Michael Hichborn, American Life League

Author of Soros-funded CCHD defense stands by report despite bevy of omissions and errors

Michael Hichborn, American Life League
By Michael Hichborn

June 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On June 11, the liberal organization Faith in Public Life published a report attacking the investigative work of the Reform CCHD Now coalition, which has worked for nearly three years now to promote a thoroughgoing top-down reform of the U.S. Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development after discovering that dozens of its grantees promote activities contrary to Catholic teaching.

Shortly after Faith in Public Life (FIPL) released its report, LifeSiteNews revealed that FIPL’s CEO was on a panel of “pro-choice clergy” at a Planned Parenthood event that focused on how ‘pro-choice’ clergy could “make social change in support of reproductive justice in communities across the country.”  LifeSiteNews also pointed out that FIPL published numerous blog entries defending Planned Parenthood, including this one where FIPL states that it “compiled quotes from faith leaders opposing government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding.” It’s a little more than ironic that a pro-abortion, Soros-funded organization is crying foul over our investigative reporting that profiles pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-birth control and Marxist organizations receiving money from the Catholic Church.

Even beyond the irony, however, the FIPL report is full of glaring errors and omissions that must be addressed.  But before publishing this response to FIPL’s report, I thought it would be important to contact John Gehring, the author of FIPL’s report, in order to give him a chance to address the errors I found in his document. So, I called Mr. Gehring and asked him if he would have time to answer some questions, and he asked me to submit them via email.  I did.  In fact, I sent him all of the information I provide below and asked him if he was aware of these facts when he wrote the report.  This is what he said in reply to my questions:

Michael,

Thanks for your questions. Since the report speaks for itself I prefer not getting into a back and forth on these detailed questions. Here is a statement that you can use.

John Gehring

“The goal of this report is to protect and strengthen the vital work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life. “Self-appointed watchdog groups like the American Life League have sought to destroy the reputation of Catholics who serve our Church, demonize social justice leaders and create a climate of fear that hurts effective efforts to empower low-income communities. It is essential to preserve the distinctive Catholic identity of CCHD while also recognizing that if the Church only associates with people who agree with Catholic teaching on every issue, our ability to serve the common good in a diverse society is severely limited. As Pope Francis said in a recent homily, Catholics should be building bridges, not walls. The prominent Catholic leaders who endorsed this report are determined to help strengthen CCHD’s mission at a time when Pope Francis challenges us to confront the moral scandal of poverty and growing inequality.”

I wrote Mr. Gehring back immediately and said, “Just so I don’t misrepresent you, is it safe to say that in light of the facts I sent you, you still stand by your report as it is written?”  Mr. Gehring did not respond. 

What follows is a point by point correction of the errors in FIPL’s report, and in the spirit of intellectual honesty, we call upon FIPL to correct the record.

Land Stewardship Project

The report claims on page 4 that the Land Stewardship Project, a former CCHD grantee, lost its funding because of its membership in two coalitions: Take Action Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits.  FIPL contends that the CCHD denied funding to LSP because the two coalitions of which it is a member “did not endorse the Minnesota bishops’ efforts to fight same-sex marriage.” 

Simply put, this is untrue.  These two coalitions didn’t merely “not endorse” the bishops’ efforts to fight against same-sex “marriage,” but took positions in direct opposition to the Church.  For instance, on March 30, 2006, the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits "announced opposition to” the Minnesota State Legislature’s effort to ban same-sex “marriage.” Furthermore, Take Action Minnesota actually hired field canvassers to drum up support for same-sex “marriage.”

The information regarding Take Action Minnesota actually takes on a deeper meaning when page 13 of FIPL’s report attempts to build a story around the Land Stewardship Project’s “Associate Director/Director of Programs/Policy Program Director”, Mark Schultz.  Specifically, the report says:

Mark Schultz grew up a proud Catholic boy on the South Side of Chicago. His faith and family taught him lessons about justice and solidarity with the marginalized that he still carries today as the policy and organizing director of the Land Stewardship Project.  The Minneapolis-based organization, founded in 1982, trains new farmers, challenges large-scale factory farms that have poor records on labor rights, and advocates for more sustainable local agriculture. “My faith is the reason I’m an organizer,” Shultz said.

What the report leaves out is that Mark Schultz is not only a director of LSP; he is also the chairman of the board of Take Action Minnesota, and has been chairman of the board at least since April of 2011, a full month before Take Action Minnesota officially endorsed same-sex “marriage.” Furthermore, in February of 2011, Mark Schultz himself announced that Take Action Minnesota is, among other things, “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight.”

In short, FIPL’s report misrepresented the true nature of the problems with the two coalitions that the Land Stewardship Project was told to leave if it wished to continue receiving Catholic funds.  But more to the point, FIPL completely failed in its attempt to paint a picture that Reform CCHD Now’s investigative report accused LSP of guilt by association by deliberately omitting the fact that Land Stewardship Project’s second in command is also the top dog at Take Action Minnesota.  When all the facts are present, it is clear that the Land Stewardship Project is guilty by participation, not association.

Companeros

The report falsely claims on page 4 that Companeros lost its CCHD funding “because of its association with a statewide immigrant rights coalition that included a single gay and lesbian advocacy group.”  If this were the case, then FIPL’s claims of guilt by association would be correct, but this is not the case. 

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Here are the facts.  Companeros is a member of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), in fact, one of its founding members, and Companeros’ program director, Nicole Mosher, is on CIRC’s board of directors. This means that the actions taken by CIRC directly represent Companeros.  The problem is that CIRC has worked in direct opposition to Catholic moral teaching, which places Companeros in violation of CCHD guidelines.  For instance, CIRC “was proud to actively support the 2011 civil unions bill” for homosexual couples, directly opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, participated in a “gay pride” parade, specifically stated an organizational goal to “build non-traditional Alliances with focus on LGBT, non-Latino immigrant/refugees and Welcoming Colorado supporters,” voiced support for transgenderism, and applauded the recognition of same-sex couples on customs forms.  Incidentally, Companeros itself participated in a CIRC event that had a whole section on the cross-promotion of homosexuality and immigrant issues.

FIPL’s claim that Companeros lost funding due to membership in a coalition that also has a homosexual advocacy group as a member is completely unfounded.  The simple fact is that Companeros is a member of and on the board of an organization that took positions and actions that are in direct opposition to Catholic moral teaching.  This is why Companeros lost its funding.

The Gamaliel Foundation

The FIPL report discusses the Reform CCHD Now coalition’s charge that the Gamaliel Foundation directly lied to the CCHD about its relationship with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.  In its assessment, FIPL accurately illustrates the fact that Gamaliel was a member of FIRM and that FIRM took an official position in support of homosexuality. FIPL then presents Gamaliel’s claim that Gamaliel left FIRM in 2010 because of this official position and ends with the statement that American Life League alleges that Gamaliel lied about this.  What the report fails to mention, however, is why ALL and the Reform CCHD Now coalition charged Gamaliel with lying when it claimed to have left FIRM in 2010.

As is evidenced in the report published by the Reform CCHD Now coalition, Gamaliel housed several documents on its own website, identifying it as a member of FIRM and as being on FIRM’s executive committee for the year 2011, a full year after it allegedly “severed all ties with FIRM.” Furthermore, a set of FIRM’s own meeting minutes from a monthly conference call identifies Ana Garcia Ashley, Gamaliel’s executive director, as a participant on the call and lists Gamaliel as a nominee for FIRM’s executive committee for the year 2012. Gamaliel has never denied this evidence but attempted to hide it all, and refuses to discuss the discrepancy between its claims and the evidence we noted.

Since John Gehring actually cited Reform CCHD Now’s report on Gamaliel in his own report, I asked him specifically why he left out the rest of the information.  As shown above, he declined to comment on the omission.

WISDOM

On page 18 of FIPL’s report, they attempt to make the case that the Reform CCHD Now coalition “branded WISDOM as an anti-Catholic organization” simply because it is a member of a coalition that happened to show up at a rally “along with some pro-choice groups.”

Not only is this not what the Reform CCHD Now report says, but the entire scenario described in FIPL’s report is patently false.

Here are the facts.  As you can read in our report here, the problem starts with the fact that the Gamaliel affiliate group called WISDOM is a member of and on the board of directors of an organization called Citizen Action of Wisconsin.  Our report, on page 8, clearly identifies Citizen Action of Wisconsin as a participant in a rally that was “mad as Hell” because the state legislature had just voted on a bill that “curbed abortion rights and ended comprehensive sex education in schools.” The point of that citation was to illustrate that Citizen Action of Wisconsin was itself participating in pro-abortion and pro-birth control activities, and according to CCHD guidelines, this would mean that WISDOM cannot be a member if it wishes to receive CCHD funding.  However, it is interesting that FIPL failed to mention the more direct bit, where on page 9 of our report we provided a link from Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s own podcast from July 7, 2011 featuring a representative from Planned Parenthood and statements from Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s own executive director championing same-sex marriage.

FIPL claims it was honestly attempting to defend an injustice done through a false accusation. If this was true, it wouldn’t need to seriously contort the claims made in our CCHD grantee reports, nor would it need to leave out the strongest pieces of evidence. FIPL should be happy to know, however, that honesty is not among the things we are accusing it of.

Conclusion

The distortions and untruths in Faith in Public Life’s “report” make it clear that they are not interested in justice, the poor, or honesty in reporting.  The mere fact that the report’s author refuses to address the glaring inaccuracies shows that he is more interested in furthering an agenda than the truth.  But in addition to the irony that an organization so friendly with Planned Parenthood is rushing to the defense of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the homosexuality lobby group Human Rights Campaign endorsed FIPL’s report, just a few days after it was published.  HRC emphatically claimed that it is unjust “that a network of conservative Catholic organizations would choose to withhold funds from local groups working with the poor because they support marriage equality and the LGBT community.”

All of this leads to two conclusions:

  1. The Reform CCHD Now campaign is having a definitive impact on the lobbying efforts of pro-abortion and pro-homosexual organizations.  There would be no reason for the obvious effort of writing this slick 28-page report and obtaining its long list of endorsers, otherwise. 

  2. FIPL and HRC both make the arguments that in order to help the poor, it is essential for CCHD grantees to join coalitions that support abortion and homosexuality, proving what the Reform CCHD Now coalition has been saying all along: CCHD grantees are indeed members of pro-abortion and pro-homosexual coalitions, and such membership is necessary to advance abortion and homosexuality in American society. 

Michael Hichborn is Director of Defend the Faith, a project of American Life League.

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Vatican’s doctrine chief: ‘Absolutely anti-Catholic’ to let bishops conferences decide doctrine or discipline

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By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has rejected outright the idea floated by Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx that various bishops’ conferences around the world would decide for themselves on points of discipline or doctrine. 

“This is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church,” Cardinal Müller told France’s Famille Chrétienne in an interview published today

The question was raised because Cardinal Marx, the head of the German Catholic bishops’ conference and a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Nine, told reporters that the German bishops would chart their own course on the question of allowing Communion for those in “irregular” sexual unions.

“We are not a subsidiary of Rome,” he said in February. “The Synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany.”

Vatican Cardinal Müller remarked that while episcopal conferences may have authority over certain issues they are not a parallel magisterium apart from the pope or outside communion with the bishops united to him.

Asked specifically about Cardinal Marx saying that the Church in Germany is “not a subsidiary of Rome,” the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said pointedly “the president of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and as such has no special teaching authority.”  He added moreover, that the dioceses in a particular country “are not subsidiaries of the secretariat of an Episcopal conference or diocese whose Bishop presides over the Episcopal Conference.”

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The CDF head warned that “this attitude makes the risk of waking some polarization between the local churches and the universal Church.” He did not however believe that there was the will for Episcopal conferences to separate from Rome.

The important interview also saw Cardinal Müller contest the notion that the pastoral practice or discipline could change while retaining the same doctrine. “We can not affirm the doctrine and initiate a practice that is contrary to the doctrine,” he said.

He added that not even the papal Magisterium is free to change doctrine. “Every word of God is entrusted to the Church, but it is not superior to the Word,” he said. “The Magisterium is not superior to the word of God. The reverse is true.”

Cardinal Müller rejected the notion that we would have to modify Christ’s unflinching words totally forbidding divorce and remarriage.  We cannot “say that our ministry should be more cautious than Jesus Christ Himself!”  Nor could we, he added, say that Christ’s teaching is out of date or that “we need to correct or refine Jesus Christ because He lived in an idealistic world.” 

Rather, the cardinal said, bishops must be ready for martyrdom.  Quoting Jesus he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and if we speak all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

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‘Groundbreaking’: Kansas may become first state to ban dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson

TOPEKA, KS, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kansas will become the first state in the country to ban a procedure in which unborn children are dismembered in the womb, if Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill that recently passed the state legislature.

The state House passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, called dismemberment abortions in common parlance, by 98-26 on Wednesday.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which had already passed the state Senate in February 31-9, now heads to Gov. Brownback's desk.

Brownback, a staunch defender of life, is expected to sign the act into law.

"Because of the Kansas legislature's strong pro-life convictions, unborn children in the state will be protected from brutal dismemberment abortions," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which has made banning dismemberment abortions a national legislative focus.

The procedure, in which an abortionist separates the unborn child's limbs from his body one at a time, accounts for 600 abortions statewide every year.

Nationally, it is “the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second trimester abortions,” according to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook.

“It’s just unconscionable that something happens to children that we wouldn’t tolerate being done to pets,” Katie Ostrowski, the legislative director of Kansans for Life, told The Wichita Eagle.

Leading pro-life advocacy groups have made shifting the debate to dismemberment a national priority, with similar legislation being considered in Missouri and Oklahoma. Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., who is NRLC's director of state legislation, called the bill's passage in Topeka “groundbreaking.”

"When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone," she said.

The abortion lobby has made clear that it is uncomfortable engaging in a public relations tussle on this ground.

Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues associate of the Guttmacher Institute, said that dismemberment is “not medical language, so it’s a little bit difficult to figure out what the language would do.”

On the state Senate floor, Democrats tried to alter the bill's language on the floor by replacing the term “unborn child” with fetus. “I know some of you don’t believe in science. But it’s not an unborn child, it’s called a fetus,” said state Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City.

If the bill becomes law, the abortion industry has vowed to fight on.

Julie Burkhart, a former associate of late-term abortionist George Tiller, said the motion's only intention is “to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors.”

“Policymakers should be ashamed,” she said, adding, “if passed, we will challenge it in court.”

Gov. Brownback has previously signed conscience rights protections and sweeping pro-life protections into law.

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How NOT to move beyond the abortion wars

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By Anne Hendershott

March 26, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- A few years ago, when an undergraduate student research assistant of mine—a recent convert to Catholicism—told me that he was planning to meet with a well-known dissenting Catholic theology professor who was then ensconced in an endowed chair at a major metropolitan Catholic university, I told him: “Be careful, you might end up liking him too much.” I jokingly told my student not to make eye contact with the theologian because he might begin to find himself agreeing with him that Catholic teachings “really allow” for women’s ordination and full reproductive rights—including access to abortion.

I was reminded of that conversation this week when I began reading a new book by yet another engaging Catholic theology professor at a major metropolitan university who also claims (pg 6) that the argument he puts forward in his book, Beyond the Abortion Wars, is “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine.” Written by Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, the new book purports to be in line with Catholic teachings and promises “a way forward for a new generation.” But, Camosy delivers yet another argument for a woman’s right to choose abortion when confronted with an unborn child that he has described—in the past—as an “innocent aggressor.”

Indeed, Camosy has spent much of his career trying to convince us that he knows Catholic teachings better than the bishops. Criticizing Bishop Olmsted for his intervention and excommunication of a hospital administrator for her role in the direct abortion at a Phoenix Catholic hospital, Camosy suggested in 2013 that “the infamous Phoenix abortion case set us back in this regard.” Implying that Bishop Olmsted was not smart enough to understand the moral theology involved in the case, Camosy claimed that “The moral theology in the case was complex—which makes the decision to declare publicly that Sr. McBride had excommunicated herself even more inexplicable. The Church can do better.” For Camosy, “Catholics must be ready to help shape our new discussion on abortion. And we must do so in a way that draws people into the conversation—not only with respectful listening, but speaking in a way that is both coherent and sensitive.”

This new book is likely Camosy’s attempt to “draw people into the conversation.” But, there is little in his book that is either coherent or sensitive. Claiming to want to move “beyond” the abortion wars, Camosy creates an argument that seems designed to offend the pro-life side, while giving great respect to those who want to make sure abortion remains legal.

Especially offensive for pro-life readers will be Camosy’s description of the abortifacient, RU-486 as a form of “indirect abortion.” The reality is that RU-486, commonly known as the “abortion pill,” effectively ends an early pregnancy (up to 8 weeks) by turning off the pregnancy hormone (progesterone). Progesterone is necessary to maintain the pregnancy and when it is made inoperative, the fetus is aborted. For Camosy, who claims that his book is “consistent with settled Catholic doctrine,” this is not a “direct” abortion. To illustrate this, Camosy enlists philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson’s 1971 “Defense of Abortion”—the hypothetical story of the young woman who is kidnapped and wakes up in a hospital bed to find that her healthy circulatory system has been hooked up to a famous unconscious violinist who has a fatal kidney ailment. The woman’s body is being used to keep the violinist alive until a “cure” for the violinist can be found. Camosy makes the case—as hundreds of thousands of pro-choice proponents have made in the past four decades—that one cannot be guilty of directly killing the violinist if one simply disconnects oneself from him. Likewise, for Camosy, simply taking the drug RU 486 is not “directly” killing the fetus. He writes:

The drugs present in RU 486 do not by their very nature appear to attack the fetus. Instead, the drug cuts off the pregnancy hormone and the fetus is detached from the woman’s body…. Using RU 486 is like removing yourself from [Judith Jarvis Thompson’s] violinist once you are attached. You don’t aim at his death, but instead remove yourself because you don’t think you have the duty to support his life with your body…. Some abortions are indirect and better understood as refusals to aid (pp 82-83).

Perhaps there are some readers who will find Camosy’s argument convincing, but I am not sure that many faithful Catholic readers will agree that it is consistent with settled Catholic doctrine.

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As one who is hardly a bystander in the abortion wars, I wanted to like this book. As an incrementalist who celebrates every small step in creating policy to protect the unborn, I had high hopes that this book would at last begin to bridge the divide. A decade ago, in my own book, The Politics of Abortion, I joined the argument begun by writers like Marvin Olasky in his Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, that it is more effective to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people than to create divisive public policy at the federal level. I share Charles Camosy’s desire to end the abortion wars—but this war cannot end until the real war on the unborn ends. This does not mean that the two sides cannot work together—battling it out at the state level—where there is the opportunity for the greatest success. But, complex philosophical arguments on whether RU 486 is a direct or indirect form of abortion are not helpful to these conversations.

Camosy must know that we can never really “end” the abortion wars as long as unborn children are still viewed as “aggressors” or “invaders” and can still be legally aborted. Faithful Catholics know that there is no middle ground on this—the pro-life side has to prevail in any war on the unborn. It can be done incrementally but ground has to be gained—not ceded—for the pro-life side. Besides, Camosy seems a bit late to the battlefield to begin with. In many ways, he seems to have missed the fact that the pro-life side is already winning many of the battles through waiting periods, ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and restrictions on late term abortion at the state level. More than 300 policies to protect the unborn have been passed at the state level just in the past few years. The number of abortions each year has fallen to pre-Roe era levels—the lowest in more than four decade.   Much of these gains are due to the selfless efforts of the pro-life community and their religious leaders. Yet, just as victory appears possible in many more states, Camosy seems to want to surrender by resurrecting the tired rhetoric—and the unconscious violinists—of forty years ago.

While it is disappointing, it is not unexpected considering Camosy’s last book lauded the contributions of Princeton’s most notorious professor, Peter Singer—the proponent of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Claiming that Singer is “motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals,” Camosy’s 2012 book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, argues that, “Though Singer is pro-choice for infanticide, on all the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion but one, Singer sounds an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.”  In a post at New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive organization led by Rev. Richard Cizik (a former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was removed from his position because of his public support for same sex unions, and his softening stance on abortion) Camosy wrote that he found Singer to be “friendly and compassionate.”  Camosy currently serves on the Advisory Board of Cizik’s New Evangelical Partnership—where he has posted Peter Singer-like articles including: “Why Christians Should Support Rationing Health Care.”

One cannot know the motivations of another—we can never know what is in another’s heart so it is difficult to know why Charles Camosy wrote this book. It must be difficult to be a pro-life professor at Fordham University—a school known for dissenting theologians like Elizabeth Johnson. But, if one truly wants to advance a culture of life in which all children are welcomed into the world, it would seem that inviting Peter Singer to be an honored speaker to students at Fordham in 2012 is not the way to do it, nor would claiming that RU-486 “may not aim at death by intention.” Perhaps it is unwise to continue to critically review Camosy’s work from a Catholic perspective because it gives such statements credibility—and notoriety. But, as long as Camosy continues to claim that his writings and policy suggestions—including his newly proposed “Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act”—are “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine,” faithful Catholics will have to continue to denounce them.

Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine. 

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