ROME, October 29, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Only four days after formally beginning his post as the new US ambassador to the Vatican, Ken Hackett, the former head of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) took a swipe at pro-life Americans who criticized CRS for funding groups promoting abortion and contraception.  Hackett was interviewed days after presenting his credentials to Pope Francis.

In interviews he called for diplomacy in dealings between the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church, yet his comments about Catholic pro-lifers were less than diplomatic.

When questioned about the rocky relations between the U.S. Bishops and the Obama Administration and how that might play out in his role at the Vatican, Hackett told the National Catholic Reporter that he felt no negative effects at all. “I believe there are far more issues where our government agrees with the Holy See as opposed to the relatively few areas of disagreement, and that's where I'll put my emphasis,” he said.

When reporter John Allen followed up asking if he was concerned about giving cover to an Administration considered by some as hostile, Hackett added, “I also believe that when there are disagreements, we have to dialogue rather than throwing bricks at one another.”

Allen also questioned Hackett about sharp criticisms CRS has received from American Life League and other organizations for their funding of pro-abortion groups.  After praising CRS and claiming to have heard only praise and gratitude for CRS from Rome, Hackett threw a barb at critics of CRS.

“In general, I wouldn't put much stock in detractors who don't have mud under their toes because they haven't been working in the tough places,” he said.

American Life League’s Michael Hichborn responded to Hackett’s remark in an interview with LifeSiteNews.  “Given that Ken Hackett raked in over $300,000 per year in the last two years he worked for an organization that ostensibly fights poverty, I have to wonder just how much mud he got under his toes," said Hichborn.

Tax filings from Catholic Relief Services indicate that Hackett received $322,394 in reportable compensation in 2011 and $325,000 in 2010.

Hichborn also noted that campaign records indicate that Hackett was a donor to the Obama campaign in 2012, well after “Obama made clear that he is waging a war against babies and the Catholic Church.”

Dr. Monica Miller, founder and Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society — an activist pro-life group that she founded in 1986, offered a pointed critique of the remarks by the new US Ambassador to the Vatican. Dr. Miller, a pioneer of the pro-life rescue movement and a veteran sidewalk counsellor told LifeSiteNews, Hackett’s ‘detractors’ remark was “ignorant and irresponsible.” 

“Hackett should spend 10 minutes outside of an abortion clinic trying to talk women out of an abortion, or 10 minutes helping out in a crisis pregnancy center where human lives are on the line-- where life and death decisions are made every day, and where pro-lifers come face to face with the culture of death in it's most desperate, hideous instance,” she said. “He should go with pro-lifers who help the most needy and broken women in the most dangerous and depressed neighborhoods such as pro-lifers do every week in Detroit. And he should have the experience of retrieving the dead and dismembered bodies of the innocent aborted unborn from trash containers.”

“Such pro-lifers may not have ‘mud under their toes’--instead they have the blood of the innocent under their finger nails-- rescuing them from their trash dumpster cradles-- a tragedy I personally know, having come face to face with the victims of abortion,” added Miller.

Stephen Phelan, Communications Director for Human Life International, another of the main pro-life groups raising concerns about Catholic Relief Services, took issue with Hackett’s dismissal of real concerns with the Obama Administration.

“Mr. Hackett wants to focus on ‘areas of agreement’ between the Obama administration and the Vatican, and overlook the slaughter of millions of innocents countenanced every year by this administration as part of its ‘human development’ strategy. How is any substantive dialogue on human rights and development supposed to occur when the administration categorically rejects the Catholic Church’s understanding of human rights, which she holds are rooted in the nature every human person from conception until death?”

However, Hackett’s views on issues related to family planning may be a lot closer to the Obama Administration’s than to those of the Vatican.  American Life League’s Michael Hichborn points out that Hackett’s review of Jeffrey Sach’s book The End of Poverty praises the controversial work as “a positive force for the cause of development and a must-read for anyone interested in the subject.” It is, he added, “a call to action for all of us who feel called to make a preferential option to the poorest of the poor."  

“The Central theme of the book is that Babies Equal Poverty, and an essential way to bring populations out of poverty is to reduce their fertility rates,” explained Hichborn. “The only explanation I can conceive is that Hackett actually agreed with the central philosophy of the book, and given his donations to Obama and the disastrous CRS funding that took place under his leadership, I believe this to be the case.”

Read John Allen’s full interview with Ken Hackett.