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BY WAYNE LAUGESEN, REGISTER CORRESPONDENT
WASHINGTON — The researcher who is exposing links between a U.S. bishops’ conference agency and an organization that supports abortion and homosexuality said he never tried to cast doubts on anyone’s pro-life sincerity.
“None of this has been done to question whether the individuals involved are pro-life,” said Michael Hichborn, lead researcher for the American Life League. “That’s a distraction, and we’re not questioning that. We only care about what they are doing and the decisions that have been made.”
The American Life League, along with Human Life International and Bellarmine Veritas Ministry, released a collaborative report Feb. 1 that criticized John Carr, who oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development for the bishops’ conference. The report cited his prior chairmanship of the Center for Community Change, a Washington-based organization that supports causes that conflict with Catholic teachings.
The organization’s board also includes representatives from organizations such as the pro-abortion Ms. Foundation for Women
Carr, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, stepped down as chairman of the board of the Center for Community Change in February of 2005, and said his service on the board focused mostly on poverty, housing and immigration issues.
“When I served, the board never discussed or acted on any position involving these matters [abortion and homosexuality], and if they had, I would have vigorously opposed any advocacy for access to abortion or ‘gay marriage,’” Carr said, as quoted in a story published by the Catholic News Service, which is owned and operated by the U.S. bishops’ conference.
Katie Walker, communication director for the American Life League, said she’s concerned that grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and 31 organizations that are “partners” with the Center for Community Change indicate a strong connection between the bishops’ conference and pro-abortion, pro-homosexual groups.
She said financial relationships between organizations can indicate control and common values.
“If Carr didn’t know the direction the CCC was headed while chairing the board of the organization, how will he address, as the head of the CCHD, the ongoing problem of funding for radical pro-abortion, pro-homosexual groups?” Walker said in a Feb. 2 American Life League press release.
At least four bishops have stated support for Carr, the latest in an interview with the Register Feb. 8.
“Until proven otherwise, I have to believe what John Carr tells us,” said Colorado Springs, Colo., Bishop Michael Sheridan. “I count on the leadership of the conference [USCCB] and on John Carr to be honest.”
Bishop Sheridan’s office sits a few blocks from one of two main offices of the Gill Foundation, an organization founded by Quark software founder and Denver multimillionaire Tim Gill to advocate “for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) equality.”
“It’s a very pro-gay-rights organization,” Bishop Sheridan said.
The Gill Foundation gave $50,000 to the Center for Community Change in 2008, but Bishop Sheridan said donors don’t always control the organizations they give money to. He said even the most traditional Catholic organizations cannot accurately screen what’s in the hearts of individual or organizational donors.
“Should Catholic organizations refuse money from individuals or organizations with questionable reputations if there are not strings attached? That’s a discussion we have frequently,” Bishop Sheridan said. “If there were no strings attached, and it could be done with no publicity, I might accept money from that organization [Gill Foundation], if it were donated so that we could use it to help the poor.”
Fair enough, said Hichborn.
“The concern isn’t that they [Carr’s former board members] accepted money from Gill,” Hichborn said. “We have found a pattern of cooperation by the CCHD with these types of groups that work in opposition to Catholic values.”
Hichborn said the Arcus Foundation, a radical homosexual-advocacy organization, gave the Campaign for Community Change a $75,000 grant in 2007 specifically earmarked for homosexual activism. Though Carr had left the board by then, he had been replaced by one of his ranking employees — Tom Chabolla, who remains on the board but left the U.S. bishops’ conference to work for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.
In a letter to Tom Grenchik, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat, Hichborn said he has found and documented grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to 50 organizations “engaged in activities contrary to Church teaching — and which continue to receive CCHD funds.”
Chabolla, former associate director of programs for CCHD, currently is assistant to the president of the Service Employees International Union, an organization that donates heavily to the campaigns of pro-abortion politicians, including Obama.
Chabolla and Carr did not respond to the Register’s requests for interviews.
On his Facebook wall, Chabolla posted a video from RealCatholicTV that told of him leaving the USCCB to work for the Obama campaign. The video argued that Chabolla and other current and former ranking employees at the bishops’ conference support radical organizations that work counter to Catholic teachings.
Responding to the video, Chabolla wrote only: “This is why I’m glad I no longer work for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic.”
The U.S. bishops’ conference has issued no direct refutations about ties between the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Center for Community Change, nor has it refuted allegations about radical activism by the Center for Community Change or partner organizations funded by the CCHD.
Three bishops who work closely with Carr, however, have come out strongly in his defense.
“I’m concerned about these attacks on John Carr, and I know they are false, and I think they are even calumnious,” said Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y.
Bishop Roger Morin, of Biloxi, Miss., called the allegations involving Carr “totally ridiculous.”
Bishop Howard Hubbard, of Albany, N.Y., said he has worked with Carr for more than 30 years and “always found him to be a staunch opponent of abortion.”
Carr also received support from Father Sinclair Oubre, a canon lawyer and co-founder of the Catholic Labor Network, an organization that promotes a variety of social-justice issues. Father Oubre considers Carr a close friend. Carr was to serve on a panel at the Labor Network’s conference in Washington last weekend, which was canceled because of snow.
“John was the main speaker at our conference a few years ago, and he showed up to just drive home a message that said you can’t be a social-justice Catholic if you aren’t also pro-life, meaning you defend life in the womb. John has long been trying to get the social-justice arm of the Church and the pro-life arm of the Church to get on board with one another. He tells social-justice Catholics that if you don’t get to be born, you can’t talk about the minimum wage.”
Father Oubre worries that critics are maligning Carr because of his associations, which do not tell the story of his character and values.
Wayne Laugesen writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.