Cardinal Wuerl Is Exactly Right About ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’

There’s been a bit of a dust-up over the “silence” of the USCCB on the repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for the U.S. armed forces. 

Cardinal Wuerl’s comment, however, was right on the mark, in my opinion.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC stated last month on Fox News Sunday that “there isn’t a specific Catholic Church position” on the issue of homosexuals serving in the military.

Whether this sounds like tacit support, which I don’t think it is, is not the point — the USCCB should stay away from political tar babies such as this. 

When the USCCB engages public policy it should be based upon clear-cut and unambiguous principles of Catholic social teaching.  (Of course, that’s a criterion not often observed :))

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” involves a maze of prudential matters, that while being undoubtedly important, are best left to experts on military life and culture. 



Deal W. Hudson


Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of “Church and Culture,” a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ Formerly publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine for ten years, his articles and comments have been published widely in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also appeared on TV and radio news shows such as the O’Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, NBC News, and All Things Considered on National Public Radio. Hudson worked with Karl Rove in coordinating then-Gov. George W. Bush’s outreach to Catholic voters in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, President Bush appointed him a member of the official delegation from the United States to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II’s papacy. Hudson, a former professor of philosophy for 15 years, is the editor and author of eight books. He tells the story of his conversion from Southern Baptist to Catholic in An American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003), and his latest, Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, was published in March 2008. He is married to Theresa Carver Hudson, also a Baptist convert, and they have two children, Hannah and Cyprian who was adopted from Romania in 2001.

  • thomas s

    i think that deal is partially right, not exactely right. true, DADT is a prudential matter. but like most prudential matters of this sort,it has moral implications. the repeal is indicative of the seemingly post-modernist view that there is no foundational morality, that tradional marriage is a social contruct and that homosexuality is a “good” (at least not undesirable) thing. and what about the predicament that a “gay” military poses for Christian chaplains that hold to traditional principles which say that open, active homesexual practices are disordered or worse. finally, as one who has served in the military, i don’t think that repeal of don’t ask don’t tell was a particulary “prudent” decision. but enough: we will just have to wait to see how this plays out in the real world of military life.)

  • Robyn

    Aw, I’d still like to see the Church put its foot down. Really, speaking as a lifelong sailour and at-times soldier, we don’t need the bloody buggers clogging up our ranks. They’re disruptive, distracting, and they’re all the time getting their feelings hurt. Chuck ’em back with Old Nick where they belong.

  • BenK

    Don’t ask don’t tell was never what prohibited homosexual conduct. Actually, it was a Clinton policy attempting to keep people in the military in good standing who would otherwise have been found in violation of the UCMJ. DADT retained the law against homosexual conduct while limiting enforcement. People need to be more precise in the discussion of these topics. DADT, to my mind, enable conduct unbecoming an officer (and similar problems for the enlisted) because it encouraged people to continue in knowing violation of the UCMJ.

  • Tony Esolen

    As usual, no sympathy from our leaders for men who are trying to raise well-adjusted boys to become wholesome and responsible husbands and fathers, and no sympathy for the (these days confused and ill-led) boys themselves trying to figure out how to be men, with zippo for help from the anticulture.

  • Deacon Ed

    the teaching ministry of the episcopacy, for Whuerl to simply restate what the catechism says, i.e. forbidding acts against people with homosexual proclivities but condemning homosexual acts as morally reprehensible.
    (This is a clumsy summary, so everyone would be best to reference the actual words tehmselves.)

  • Eric Giunta

    Dr Hudson:

    I agree with you in principle: a Catholic can (theoretically) support or oppose DADT without committing a sin.

    That having been said, Cardinal Wuerl is inncorent: the institutional Church *has* in fact taken a position on this matter, in the person of the Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Military Services (USA), who came out (no pun intended!) in express opposition to the policy. He, and not the Archbishop of Washington or even (necessarily) the USCCB, is the Church’s voice on this matter, and as I understand Catholic ecclesiology, his is the official Catholic position unless the Holy See determines otherwise. Of course, on matters such as these Catholics *are* permitted to dissent from the Church’s official position . . .

  • Ben

    If God opposed the mere existence of intersexed gays and their partner preferences, He/She wouldn’t make this gender variation so common — 10-20% of our population. Moreover, so-called straights have worse records regarding rape, pedophilia and harassment. Why do hypocrites with their own sex scandals persist in demonizing intersex people who have served very well in the militaries of other nations? Most Catholic clergy are closet intersex gays themselves.

  • Tony Esolen

    As always, the propaganda …

    It is not true that so huge a percentage of people are homosexual. If that were the case, then the homosexual population in my small town would have been near 1000. It was nowhere near that, not by a factor of 10. The actual percentage is in the low single digits, 2-3 % for men, less for women. It is also not true that a majority of priests are homosexual.

    God does not “make” homosexuals. If a boy is affirmed in a loving way as a boy by his father (or by his brothers, or by the neighborhood boys), and if nothing bizarre happens to him like a homosexual rape, then he will not grow up feeling compulsively attracted to other males. It is a sufficient condition for the non-development of the syndrome.

    It is NOT true that the given homosexual is less likely to commit pedophilia than the given heterosexual. If it were true, then 40 times as many girls as boys would be victims of pedophilia, but that is far from the case; indeed I believe that MORE boys than girls are victims. What the propagandists do is to confuse categories and confuse types of probability. The category confusion is deliberate — just as it is among feminists who want to disparage matrimony. That is, you don’t actually look at wife-beating, because that by itself does not come anywhere near providing the statistics you want. So instead you fold wife-beating in with the more probable and more dangerous instances of abuse by boyfriends and ex-husbands, to come up with the category of “domestic abuse,” and hide the easily determined fact that once-married women living with their husbands are the safest people in the US, the least likely to suffer violence. So in the case of pedophilia, you fold together incest — which is usually father-daughter — with what most people think of when they are considering the danger to their children from person X or person Y. That is, I know perfectly well that I am not abusing my children. So then — is heterosexual Bob more or is he less likely to abuse my daughter than homosexual Bill is to abuse my son? The answer is, overwhelmingly, Bill. If an equal number of boys as girls are abused outside the home — and that, when I am considering my own children, is what I am thinking of,abuse outside the home — then the given homosexual man is 30 or 40 times as likely to abuse the boy than the given heterosexual man is to abuse the girl. Gosh, I’d have thought that the priest scandal alone would have shown us this!

    If you read this blog regularly you will know that we here stand for the entirety of the church’s teachings regarding sex. We also are aware, though, that to yield on this issue means that all the others are goners, too. How on earth can anybody preach on chastity, when we smile benignly on homosexual acts? If Ed and Joe MUST commit homosexual acts even to define themselves as homosexual to begin with — since the activity is not natural — then how on earth are we going to say to Andy and Sue that they must wait till marriage?

    As always, what two consenting adults do in the bedroom has implications in the streets, and in everybody else’s house. People used to know this …

  • Rex

    If the bishops (not Archbishop Broglio) wanted to make a firm statement of Church policy, the time to do it would have been two years ago, when it became obvious this would be an issue. They didn’t, and there’s no point wishing they had now.

    The number of homosexuals who really want to serve in the combat arms is negligible. (Even Bradley Manning took care to ensure he would remain at a safe distance from enemy fire.) Eliminating DADT was mostly a concession to fat, aging activists, many of whom first “came out” to avoid being drafted forty years ago. The practical effect will be minimal.

  • Aengus O’Shaughnessy

    . . . for the comment. We definitely needed someone to say that.

  • Nancy D.

    If The Bishops wanted to make a firm statement on Church policy regarding homosexuality, they would not have allowed the erroneous document “Always Our Children”, created and supported by a cast of dissenting characters, to be published and placed on their website. I am not surprised that Cardinal Wuerl was not capable of stating the truth regarding The Catholic Church teaching on homosexualty. The Catholic Church recognizes that homosexuality is a disordered sexual inclination and that because it is a disordered sexual inclination, men and women who struggle with this disordered sexual inclination may not be fully personally responsible for their disorder. It is precisely because The Catholic Church teaches that we must respect the inherent Dignity of every human person which has been endowed to us from God, that those sexual acts or sexual relationships, including all homosexual sexual acts and homosexual sexual relationships, that demean the Dignity of the human person, must never be condoned. It is out of Love and respect for the inherent Dignity of the human person that one desires the development of healthy relationships grounded in authentic Love.

  • smf

    If repeal of DADT allowed the service of someone with a same-sex attraction to serve, and did nothing more than that, I don’t think much of anyone would have a problem with it.

    The trouble comes with the revolution in moral, ethical, and legal thinking that will eventually, in the long term, be brought about by this. When people oppose the repeal of DADT, they aren’t standing against the Catholic who has disordered desires but has the will to reject those desires.

    What they stand against is the eventual official approval of homosexual relationships and activity that must eventually come to pass. It is only a matter of time before the slippery slope starts to head that way. It will eventually be necessary, in the name of equality and fairness to the homosexual service members, to begin a process of equal recognition of various aspects of homosexuality, and it will not likely end with the military. Given time this will be used as the wedge and lever by the activits to work a general change if they can.

    Plus, it can be assumed that some where along the lines this will have unfortunate consequences. Someone is going to get hurt during the fall out from all this, and I don’t just mean their feelings. At some point, someone on one side or the other of this is going to do something stupid and cross one of those lines you can’t uncross. Social experminentation with lives at stake.

  • Nancy D.

    As the mother of a daughter who struggles with a homosexual inclination that I know is due to a developmental disorder, there have already been many unfortunate consequences as you can imagine the battle involved as I try to get my daughter the necessary help and guidance she needs to heal her wounds and learn to develop healthy and Holy relationships and friendships, when there are so many who claim, including those who profess to be Catholic, that it is out of love and respect that they have encouraged those men and women who struggle with a homosexual inclination to embrace their “sexuality”. The truth is, those who authentically Love and respect the Dignity of the human person would never protect, condone or affirm any sexual behavior or sexual relationship that objectifies and demeans the human person. I find the fact that Cardinal Wuerl was not capable of clarifying The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality more than just disturbing and it is precisely because Cardinal Wuerl was not able to clearly state The Catholic Church’s teaching that I believe Mr. Hudson is mistaken. I am Praying that Cardinal Wuerl will have the courage to make a public statement, grounded in authentic Love and thus respectful of the Dignity of the human person, that clarifies and affirms The Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality

  • Lou G

    Great post Mr. Esolen; very well presented. I am especially interested in what you said about once-married women living with their husbands being the safest people in the U.S. Do you have a source I could reference? This would come in very handy with some of the work I do. Thanks.

  • Victress Jenkins

    I think they should have a position. There are alot of very young impressionable men / women entering the armed forces. They have enough to deal with in basic training without worrying that they might be victims of sodomy. They have a right to be protected.

    It’s bad enough that there aren’t enough Catholic chaplains to guide the members of their Catholic flocks but to have to try to shield them from perversion is an extra burden. [And by the way, Catholic chaplains are required to retire at age 62 vs the other faith ministers/rabbis/emans can stay on the job longer.] We should all contact our congressmen/senators to put an end to this.
    This is not meant to bash anyone but I’m sure that those homosexuals who have had contact with priests like Fr. John Harvey [of Courage] and are only interested in serving their country would appreciate some defense by our bishops.

  • A Washington DC Catholic

    1. The Catholic Church, via Cardinal Ratzinger, did issue a statement on this in the early 1990’s. It said NO.

    2. Cardinal Wuerl should have supported his brother bishop, Archbishop Broglio.

    Once again, Cardinal Wuerl failed in his teaching moment.