BOSTON, August 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Lay Catholic leaders in Boston are calling on the Archdiocese to end its relationship with a Catholic magnate who has emerged as a top supporter of the Obama re-election effort, and who has close ties with an HHS mandate architect and the abortion industry.

A charismatic business mogul whose half-billion-dollar advertising empire was built from scratch, Jack Connors Jr. was described in the Boston Globe in 2007 as a fiery Irishman and proud churchgoer, who attends daily Mass up to five times a week. Connors serves as Chairman of the archdiocese’s Campaign for Catholic Schools and a member of the archdiocese’s Finance Council.

Officially retired, the businessman has recently dedicated much of his attention to philanthropic projects, such as an elaborate summer camp on Long Island, for which he has so far raised tens of millions of dollars. However, Connors’ activism is also deeply political: a former co-chair of the Democratic National Convention, Connors hosted a $40,000 per plate fundraiser with 25 attendees for Obama at a restaurant in Boston’s South End in June, and for $17,900 per guest welcomed the president into his own home last spring.

When the businessman retired from his 20-year stint as chairman of the board for health care behemoth Partners Healthcare, Obama sent Connors a personal congratulations, saying, “knowing you as I do, I know you’ll be as busy as ever.”

Connors once described his first meeting with Obama before a fundraiser in Chatham, Massachusetts. “I got in the car with him, kind of took the measure of him, and he did the same to me,” Connors told the Boston Globe. “By the time we got to Chatham, we were both smitten.”

The fundraisers were the latest barb for area Catholic activists, who have decried Connors’ simultaneous ties with the Archdiocese of Boston and the progressive political and social world – including the abortion industry.

Among Connors’ philanthropic projects is the Connors Center for Women’s Health, which The Globe described as his favorite among Connors Family Foundation beneficiaries “closest to the family’s heart”: it was named after Connors’ mother, Mary Horrigan Connors, and is where his eight grandchildren were born.

At the helm of the Connors Center is its co-founder Paula A. Johnson, a former chairman of the board for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, who also served on the board for the Center for Reproductive Rights. When the HHS mandate for free birth control began this month, the Connors Center celebrated the news and Johnson appeared on local media as an expert touting the mandate’s benefits: Johnson herself was a member of the Institutes of Medicine Committee that recommended the contraception mandate to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in 2011.

Among the Connors Centers’ top goals is “training the next generation of leaders in the field of women’s health,” including future abortion providers: its Family Planning Fellowship, led by abortionist and Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) head researcher Alisa Goldberg, partners with PPLM to offer a nationally-recognized two-year program to “improve access to, and the quality of, pregnancy termination services through research and training.” The Center’s only other fellowship, the Global Women’s Health Fellowship, was expected to merge with the Family Planning Fellowship as of 2009.

Jack Connors has not always been a favorite with Boston’s Catholic hierarchy: the two experienced a falling-out involving the 2002 sex abuse scandal. When Cardinal O’Malley sought his help for the schools project three years later, Connors, in the Globe’s words, accepted on condition that he “use his ideas, not the Church’s.” Since then, Connors’ ideas have also surfaced in pastoral decisions: he joined condemnations of a Boston school that removed a third-grade student because his parents were lesbians, something the archdiocese also criticized. “I am disappointed that ... this faith that I love seems to find new ways to shoot itself in the foot,” said Connors.

The Archdiocese of Boston declined a request for comment.

However, when an anonymous critic submitted a complaint to the archdiocese recently over Connors’ Obama ties on the whistleblower site EthicsPoint, the archdiocese responded that support for a pro-abortion politician was not necessarily a deal breaker.

“Finance Council members are not obligated to make public the rationale behind their decisions to support various organizations, programs, and persons,” said officials. “That a Finance Council member may offer his/her backing to a politician or political candidate who is in support of pro-choice policies does not define or exhaust a Finance Council member’s position on issues pertaining to respect for life.”

Critics of Connors’ political ties have pointed to a 2007 interview with Cardinal O’Malley, in which the cardinal expressed concern about Catholics who vote for pro-abortion politicians.

“I think the Democratic Party, which has been in many parts of the country traditionally the party which Catholics have supported, has been extremely insensitive to the church’s position, on the gospel of life in particular, and on other moral issues,” O’Malley said at the time.

After acknowledging that many Massachusetts Catholics vote for these pro-abortion Democrat candidates, O’Malley said, “I think that, at times, it borders on scandal as far as I’m concerned.”

“However, when I challenge people about this, they say, ‘Well, bishop, we’re not supporting [abortion rights],’ ” he continued. “I think there’s a need for people to very actively dissociate themselves from those unacceptable positions.”

Lay Catholic leaders in the pro-life movement have also criticized Connors’ involvement with the archdiocese.

Judie Brown of the American Life League said that, whether or not Cardinal O’Malley intended it, keeping up appearances with Connors was a serious scandal for the Catholic faithful.

Brown faulted the archdiocese for overlooking Connors’ connections in favor of his financial prowess. “These things don’t happen in a vacuum. Someone is very aware of his interconectedness with the Culture of Death. There’s no way they could not be,” she said.

“The worst damage always happens to the Church from within.”