The Man Behind the GOP's Catholic Strategy

A Catholic inside-baseball story turns huge. Why? Because it involves the presidential election.

BY: Deborah Caldwell

 

Continued from page 1

According to a story published Aug. 19 in the

National Catholic Reporter

, Hudson surrendered his tenure as a philosophy professor at Fordham in 1994, following allegations of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a freshman female student. He also paid a settlement of $30,000 to terminate a lawsuit that the student brought against him on the basis of the allegations.

Hudson wrote in the

National Review Online

this week that he believes the allegations are "being dug up ...for political reasons in an attempt to undermine the causes I have fought for: the defense of Church teachings on life, the priesthood, the authority of the pope, and the need for faithful Catholic participation in politics."

Donohue agreed, releasing a

statement

on Friday full of sarcasm and pique: "The Catholic League has a new requirement for all future employees: all candidates must show proof of being immaculately conceived, that is, they must demonstrate that they were conceived without sin..In light of the revelation that the National Catholic Reporter decided to expose a sexual harassment charge against Deal Hudson-one that was made almost a decade ago by a drunken female he met in a bar-we at the Catholic League are not prepared to take any chances."

The personal tone of the response stems mostly from the high stakes involved in the presidential election. But also stems from a feud between the two publications. Crisis is the magazine of politically conservative Catholics. National Catholic Reporter is read by liberals. The two publications are both politically wired and well-known to Catholic (and non-Catholic) movers and shakers.

NCR's explosive story

had its genesis

in an action taken by Hudson last spring: After learning that a low level employee at the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for African-American Catholics hosted a "Catholics for Kerry" Internet forum, Hudson wrote in his widely distributed email newsletter that the employee, Ono Ekeh, shouldn't work for the bishops' conference because Kerry is pro-choice. Ekeh was soon forced to resign.

"If you're going to play in the sandbox," Hudson told NCR last spring, "then you have to take the consequences of your public utterances and your public actions."

Reporter Joe Feuerherd said he decided to write a profile of Hudson partly as a result of Ekeh's firing, reasoning that Hudson had "successfully placed himself at the center of things both Catholic and political in the nation's capitol."

While Feuerherd researched his story during the spring, Hudson friend Bill Donohue of the Catholic League learned that the Kerry campaign had hired Mara Vanderslice as its director of religious outreach-and

complained that

, among other actions, she had spoke at rallies held by ACT-UP, the AIDS activism group that disrupted Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1989 by spitting the Eucharist on the floor. As a result, the Kerry campaign deep-sixed Vanderslice, who hasn't been heard from since June. Last month, after the Democratic National Committee hired the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson as its senior religion adviser, Donohue surfaced again,

pointing out

that Peterson had sided with atheist Michael Newdow in a Supreme Court case seeking to censor the words `under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. Peterson immediately resigned.

Hudson believes he was "outed" by NCR because of the paper's anger at conservatives' power. NCR editor Tom Roberts responded, in a

signed note

that ran alongside Feuerherd's story: "All of us, as Hudson put it, have done things in our lives that we regret. But not everyone is a public figure, seeking the spotlight and rubbing elbows regularly with the most powerful in the land. Most of us don't regularly publicly denounce those whose personal behavior we think deficient; fewer still have the power to get someone fired for maintaining a political Web site because we disagree with its content; or to claim with some validity that we are responsible for getting like-minded Catholics appointed to positions of power at the highest levels of government."

Continued on page 3: »

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