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Issue Date:  August 27, 2004

From the Editor's Desk

Reporting on Deal Hudson

Deal Hudson, the influential Catholic publisher of Crisis magazine and political operative, attempted, in his words, “to get a head start” on a story that NCR Washington correspondent Joe Feuerherd has been working on for more than four months. Hudson’s ploy was to write a response to a yet-unpublished story. He was able to place the response on the Web site of National Review, the conservative magazine.

As an aside, I find it intriguing that National Review would allow its Web site to be used in such a fashion. The publication to which Hudson referred was never named; no one called NCR to confirm whether we were doing a story or to determine the nature of the piece. The National Review allowed Hudson to characterize the unpublished story -- which was still in the process of being written -- as an unfair look at his personal life.

He raises an important issue, and it deserves to be addressed.

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 Catholics appointed to positions of power at the highest levels of government.

Rarer even are those among us who live lives important or interesting enough to pen confessional memoirs before reaching retirement age.

Hudson was understandably proud of his achievements, and he wields his power with a bravado that rarely shuns the limelight. That’s one of the reasons we decided to do a profile. Feuerherd did what any responsible journalist working on a profile would do -- he talked to friends and colleagues who knew the subject in a variety of situations, professional and personal. That’s when the ugly chapter at Fordham University came to light. We sent Hudson documentation on the incident and told him we would like to speak to him face-to-face to get his response. He chose not to, responding instead through another publication’s Web site. The material (which became the subject of a lawsuit) showed a clear abuse of his authority as a teacher involved with an 18-year-old freshman girl in one of his classes and is certainly relevant to the story of someone whose political and public mission relies heavily on public moralizing, often about personal sexual ethics.

It was Hudson himself who wrote that it is a “lie that a person’s private conduct makes no difference to the execution of their public responsibilities.” I don’t agree with him entirely since I think the private conduct of adults, particularly the activity of peer consenting adults, is their own business. It becomes a matter of concern when the conduct is not among equals, but involves a relationship where one of the two is clearly in a position of authority and responsibility.

~ ~ ~

Thanks to all who said they’re interested in obtaining the entire Latin America series in an easy-to-use format. The response was far greater than I anticipated and provided a window in to the kind of work being done in Catholic and other circles. We heard from missionaries, parish ministers, college teachers, Latin America immersion programs, peace and justice activists, migrant ministries, librarians and simply interested individuals.

If you’re interested, send me an e-mail at

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, August 27, 2004

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