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Interview on Mother Angelica Live 1995

A few months after taking over Crisis Magazine in February, 1995, I was very fortunate to be invited down to Irondale, Alabama, to the EWTN studies, to appear on Mother Angelica Live.  It was this appearance that really started the steady growth of the magazine while I was its publisher and editor.  Mother Angelica was one of a kind, perhaps the most naturally funny person I have ever met, but, more than that, she was sharp and shrewd, able to cut to the bottom line on any subject that was discussed.  As I watched this, I remember how much she put me at ease, though I was very nervous before going on.  The moment she came in and sat next to me, I knew the show would go well.  And, I think, it did.

A Baptist Minister Becomes Catholic

This is my appearance on “The Journey Home,” an EWTN program hosted by Marcus Grodi, a marvelous fellow, by the way.  The description of my appearance on the network website was as follows:

As a child, Deal attended a Presbyterian Church at his mother’s promptings. In high school, after being witnessed to by a Southern Baptist friend, he accepted Jesus and joined the Baptist Church. After attending the University of Texas, where he was president of the Baptist student union, he enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary and later received his Ph.D. from Emory. While studying at Emory, he met a Catholic friend, who led him deeper into the Catholic tradition. He started meeting with a priest every week for two years and was finally confirmed a Catholic at the Dominican House in Atlanta, where Flannery O’Connor convalesced.

Mary’s Shadow and Protection

By Deal W. Hudson

Having never been to a ma­jor Marian shrine, I didn’t know quite what to expect. So on my way to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, I consciously put aside all preconcep­tions about what I should experience. I wanted just to let it happen.

Over the years I’ve become in­creasingly aware of the importance of this shrine, only a few kilometers from the heart of the city. The image of Mary given to Juan Diego through an armful of flowers holds immense significance for Catholics around the world—es­pecially in Hispanic regions. But Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Lady for all the Americas, and it was well past time for me to pay my respects.

Mexico City, if you’ve never been there, is filled with both the worst traffic and the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Each day there I marveled that people could remain so kind, so generous and smiling, when it took forever to drive even short distances. And yet I would return to the city just for the pleasure of spending time among them.

The shrine, when you first ap­proach it, appears as a cluster of old and new church buildings sitting on Tepeyac Hill, surrounded by the har­um-scarum sprawl of one of the largest cities in the world. Like most pilgrims I tried to visualize the moment nearly five centuries ago when this rocky hill stood far apart from the palaces of the Aztec empire.

The words I particularly kept in mind were those that Mary spoke to Juan Diego on the day he was avoid­ing her and seeking a priest for his dy­ing uncle, Juan Bernardino:

Listen, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little son. Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there any­thing else you need?

Among the many aspects of this story, this was the one most meaningful to me: How can any of us be so consumed by life’s tasks—even a task as impor­tant as tending a dying relative—that we forget to ask for divine help?

The shrine itself and the plaza that fronts it bear the stamp of Sev­enties utilitarianism in architecture, but once you enter the sanctuary that houses the sacred tilma (cloak), all those concerns are swept aside by the peace that descends upon the pilgrim. I arrived just in time to light my can­dles, ride the moving sidewalk under the tilma, and join the other pilgrims for Mass.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the sense of total comfort in an otherwise strange place. I had been advised by a bishop who loves the shrine to “ask for something big.” But Mary gave me something I didn’t ask for—an ease in prayer that was totally unexpected, as if something that had been clogging the lines of communication had been suddenly removed.

After Mass I went back down be­hind the altar for another look at the tilma but stepped aside to observe in­stead the faces of those pilgrims gaz­ing up at it. The radiance of piety transcends language and culture—its impact is universal. No wonder our Holy Father has been commending Marian pilgrimages from the earliest days of his pontificate. I’m sorry it took me so long.

I walked up the lovely ceramic-lined steps to the top of the hill and down to the gardens on the other side. But I didn’t want the solitude offered by the gardens; I went back to the plaza to look at the pilgrim faces and become one more face among them, transport­ed by the sense that nothing needs to be withheld from Mary’s care.

Published in Crisis Magazine, October 1, 2004

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

A Video Interview About Jacques Maritain

In 1993 James and Tyra Arraj interviewed me about the French philosopher Jacques Maritain as part of their excellent documentary, “Understanding Maritain: The Man Who Loved Wisdom.” I was teaching at Fordham University at the time and had been president of the American Maritain Association for several years.  The first book I had published was co-edited with Matthew Mancini, Jacques Maritain: Philosopher and Friend, Mercer University Press, 1987. Maritain, as I describe, had been central in my conversion to Catholicism in 1984. For those who want a solid introduction to Maritain, I can strongly recommend the Arraj documentary, which can be seen here.

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.

Don’t Call Me a Conservative Catholic Anymore!

By Deal W. Hudson

Labels in politics and religion serve a purpose: There are discernible groups and coalitions within and between the worlds of the Church and government. Words used as labels serve the purpose of enabling us to distinguish between one group and the other.

But I don’t want to be called a “Conservative Catholic” anymore. In the last few months, I’ve read two headlines beginning with the phrase “Conservative Catholic” which contained comments that have effectively made the label, if not meaningless, represent a group of Catholics who are now spreading the virus of an identity crisis.

First, there was a former editor of First Things who broke with Church teaching on homosexuality because of lessons learned from a gay friend who pressured him on the subject.

Then, on Tuesday, there came a story in the Washington Post quoting “Conservative Catholics” who have become critical of Pope Francis. The Holy Father is charged with not being “accurate” in some of his recent interviews with and comments to the media.

Having read and pondered these “controversial” statements, I’ve defended them — which is what “Conservative Catholics” used to do — and I’m prepared to explain all of them.

Take one example: Pope Francis made the comment that every person seeks the Good as he or she “conceives” of it. St. Thomas Aquinas said precisely the same thing.

The will is naturally led by the vision of the Good — meaning what appears desirable — towards mental and physical action. That vision of the Good may be wrong, or incomplete, as Pope Francis knows, but that is how the human person operates.

By pointing out that all persons seek the Good as they see it, he is providing all Catholics with the secret of effective evangelism: Start with how people “see things” and work on converting that, and you will reveal the wisdom and beauty of the Church.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit. That makes him a highly educated and intelligent theologian who knows about one thousand times more about the subjects of the Church, God, faith, and salvation than any of the media.

What’s remarkable about this Jesuit Pope, the very first, is that he speaks and acts in the spirit of true evangelism. He’s not an enthusiast, a cheerleader, or a screamer. Pope Francis is the embodiment of the New Evangelization that has never gotten off the ground.

Instead of spending our days policing, and fretting over, his statements, I suggest we sit at his feet and learn from him.

Published at Catholic Online, October 17, 2013