Unfortunately Judases undermined the pro-life cause from the very beginning, especially those in the church bureaucracy like Fr. James McHugh (later bishop), head of the Family Life Division of the Catholic Conference (now the USCCB). When, in 1970, the Society for the Christian Commonwealth, headed by Professor Charles Rice, tried to launch a national initiative to defend life, it was McHugh who did everything he could to dilute and stymie their efforts. He did not want the Church to get into politics; neither did he want opposition to abortion preached from the pulpit. McHugh was, at the time, a good friend of Mary Calderone of SIECUS (Sex Informatin and Education Council of the United States). When Rice's group began to organize a national conference, McHugh, who said he would not interfere in their plans, did just the opposite. He sent a letter to all the bishops slandering the group. At the same time he sent a hypocritical response to the Congress' invitation pretending that he was considering attending and supporting it, but requesting further information. His malice was clearly revealed by this action. Here's some of what McHugh wrote:
A small group of people are planning a National Right to Life Congress in Washington D.C.. . as a new call to action for interested citizens. [Keep in mind, that among this "small group" were some well-known Catholic lay leaders including L. Brent Bozell, Professors Germain Grisez and Charles Rice, Dr. Herbert Ratner, and others. Actress Loretta Young had agreed to be the honorary chairman of the event.]
This is to advise that this Congress is neither sponsored by nor supported by the USCC or any of its offices....
Since at least some of the supporters of the National Right to Life Congress have already urged violence and a tougher stand, we must withhold support. ....We recommend that the bishops do not fund or support other meetings [besides those organized by McHugh's office]. N.B. McHugh also sent the letter to many pro-life groups around the country.Charles Rice protested this lying letter recording his "profound shock." He wrote, "That the officer chiefly responsible for directing the Catholic Church's role in this area should attempt to discredit and discourage Catholic participation in an ecumenical effort to save lives is simply beyond my comprehension." Professor Rice called for McHugh to make an "appropriate revision" of his slanderous comments to "undo the enormous damage which you, in the name of the Church's Family Life Division, ma yhave done to the now desperate struggle to uphold the sanctity of human life."
Rice sent a letter to all the bishops addressing McHugh's actions and representatives of the Society later met with McHugh and the bishops' general secretary, Bishop (later Cardinal) Joseph Bernardin, to discuss the situation. The Congress ultimately went forward without the support of McHugh who continued to undermine pro-life efforts throughout his career. Michael Lawrence, editor of Triumph Magazine, later published the entire sorry affair as a documentary.
Just think how different things might have been without the "soft approach" to abortion recommended by McHugh and Bernardin, without the "seamless garment" providing a cloak of cover for pro-abortion extremists like Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi.
In the mid 70s a friend and I went around northern Virginia meeting with protestant ministers and with the priests' council of Washington, D.C. and Bishop Welsh of Arlington. Our purpose was to make the case for the shepherds to lead the charge defending the least ones by "sitting in" at local abortion mills. If enough people of good will would actively show that they believed the rhetoric that the babies had the same rights and dignity as the rest of us, abortion could not be sustained. It would be an act of reparation for the failure of believers to oppose the Nazi holocaust.
After meeting with dozens of ministers and priests we had ONE commitment -- from Pastor Renee Scott of Truro Episcopal Church. If other pastors would go he would join as well. None would. Bishop Welsh agreed to participate in a protest at the Northern Virginia Women's Medical Center where some of us had been arrested for going in and blocking the doors to the death chambers, but that was the total success of our attempt to save the babies. The rescues continued, mostly without clergy support, and even those were crushed when Leviathan passed the FACE Act (Freedom to Clinic Entrances Act) in 1994.
Why am I writing about this today? Because I received a pro-life newsletter with a story about a Catholic Hospital, Franciscan Healthcare, in La Crosse, WI that allows abortionists to consult with women in high-risk pregnancies. Since that fact came to light in 2014, pro-lifers picket the hospital on an almost daily basis. As has always been true in the pro-life movement, it is grass roots activists leading the charge with little support from their shepherds. And, in fact, some shepherds like Archbishop Blase Cupich acted exactly like McHugh when he instructed his priests in Spokane to boycott the 40 Days for Life initiative. No wonder Jesus wept when he looked over the city of Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish faith.
I wonder what the Lord will say to our religious leaders on Judgment Day who spent almost every waking hour of their ministries ignoring the little wounded Jews on the road to Jericho.