As anyone who has been near a good Catholic blog today knows, there's big news in the story of Deal Hudson, the outspoken conservative who used to be active in White House efforts to woo traditional Catholics. Veteran religion writer Julia Duin at the Washington Times has broken the story that Hudson has been forced out as publisher at Crisis. There is no need to dwell on the story so far, which involved an old sex scandal in Hudson's past and a slash-and-burn, but sadly accurate, report on that scandal in the fiercely partisan National Catholic Reporter. Readers can check out all the links in this previous GetReligion item.
As usual, Duin's hard-news reporting is crisp and factual and nails the facts you need to know at this point in the story. Some conservatives may question -- loudly, I predict -- her use of an anonymous source for some damaging information. But anyone who reads on can see that she had multiple sources and one of the most prominent is on the record. Duin has the smoke and she has the fire. The bottom line: five major Crisis columnists wrote a letter that said enough is enough. They threatened to resign.
According to two scholars familiar with the letter, the columnists were angry about an Aug. 19 National Catholic Reporter (NCR) expose on Mr. Hudson's sexual liaison with an 18-year-old student in 1994, an action that cost him his tenured professorship at Fordham University and a $30,000 settlement. In addition, specific accusations of more recent sexual misconduct had come to the board's attention, one scholar said.
"This was not about one incident 10 years ago," he said. "It's surprising it was held down as long as it was. I haven't gone out of my way to track Deal Hudson's improprieties -- I could be doing nothing else. But you began to wonder after a while if they are true."
And who are the columnists? It is an all-star team, led by the magazine's founding editors: Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and University of Notre Dame philosophy professor Ralph McInerny.
"He withdrew from being an adviser to the White House, so one could conclude he should leave Crisis," Mr. McInerny said. "If his presence had a negative effect on a Catholic campaign effort, certainly it'd affect a Catholic magazine."
The columnists who spoke to Duin add more names to the mix. Crisis insiders sought input from papal biographer George Weigel, Father Richard John Neuhaus of First Things and Dr. Robert George of Princeton University. Superstar speechwriter Peggy Noonan canceled a banquet speech for Crisis and declined an award from the magazine. Duin reports that many of Washington's best-known Catholics boycotted the dinner.
It's a long sad story and it will be interesting to see what the National Catholic Reporter and other publications do to chase this report. As Jeff "The Hulk" Sharlet at TheRevealer.org keeps reminding everyone -- this is a major news story.
Meanwhile, the comment pages are on fire at Amy Welborn's Open Book site.