Thursday, August 23, 2018

Catholic Publisher, Author, Speaker and Columnist Cited in Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report as Ex-Priest Who Abused 17-Year-Old Female High School Junior

Faith Meets World by Barry Hudock

Note: this is a somewhat revised version of a post I wrote a few days ago. Though there were no inaccuracies in the original post, this takes into account some information acquired in the interim, clears up some ambiguities and features somewhat different commentary. For reasons I do not wish to go into, instead of editing the first post, I elected to delete the original and put up this "new" post instead. Those who read the first post, can wade through this one if they have the patience. It's not that different. But the changes are arguably important. I hope readers will indulge me and forgive me for this. 

In 1996, Barry M. Hudock was a 27-year-old assistant priest at St. Peter's Cathedral in Erie when a sexual relationship was initiated with a female 17-year-old high school junior at Erie's Mercyhurst Preparatory School.

According to the Pennsylvania grand jury report (p. 416):
This sexual abuse occurred in several different locations within the victim’s local parish community, as well as in different states. In 1997, the Diocese of Erie assigned Hudock to The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Prior to that appointment, Hudock, the victim, and another high school student traveled to Washington in the summer of 1997. Trautman documented that Hudock and the victim had engaged in kissing prior to the trip in the church rectory. He also wrote that a “major episode occurred” in a hotel room where the three stopped to stay for the night. Subpoenaed Diocesan records revealed that Hudock groped and kissed the victim on numerous occasions. It was also reported that Hudock showed the victim pornographic videos, undressed her in his rectory and sexually assaulted her.
The report does not explicitly say when the diocese became aware of these events, but a source close to the investigation indicates that it was not until 2008, after Hudock had left the priesthood (see below).

It appears that diocesan officials acted on the information swiftly and appropriately. notes that Hudock vanished from the Official Catholic Directory in 1998 and 1999 but then turned up again as the sole priest at St. Anne's in Wilcox, Pennsylvania from late 1999 to early 2001. This may have been due to Hudock being assigned further studies at Catholic University, outside the diocese. 

Shortly thereafter, Hudock was laicized. Though I can't confirm this, I suspect it was voluntary.

Up to now, the only unusual thing about this case, one of hundreds in the grand jury report, is that Hudock's victim was female.

But what makes's Barry Hudock's story notable is that after being laicized, the ex-priest would go on to carve out a career in Catholic publishing. He perhaps unsurprisingly attempted to keep his past a secret.

Soon after leaving the priesthood, Hudock started writing on Catholic themes, publishing at least five books under the pen name "Barry Michaels" for Pauline Books and Media. These first books appear to be mainstream volumes, three of which are analyses of documents released by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. There was also Saints for our Times: New Novenas & Prayers and a 32-page biography of Saint Damien.

During this period, Hudock appears to have quickly married and either fathered or inherited through his wife, seven children.

He also found full-time work, notably, as a teacher at a coeducational Catholic high school.

But his past would soon catch up to him:
In 2008, the victim was having a difficult time dealing with the psychological issues stemming from her victimization at the hands of Hudock. She had been seeing a professional counsellor in Texas when she contacted the Diocese of Erie. The Diocese agreed to pay for her medical bills and provided her with airfare to be seen by the team at St. Luke’s Institute in Suitland, Maryland.
Trautman notified Hudock’s then-employer, Christian Brother Academy, a Catholic Preparatory high school in Syracuse, New York. Hudock was working there as a teacher. Trautman also notified the Bishop of Syracuse and Hudock himself. Soon after this notification, the school terminated Hudock. Trautman also notified the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
Christian Brother Academy would later claim that they were unaware of Hudock's past. There currently appears to be no evidence that Hudock acted inappropriately in any way in his teaching position.    

It is unclear whether legal action was ever contemplated or initiated against Hudock, though what he did would seem to be liable for prosecution under either Statutory Sexual Assault or Corruption of Minors. It might be that the authorities just missed the twelve-year statute of limitations window for these offenses.

After being terminated from Christian Brother, Hudock would work with two non-profits in Appalachia, becoming Executive Director of one of them, according to his own biography. 

He also ratcheted up his career in Catholic writing and later publishing. Eventually he would became the Publisher for Parishes at Liturgical Press, with a consequent moderate profile on social media.

Liturgical Press is a leftist Catholic publisher affiliated with the Benedictine St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. The catalog of the Press features some useful translations of classic Catholic works, but it primarily contains 1970's style offerings that one might argue verge on parodies of Catholic heterodoxy. For example, there is Wisdom Commentary, a “fifty-eight-volume feminist commentary on every book of the Bible,” - with each book (all fifty-eight) authored by a feminist (and female) author. The Liturgical Press truthfully presents it as "A Significant Milestone in the History of Feminism and the Study of Scripture."

Through Liturgical Press, Hudock authored under his own name four books: The Eucharistic Prayer: A User's Guide, Faith Meets World: The Gift and Challenge of Catholic Social Teaching, Struggle Condemnation, Vindication: John Courtney Murray's Journey Toward Vatican II and Easter, Season of Life and Fire (Alive in the Word).

While it appears that these volumes were far from best-sellers even within the Catholic community, they were quite favorably reviewed by readers and critics. His volume on John Courtney Murray, especially so.

He also translated from the Italian: Will Pope Francis Pull it Off?:The Challenge of Church Reform and The Mind of Pope Francis: Jorge Bergoglio's Intellectual Journey.

Hudock put together Living Laudato Si for Our Sunday Visitor, which is now also now featured on the website of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

With what some might call chutzpah, the ex-priest also managed (according to his own website) to pen a number of pieces for OSV's The Priest magazine whose Vision is "To build up the Body of Christ by fostering a holy and healthy clergy with strong morale and deep fraternity who will continue the work of Christ with a servant’s heart."

Hudock also advertised on his blog and website, Faith Meets World (now Private), that he was available to give talks at parishes, schools and the like on such topics as catholic social justice and the "preferential option for the poor, powerless and the marginalized."

Finally, Hudock wrote numerous columns for various publications including America, Commonweal and Sojourners.

One recent article for America was titled, "When my daughter whispered to me, 'I wish girls could be priests,' I didn’t know what to say."

Predictably, this article created a minor kerfuffle on social media, featuring much praise as well as some criticism. 


That Hudock was an accused sexual abuser became at least quasi-public at least as early as May 15, 2018, when his name was added to the site.

Presumably as a result of this he resigned from Liturgical Press on June 15, 2018. It also appears that Liturgical Press pulled the books that he authored, though not those he merely translated, from its catalog.

He also announced a new venture, IdeaHouse. According to the website's About section:
IdeaHouse is a Minnesota-based contract/consulting business for book publishers, other media organizations, and writers. I have particular interest in projects related to theology, spirituality, and pastoral ministry, as well other humanities-related subjects like history and literature. 
My experience runs deep, and my track record means you can be confident about the results. I thrive on offering creative services and solutions that help great companies and great writers do better work.
When the Pennsylvania grand jury report became public a few days ago, his name was featured in a number of articles that made note of his termination from Christian Brother. Last Thursday, Ruben Rosario wrote about the Hudock case for Pioneer Press in the Twin Cities. He presumably did so because Hudock and his family now reside in Minnesota.

Hudock did not respond to requests for comment by Rosario. After I messaged Hudock, he blocked me on Twitter, protected his Twitter account and changed the status of his blog and website to Private.

As far as I know, he has not yet commented publicly on the recent revelations.

But it is unlikely any of the publications he has recently written for are now unaware of them. Five days ago Our Sunday Visitor wrote an Editorial titled "Naming names: For any coverage of this painful story to be complete, and for any healing to begin, full transparency must first exist". Among other things, it announced that
Barry Hudock, a former priest of the Diocese of Erie, has done freelance writing for various publications of OSV for the past seven years. He is no longer is affiliated with the company in any capacity.
One interesting question is whether any publications that featured his material were previously aware of them. I suspect they were not, though they may have been aware of his status as an ex-priest.


What are we to say about this?

As a priest, Barry Hudock committed moral and potentially legal crimes. I say that not to pass judgment but to describe facts that no one would dispute. As stated above, his actions potentially fell afoul of at least two statutes.

In the eyes of the Church he compounded these by getting civilly married before the laicization process had run its course.

The grand jury report obviously leaves a quite negative impression, with references to showing the young victim pornography, sexual activity in the rectory, and sexual activity in a hotel perhaps with the knowledge or participation of one other unidentified person.

There may be another side to the story. But it is unclear whether Hudock or anyone else will ever publicly tell it. It's also unclear that it can or should be told.

But it should be said that whatever Barry Hudock did or was accused of doing, it's in a completely different category from the lurid tales of ritualized sodomy with altar boys and the like now emerging from the report.

As a priest he had a sexual relationship, possibly consensual, with a young woman who by one measure was not underage.

I think he was entitled to try to build a new life, arguably free from permanently wearing a "sex abuser" label.

He at least partly succeeded in that, becoming a husband and father, and a successful writer.

But much of how he did that is potentially troubling. After the incident, it presumably became obvious to Hudock that he was unsuited for the priesthood. But this realization was notably belated. One might question why Hudock himself decided to remain a priest for four or five years after the events, ministering to, and presumably working with teenage women in his two posts. And why did he then, even after being laicized, see fit to take a teaching job at a co-educational Catholic high-school?

On the other hand, priests and ex-priests often fall into the category of "over-educated", relatively unemployable in skilled jobs other than teaching, writing and the like. There is no evidence that Hudock was what might be termed a serial predatorI suppose only Barry Hudock and God can answer whether, given the circumstances, he made the appropriate choices in the first years after the events. 

Should priests or ex-priests, involved in scandal and then laicized, be barred or bar themselves from any kind of Catholic work or writing? I do not think so. But for my part, for someone with Hudock's particular "secret" to insinuate himself into writing articles for, among other things, The Priest, advising priests, of all people on Catholic matters without reference to his past is somewhat dishonest. Would he advise them to break their vows and get civilly married if it suited them?

And that Hudock has increasingly enthusiastically advocated for and participated in the current popular watering down of Catholic moral teachings is to my mind creepy. You would think an actually changed man would put a premium on holding the line.

Or not. Maybe he honestly believes in the new theology of "discernment" as Francis and others have defined it.

Two weeks after his resignation from Liturgical Press, he Tweeted a picture of himself reading Change in Official Catholic Moral Teachings as a beach book.

And what some could term Hudock's failure to judge what might or might not be wise or appropriate when it comes to self-reference has its comic side. On his Faith Meets World website he listed Scent of a Woman at the front of the list of his favorite films.

Maybe he just liked the movie.

There's a well-known phenomenon of ex-religious creating and then clinging to a status of public commentary on things Catholic. Is that laudable or is it tragic? I tend towards the latter view.    

It's also well known that Catholic dissent often stems from self-justification. But one can always turn it around, at least up to a point.

Does Barry Hudock still need to?


  1. Because he did legally speaking sexually abuse a minor, who shouldn't be writing for a Catholic publication, especially if he is spreading Catholic liberalism. That he resigned, and you discuss it here, is a good thing.

    And now that the lid has been blown off in Pennsylvania, if there is a bigger cesspool anywhere else, it is in Chicago. Let's go after these monsters.

  2. This was a very objective and fair write up. What a "trail" ! What is interesting to me as well is that a layperson like you is connecting these dots to fill out his whole "path" - one would think a journalist in the mass media could do the same thing. And in this case they would have no fear of appearing homophobic (which I think explains the reticence of mass media to do basic investigative connecting of dots in other cases in NY/ New Jersey).