The USCCB, Deal Hudson, and the Monday morning conference call

By Bryan Cones| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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InsideCatholic.com has this week's new attack on the U.S. bishops' conference, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), and the rest of the Catholic social justice infrastructure that are becoming the daily bread of the Catholic blogosphere. As usual, the attack comes in broad strokes, employing guilt-by-association tactics that accuse the USCCB of being involved with groups that "advocate abortion and same-sex marriage." Never forgotten is the mention of two groups that were defunded by CCHD because of problematic ties, along with other "smoking guns," though always forgotten are the literally hundreds of other organizations that have not been defunded.

Now Hudson is training his sights on the USCCB itself, describing it as "the kind of episcopal conference authorized by the Second Vatican Council, [which] has no canonical authority of its own," one supposedly at odds with the majority of lay Catholics. (That statement about canonical authority is flat wrong, though the late Pope JPII did restrict conferences' ability to act on their own. Plus the USCCB has existed in some form since the early 20th century, information easily available at Wikipedia for heaven's sake. It was hardly "created" in 1966. But who cares about accuracy?)

Better, Hudson claims that the USCCB is analogous to the hated federal government, and suggests a "tea party" movement against it. Prepare the tar and feathers!

Hudson's attacks on his ideological counterparts, such as Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United, are to be expected, but "suggesting" a Catholic tea party movement against the non-partisan conference itself is something else altogether.

None of this is new of course, but I'm starting to wonder if there's not some Monday morning conference call and strategy session to find new ways to discredit and undermine the USCCB and its lobbying and social justice infrastructure. Since the current president's election, there has been a well-coordinated and effective, as well as particularly personal and vicious, effort in that regard, which most recently took aim at John Carr, who oversees CCHD.

Further, the best solutions to the social problems the conference has been working on these many decades always seem to be found in the Republican Party. Now isn't that interesting. Of course, Deal Hudson was the Catholic Karl Rove for President Bush's reelection campaign in 2004, so I guess it stands to reason.

Indeed, Hudson seems to be aiming directly at any support Democrats may find among Catholics, today blaming President Obama's election on the USCCB document "Faithful Citizenship," passages from which, when taken out of context, he claims "gave the green light to Catholic voters to ignore Obama's aggressively pro-abortion stance." I find that mildly hilarious because I'm pretty sure less than 10 percent of Catholics could even name the document, much less know what it says.

Can we just be honest here? Deal Hudson is a Republican. He thinks everyone should be a Republican, and he thinks if you're a Catholic, you should be a Republican because the only issues you should ever cast a vote on are abortion and gay marriage (as if the GOP is really pure in practice on either of those issues). Abortion and gay marriage are, after all, why Jesus came to earth. And Catholics aren't allowed to take political action on any other pressing social issues that cause human beings to suffer and die until (1) abortion is illegal and (2) gay people aren't permitted any recognition in civil law for their relationships or families. Catholics should just vote for the GOP candidate and write a check to Catholic Charities in the meantime to help care for all those people that are left behind while we work on abortion and gay marriage.

Really? Is that all the gospel, the scriptures, Catholic social teaching, the witness of the saints and other heroes of the faith boils down to? I can't believe that it is, nor can I believe that Catholics must abandon every other public policy issue until abortion is illegal. If you disagree, please at least read in its entirety Gaudium et spes, Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. It's really quite breathtaking in its expansive vision of how Catholics might work in the world.

I get why some Catholics choose to be single-issue voters on abortion, and if that's where their consciences lead them, they should. But I still argue that I'm on solid moral ground in considering the broad swath of issues when I vote, as well as exercising prudence in choosing the social policies that I think will have the most effect for the sake of the poor and weak, including the unborn.

Gaudium et spes aside, Hudson's thinking certainly plays right into the hands of the GOP, which is exactly where I think he wants us. After all, unlike the "fake Catholycs" on "the left," forever fretting about how to bring people of varying views together for a common goal, Hudson wants no namby-pamby "working together" nonsense. You're either for us or against us.

This is about politics, pure and simple, not about fidelity to the gospel or the correct interpretation of church teaching or the best, most effective, and most prudent ways to address the wild injustices built into our social and economic systems. But that I know already. But I would like to know is who is on that conference call, and better, who is writing the checks to support the "grassroots" movement that wants to dismantle decades of work on behalf of the poor.