Religion: Reconversion

  • Share
  • Read Later

When a Communist gets religion, that's news. Last week a Communist did.

The converted Communist was the managing editor of Communism's U.S. mouthpiece, the Daily Worker. Louis Francis Budenz, 54, ten years after becoming a Communist, announced that he had rejoined the Roman Catholic "faith of his fathers." He forthwith attended the baptism and confirmation of his ex-Unitarian wife and his three children, and was off to Notre Dame to be assistant professor of economics. As a teacher he hopes to "show up Communism in theory and practice." Said Budenz: "Communism, I have found, aims to establish a tyranny over the human spirit; it is in unending conflict with religion and true freedom."

The Daily Worker was caught with its ideological pants down and Editor Budenz's name still on the masthead. After a seething silence, Communist hierarchs formally excommunicated Budenz from the Communist faithful, calling him a deserter and blaming the "political looseness and carelessness" of ex-Party Chief Earl Browder's regime.

Convert Budenz, whose excellent record as a labor organizer includes 21 arrests, issued a statement that sounded like a long sigh of relief: "Reason and faith have led to this happy step. . . . The privilege of returning to the sacraments is one to be deeply prized; it is, after a long journey, the true returning home."

The priest who had brought Budenz home was Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen. Lean, dark and handsome Father Sheen is associate professor of philosophy at Washington's Catholic University. He is also probably America's best-known priest, with an audience of millions for his Sunday preaching on NBC's Catholic Hour and a fan mail of 3,000 to 6,000 letters a Sunday. Among his other noted proselytes: the late Heywood Broun, politico Horace A. Mann, motor dynast Henry Ford II.

Said Monsignor Sheen: "I hate Communism, but I love Communists."