Image: Farragutful, USCCB offices, Added Graphics & Blur, CC BY-SA 3.0
If you know Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute like I do, you know he goes after corruption in the Church like a bloodhound after a scent. He is tenacious, unflappable, and utterly devoted to the cause. I’ve worked with him on more than one occasion, and I don’t know that I’ve ever met a man less likely to be bought off.
Which makes the story he shared today about Catholic Campaign for Human Development Executive Director Ralph McCloud look like one of the most egregious examples of miscalculation I’ve ever come across. In a blog post, Hichborn says that in a recent email, McCloud sought to discredit his investigative findings into some of CCHD’s grant recipients — recipients Hichborn reported last month were engaged in pro-abortion and/or pro-homosexual activities. Hichborn’s report didn’t just include information on one or two such recipients, but a full dozen. Nevertheless, McCloud was dismissive of the report:
[A]ll credible allegations are thoroughly investigated by CCHD in partnership with the local diocese, and all of the Lepanto allegations cited have been previously investigated. However, in the case that any group engages in activities contrary to Catholic teaching, the situation will be rectified quickly, responsibly, and charitably in deference to the local ordinary.
McCloud also stated that
In years past, CCHD staff met with Mr. Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute with no positive results. Additionally, the CCHD Subcommittee asked that we not meet with him since there seems to be no amicable resolution.
In response, Hichborn sought to provide his own recollection of a meeting he had with McCloud and another high ranking USCCB official in 2011:
I have a witness to this account, who can testify that what I am about to say is completely true.
In the fall of 2011, a colleague of mine and I went to the USCCB offices in Washington, DC to meet with John Carr (then the USCCB’s director of Justice and Peace) and Ralph McCloud about our recent investigation into CCHD grants. Before discussing our findings and the report we were preparing to publish, Carr and McCloud indicated that they wanted to address a few matters first. I expected to be met with the same old list of excuses CCHD gives every time it is caught providing grants to organizations that act against the Church’s teaching. What I did not expect was to be told that instead of meeting and discussing our research into CCHD grants, the CCHD would rather provide us with a grant to create a group that would organize low income people against the pro-abortion and anti-family movements.
Several times throughout the conversation, we were presented with an “appeal” to take a grant from the CCHD in lieu of the research we were conducting into CCHD grantees.
In addition to telling us that they (Carr and McCloud) were “violating their own rules” by offering to provide us with a grant if we were to create such an organization, we were told that the CCHD’s definition of “low income” was more expansive than it was in the past. The suggestion was simply that we could pay ourselves fairly well and still qualify for the grant. Amazingly, after offering us a grant and telling us that doing so was a violation of their rules, they went on to specify that they weren’t supposed to solicit grant applications and help people through the grant process. But this is precisely what they were offering to do. And it was done specifically in the context of moving us away from the ongoing investigations we were conducting into CCHD grantees.
However, as the saying goes, if the carrot doesn’t work, try the stick.
Once it became clear that we weren’t going to take the bait to accept a grant from the CCHD, and that we still intended to publish our report on 54 CCHD grantees, the conversation moved from the offer to a threat. In stating our intention to publish this report, we made it clear that the reason for publishing was simply this: we believed that pew-sitting Catholics deserved to know what sort of organizations the CCHD was funding so they could determine on their own if this was the sort of thing they wanted to contribute to. Despite our promise not to editorialize the information, it was made abundantly clear to us in that if we published the report on those 54 grantees, the CCHD would characterize it as an “attack” and that they would spend time trying to discredit it. In fact, we were specifically told what a shame it is that the CCHD would be forced to waste time discrediting our report instead of providing us with a grant.
From where I sit, that sounds mysteriously like a payoff. Like putting lipstick on a bribe.
McCloud’s email this week also confirms the “threat” portion of Michael’s recollection of events. As Hichborn was told by McCloud in 2011, “it was made abundantly clear to us in that if we published the report on those 54 grantees, the CCHD would characterize it as an ‘attack’ and that they would spend time trying to discredit it. ”
And in McCloud’s email, we find the following sentence:
It is important to note that, throughout its history, CCHD and CCHD grantees have been subject to organized, exploitative attacks. Although sometimes these attacks originate due to a misperception of the mission of CCHD (To empower communities in their work, to overcome injustice and economic marginalization), at times they derive from opposition to the Church’s teaching and work in the field of charity and justice.
Did anyone else have a little chuckle at the accusation of “attacks” motivated by “opposition to the Church’s teaching”? I mean, from a guy who spent his first year at the USCCB moonlighting as the treasurer for the Wendy Davis campaign? Yeah. That Wendy Davis. The one who became famous for unseating a pro-life incumbent in the Texas state senate and running an 11-hour filibuster in that state’s legislature to stop a bill that would restrict abortion regulations.
Hichborn has more on his interactions with McCloud (and the cessation thereof) in his post today, and it’s not endearing stuff. I’ve also written about McCloud here before, as has practically everyone else in the Catholic world who gives a damn about Church teaching on defined, non-negotiable issues like abortion — not esoteric and often distorted questions of “charity and justice”. Nothing has ever been done.
Isn’t it interesting how our bishops spare no time forcing the resignation of Fr. Weinandy at the first sign of inconvenient orthodoxy, but McCloud is apparently untouchable, no matter how far off the Catholic reservation he goes?
As Antonio Socci said in the essay we published earlier today: “Are there still any Catholic bishops and cardinals left? They ought to know that God will demand an account from them for their complicit silence. And in case they might have forgotten, we must remind them of it.”
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.