip to America. Showers were held; clothes and toys collected. Everything was ready when word arrived that there would be yet another delay: The Romanian legislature had changed the laws regarding adoption, and our legal papers had to be returned to the judge for another signature.

We waited again. The delay by the Russian government was disappointing, but we were glad the adoption procedures were being cleaned up and that the children would be safer as a result. But the delay by the Romanian legislature came as a blow. We kept looking at Cyprian’s picture, trying to imagine what he’d really be like. And was he safe and being taken care of?

We didn’t know.

As summer approached, we had no idea when we would be traveling. Airfares were getting higher, and seats, especially four in the same row, would be hard to book. Matt Wray, my associate publisher, tried to keep me cheered up by scouring the Internet and sending me cheap airfare rates to Bucharest.

In mid-May, the green light came: We had an appointment with the Romanian judge on June 21, and later that day, we would meet Cyprian. Theresa bought the tickets—four in a row—immediately. She also invested in a new digital videocamera, which I thought was a bit overboard. But what the heck! This was an event we’d want to remember.

Shortly after our plane touched down, we heard that Romania, like Russia, was suspending international adoptions on that very day. We were there just under the wire!

Our Romanian host, Tudose Diaconu—a man I fondly nicknamed “the Deacon”—met us at our hotel in Bucharest. He was an attorney and former government bureaucrat who made the wheels turn in the courts and agencies that control adoption. He spoke excellent English and dressed in impeccable European fashion.

As we learned the next day, he also liked to drive fast.

The road to Galati, where we were to meet the judge, was two lanes all the way. We passed at least a dozen horse-drawn gypsy carts. Our driver, urged on by the Deacon, drove the way I did when I was a college student trying to get from Austin to Lubbock for a Friday-night date. The countryside passed in a blur as we swerved between horses and cars, blazing our way. Thanks to much prayer, we arrived safely.

Happily, the judge who would decide the adoption didn’t change his mind when he met me. Of course, he didn’t smile at me either. No matter. He gave us Cyprian’s passport.

We were ready to meet my new son in Bucharest, but there was something I needed to do first. Galati is the town where Cyprian, we were told, had lived from birth with a foster family. I wanted to meet the family. The Deacon tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted. This was important.

The apartment where he’d lived was pleasant enough, by Romanian standards. Still, it had a cell-block quality that made me sad. How remarkable it was that the smiling boy in the photograph could have spent so many days in such surroundings. He must be a pretty resilient character, I thought.

From the foster mother, I got another bit of unexpected news: Cyprian hadn’t lived with her for three and a half years, as we’d been told. Cyprian had only been with them a year. He had actually been raised in a Galati orphanage. My stomach dropped out. Life as a Romanian orphan is a hard one, sure to leave long-term scars. I told the Deacon I wanted to see the orphanage. He said we couldn’t because of all the bad publicity Romanian orphanages had been receiving from the media. It could be dangerous.

But I wasn’t leaving Galati without seeing the place where my son had spent the first three years of his life. Seeing that I was stubborn, the Deacon sighed and nodded his head.

We arrived at what looked like a concrete bunker surrounded by a tall, gray fence. Behind a rusting iron gate, I could see an asphalt playground—consisting of nothing more than the asphalt. Really, it looked more like a prison than an orphanage. Visitors were obviously not welcome.

Being impulsive, I jumped out with the video- camera and started filming the buildings. I was suddenly surrounded by a horde of curious children, crying to have their pictures taken. Their excited voices attracted the orphanage security guard, who started running toward me. The Deacon, a quick-thinking and sensible man, grabbed my elbow and pulled me back into the car. As we zoomed away, I wondered if anyone would ever be back to save all those beautiful children.

Preparing for the Big Moment

In Bucharest, Theresa and Hannah, were ready for our meeting with Cyprian. A Bucharest physician and his wife had been kind enough to take care of our son for the past month. He welcomed us warmly and seated us in the living room of his upper-middle-class house.

“I’ll get him,” he said.

Sitting alone, Theresa, Hannah, and I looked at one another knowing life was about to change in a big way. Would Cyprian be ready to leave this place, never to return? We were excited…and nervous. There wasn’t much talk.

Cyprian was rubbing his eyes when he came in. He’d just been napping. I was surprised by how small he was—the large personality I saw in the photograph had made me expect a bigger child. Theresa took the first turn trying to give Cyprian the stuffed bear we’d carried from home, but he wasn’t interested and stayed close to his foster father, hiding his face behind the man’s leg. Small talk didn’t seem to work either; it was an emotional stalemate, and we all felt awkward.

A green balloon lay nearby, and the foster father, seeing our discomfort, had the good idea of throwing it to Cyprian. He immediately tossed it back, and the ice was broken. His face went from a shy neutral into a laughing drive: Around the room he followed the balloon, from me to Theresa to Hannah. We all shared in the game and were a family from that moment on.

As we were getting into the car, Cyprian grabbed my sun-glasses and put them on his face, laughing and smiling, just like the big-eyed boy in the picture. We pulled the car onto the main drive and turned back to wave a last time to his foster father. The kind man had tears in his eyes.

We had one last appointment before things were made official: A doctor had to approve Cyprian’s health. When we arrived for our meeting, I had one very simple task: to keep Cyprian from destroying the doctor’s office while we waited. It was much harder than it sounds. Believe me. Still, chasing Cyprian around was great. I already loved him, and this made running around after him okay with me. Losing control and getting out of my comfort zone felt pretty good. I was smiling so hard my face hurt.

After the physician examined Cyprian, she turned to me and said, “You have come in time for this one.” I’ve often wondered what she meant. I can only assume that she’d seen other children who had suffered the ravages of Romanian orphanages and knew about the recent moratorium on adoptions.

Cyprian kept up his fast pace as we returned to the hotel. I imagine it was highly entertaining for the staff to watch the American dad chase his four-year-old Romanian son across the lobby on the first day of their lives together.

We spent another three days in Bucharest, and thanks to Archbishop Sohu, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Romania, we learned more about that remarkable country. Supplied with an introduction, I phoned the archbishop to ask for a meeting. I was excited to meet the man who, since becoming a bishop in 1984, had been such a strong leader of Romanian Catholics under communism. After an initial interview, he invited me and my family back for dinner.

As we ate, the archbishop told us that Romania has about two million Catholics—roughly 7 percent of the population. He oversees two thriving seminaries serving more than 300 students. Catholics maintain a friendly relationship with the dominant Orthodox faith in the country. In fact, he recalled that Orthodox leaders were shocked at the enthusiastic reception given to John Paul II during his 1999 visit.

After dinner, the archbishop brought out gifts for our family, including a rosary for Cyprian. He put his arms around our son and prayed the Ave Maria in Romanian. Yes, we are very blessed, I thought.

Home With Our Son

We left Romania the next day, wishing we could bring a plane full of children like Cyprian home to the States. Romania is a beautiful country, with an attractive and charming people, but it will be many years before it recovers from decades of Soviet control and the corruption of the post-Soviet government.

For my part, I’m grateful my family has taught me once again the lesson of the “gift of self” that our Holy Father has so often mentioned. It hasn’t been all sweetness and light: Hannah feels the loss of attention, Theresa is often run ragged, and I’m learning every day how much harder it is to raise a boy than a girl. But it’s worth it. All of it.

Cyprian Joseph Hudson was baptized a few months ago here in Fairfax, Virginia. It was what’s called a “conditional baptism” because there’s no way to know whether he received the sacrament as a baby. His godfather, Tom Murray, had to do the honors of holding Cyprian over the baptismal font because his dad was recovering from an emergency appendectomy.

“Chippy,” as he calls himself, didn’t flinch as the water rolled off his brow. He handled the baptism just like he has everything else: as if he had always been with us, as if being a Hudson had been in the cards all along.

First published in Crisis Magazine, February 1, 2002.

A Portrait of Catholic Clergy

By Deal W. Hudson

In a survey of 1,854 Catholic priests, the Los Angeles Times has provided a fascinating—and troubling—report on the state of the priesthood. The poll tells us that our priests are more satisfied with the priesthood than is generally assumed but lack conviction about central moral teachings of their Church.

The Los Angeles Times poll was the most extensive survey of Catholic priests since its last poll in the mid-1990s. Questions were sent out to 5,000 priests, a representative sample of the nation’s 45,382 Catholic clergy. The questions were comprehensive, covering fundamental attitudes toward Catholic teaching, the sexual-abuse crisis, and the leadership of Pope John Paul II. Partial results can be viewed at http://www.latimes.com; the Times promises to release the full results at a later date.

The good news is that priests are not demoralized in the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal. Ninety-one percent of all respondents report being satisfied with their way of life as a priest. Those who think celibacy is a negative factor for priestly life should note that only 2 percent of all priests regard celibacy as “not relevant to [their] priesthood.”

As many Catholics have surely noticed, younger clergy are much more faithful to the magisterium than priests from the baby boom generation. In the poll, four in ten priests under the age of 41 described themselves as conservative while three-fourths said they are “religiously orthodox.” Younger priests evince more appreciation for the Holy Father, his moral teachings, and the magisterium of the Church in general.

But, not surprisingly, among Vatican II–generation priests between the ages of 42 and 59, 51 percent support the ordination of women, 72 percent say Catholics can disagree with Church teachings and “remain faithful,” and only 60 percent say John Paul II’s moral views are “about right.”

The results of questions about homosexuality in the priesthood were mixed but telling. Thirty-one percent of those ordained within the last 21 years said there was a homosexual subculture at their seminary. Reports from older generations of priests were markedly lower. Sixty-seven percent of all respondents said they were definitely heterosexual, while 28 percent reported being either somewhere in between or definitely homosexual (5 percent refused to answer).

While many of these statistics reflect what we might have already assumed about the state of the American priesthood, some of the numbers in the poll are shocking. For years we have been saying that the Catholic laity would be better off if only their priests would teach them. As it turns out, many priests do not themselves accept the moral teaching of the Church on culture-of-life issues. Take, for example, the following numbers:

• Only 71 percent agreed that abortion is always a sin.

• Only 59 percent agreed that committing suicide if suffering from a debilitating disease is always a sin.

• Only 49 percent agreed that homosexual behavior is always a sin.

Is it surprising that a large part of the laity dissents from the Church’s moral teaching when the clergy themselves don’t believe it? No wonder we don’t often hear homilies on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia—many of our priests lack a firm conviction that these acts are intrinsically sinful. It is possible that by using the word “sinful” rather than, say, “wrong,” the Times invited a confused response; as they are formulated, the questions seem to elide the important distinction between personal culpability and objective evil. Perhaps the low numbers reflect an appropriate hesitation on that point. But it is also possible—and all too likely—that they reflect the popularity of situational ethics, which has nothing to do with Catholic moral theology.

“Cafeteria Catholicism” evidently exists among the teachers of the faith as well as among those who learn from them. But we shouldn’t despair quite yet. After all, perhaps the most important fact about this poll is that these numbers are actually better than the ones from the Times’s earlier poll. I have no doubt that this is in part due to the tenacity of the Holy Father in his commitment to speak the truth at all costs. The other good news is that the fervor and fidelity of our young priests is helping to rejuvenate the Church across the country. Let’s hope this trend continues.

Published in Crisis Magazine, December 1, 2002

A Portrait of Catholic Clergy

Deal W. Hudson

Published December 1, 2002

In a survey of 1,854 Catholic priests, the Los Angeles Times has provided a fascinating—and troubling—report on the state of the priesthood. The poll tells us that our priests are more satisfied with the priesthood than is generally assumed but lack conviction about central moral teachings of their Church.

The Los Angeles Times poll was the most extensive survey of Catholic priests since its last poll in the mid-1990s. Questions were sent out to 5,000 priests, a representative sample of the nation’s 45,382 Catholic clergy. The questions were comprehensive, covering fundamental attitudes toward Catholic teaching, the sexual-abuse crisis, and the leadership of Pope John Paul II. Partial results can be viewed at http://www.latimes.com; the Times promises to release the full results at a later date.

The good news is that priests are not demoralized in the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal. Ninety-one percent of all respondents report being satisfied with their way of life as a priest. Those who think celibacy is a negative factor for priestly life should note that only 2 percent of all priests regard celibacy as “not relevant to [their] priesthood.”

As many Catholics have surely noticed, younger clergy are much more faithful to the magisterium than priests from the baby boom generation. In the poll, four in ten priests under the age of 41 described themselves as conservative while three-fourths said they are “religiously orthodox.” Younger priests evince more appreciation for the Holy Father, his moral teachings, and the magisterium of the Church in general.

But, not surprisingly, among Vatican II–generation priests between the ages of 42 and 59, 51 percent support the ordination of women, 72 percent say Catholics can disagree with Church teachings and “remain faithful,” and only 60 percent say John Paul II’s moral views are “about right.”

The results of questions about homosexuality in the priesthood were mixed but telling. Thirty-one percent of those ordained within the last 21 years said there was a homosexual subculture at their seminary. Reports from older generations of priests were markedly lower. Sixty-seven percent of all respondents said they were definitely heterosexual, while 28 percent reported being either somewhere in between or definitely homosexual (5 percent refused to answer).

While many of these statistics reflect what we might have already assumed about the state of the American priesthood, some of the numbers in the poll are shocking. For years we have been saying that the Catholic laity would be better off if only their priests would teach them. As it turns out, many priests do not themselves accept the moral teaching of the Church on culture-of-life issues. Take, for example, the following numbers:

• Only 71 percent agreed that abortion is always a sin.

• Only 59 percent agreed that committing suicide if suffering from a debilitating disease is always a sin.

• Only 49 percent agreed that homosexual behavior is always a sin.

Is it surprising that a large part of the laity dissents from the Church’s moral teaching when the clergy themselves don’t believe it? No wonder we don’t often hear homilies on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia—many of our priests lack a firm conviction that these acts are intrinsically sinful. It is possible that by using the word “sinful” rather than, say, “wrong,” the Times invited a confused response; as they are formulated, the questions seem to elide the important distinction between personal culpability and objective evil. Perhaps the low numbers reflect an appropriate hesitation on that point. But it is also possible—and all too likely—that they reflect the popularity of situational ethics, which has nothing to do with Catholic moral theology.

“Cafeteria Catholicism” evidently exists among the teachers of the faith as well as among those who learn from them. But we shouldn’t despair quite yet. After all, perhaps the most important fact about this poll is that these numbers are actually better than the ones from the Times’s earlier poll. I have no doubt that this is in part due to the tenacity of the Holy Father in his commitment to speak the truth at all costs. The other good news is that the fervor and fidelity of our young priests is helping to rejuvenate the Church across the country. Let’s hope this trend continues.