Randy Engel
Bishop James T. McHugh: The forgotten man in the McCarrick equation (Part 2)
The unknown obstacles suffered by the early prolife movement
By Randy Engel
August 7, 2022

Cardinal Cody Betrays Early Prolife Movement

There are two important historical footnotes to be added to this aforementioned tragic scenario before zeroing in on the role played by Bishop McHugh in the undermining of the early Prolife Movement.

First, the Catholic reader needs to understand that the decision of the American hierarchy to abandon its long-held policy in opposition to state and federal “birth control” promotion and services, and instead switch to the fallback position of surgical abortion, had already been made before that fateful day of November 14, 1966, when the NCCB/USCC publicly waved the white flag of surrender before the Anti-Life Establishment.

Archbishop Cody’s Secret Deal With Joe Beasley

This betrayal begins in the fall of 1965 with a charismatic birth control crusader named Dr. Joseph D. Beasley of Tulane University, who dreamed of leading a national battle against the proliferation of people. He wanted to begin with a modest population control program for black welfare recipients in the northern counties of Louisiana. He was stymied, however, by state laws prohibiting the distribution of contraceptive information. More importantly, he had to contend with the powerful Catholic Church in Louisiana and the explosive charge of “black genocide” before he could get any population control project off the ground.

Within a matter of weeks, the ever-charming and resourceful Beasley had engineered a satisfactory agreement with the New Orleans Family Life officials, following the consultation of the New Orleans Archdiocese with Archbishop John Cody of Chicago.

In his fascinating book, The Politics of Population Control, writer Thomas Littlewood describes one of Beasley’s incredible sessions with a Church representative handpicked by Cardinal Cody:

    The place is the Petroleum Club in Shreveport, Louisiana. Over a sumptuous dinner of the finest chateaubriand, Joseph Diehl Beasley…is engaged comfortably in conversation with Msgr. Marvin Bordelon[1] representing the bishops of the Catholic dioceses of Louisiana. (They) are discussing the new Politics of Population. To be more precise, they are negotiating the conditions under which the Church would permit Beasley to begin providing tax-financed birth control services to low-income residents of the state.[2]

The “Bordelon Accord” bore a striking resemblance to the birth control concordat signed by the Puerto Rican bishops three years earlier.[3] It is important to realize that Joe Beasley was not after the monsignor’s or the Catholic Church’s blessings, just a promise of “non-interference.”[4]

In order to attract black support for his program and to stave off charges of “genocide,” Joe Beasley used a set of different tactics against community and state black leaders, namely, patronage and payola! He also siphoned off large sums of federal family planning funds to out-of-state militant civil rights groups.[5]

After Archbishop Cody personally assured an incredulous Governor John McKeithen (not a Catholic) that Beasley had his (Cody’s) permission to begin his birth control program, state regulations were “reinterpreted” to permit Beasley to begin his welfare reduction program for poor black families, a program which was almost entirely dependent on abortifacients including IUDs and “The Pill.”[6]

In less than ten years, Beasley had pyramided his Family Health Foundation (FHF) into a $62 million empire with over one hundred federally funded birth control clinics statewide.[7] Beasley’s FHF received accolades from every imaginable quarter as “the No.1 success story” of the birth control movement, including that of the NCCB/USCC Family Life Director, Fr. James McHugh!

I have read of Dr. Beasley’s work and I am very impressed by it,” Father McHugh said, “(but) there are other people with ideals that fall far short of those of Dr. Beasley’s project.

This statement in support of Beasley’s birth control program, which, as I have already indicated, was primarily based on abortifacient devices and pills, was made by McHugh at the 1970 Congressional hearing on the now infamous Family Planning Services and Population Research Act.[8]

By 1973, however, it was clear that, once again, McHugh had placed his bet on yet another “dark horse,” morally speaking. That year, a General Accounting Office audit, and a lengthy federal government investigation of the FHF confirmed Beasley’s alarming record of political corruption. Soon after, in the spring of 1974, “federal marshals surrounded the FHF headquarters in New Orleans and the foundation was placed in federal receivership.”[9]

The Federal Government’s charges against Beasley, the FHF’s founder, included multiple counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and mail fraud, together with misappropriation of many thousands of dollars of federal “family planning” funds for illegal payments for liquor bills, private plane junkets, and political campaign contributions. Eugene Wallace, an FHF official who turned state’s evidence, testified during one court hearing that Beasley had threatened to kill him with a shotgun if he (Wallace) took the stand against him![10] Interestingly, while the Anti-Life Establishment deserted Beasley like rats fleeing a sinking ship, volunteer lawyers from “Catholic” Loyola’s New Orleans University Law School handled his appeal!!![11]

As for the rest of the American bishops, all of whom had now been dragged into the Beasley quagmire by Archbishop Cody and the Louisiana hierarchy, they were in for a double whammy when Beasley joined J. D. Rockefeller III (Chairman of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future) at a press conference in 1972 calling for universal, tax-subsidized abortion. Beasley later acknowledged that his deal with Church officials was part of his threefold strategy of getting family planning in first, and then following up with sterilization and abortion![12]

Such an admission, one would suppose, should have given the American bishops cause for grave concern since they had permitted the federal government’s multi-billion dollar five year Family Planning Services and Population Research Act to be signed into law two years earlier without any real opposition on their part.

It should also have led them to question the judgment of Family Life Director, Father James McHugh, but it did not. That omission concerning McHugh, one of many made during the early years of the Prolife Movement, would continue to spell out disaster for the movement over the next three decades.

Obstruction by NCCB/USCC Clerical Homosexuals

Which brings us to the second major unknown obstacle facing the emerging Prolife Movement in the early 1970s – the growing numbers of homosexual clergy and hierarchy at the NCCB/USCC and the role they played in opposing or nullifying prolife federal legislation. Volumes III and IV of The Rite of Sodomy, provides the names of prominent homosexual clerics who dominated AmChurch’s bureaucracy during this critical period for the Prolife Movement with a chapter devoted to the then USCC General Secretary Joseph Bernardin, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking at just one – homosexual Bishop James T. McHugh – the major architect of the Church’s policies and programs on prolife issues which continue to haunt and cripple the Prolife Movement to this very day.

The Early Career of Jimmy McHugh[13]

    When the great epic history of the pro-life movement is finally written, the name of Bishop James T. McHugh will undoubtedly appear over and over again at the most important decision points in our movement’s struggle to restore legal protection to the unborn child. His vast knowledge of public policy issues and solid understanding of the political process provided pro-life leaders with invaluable guidance in forming strategies and building organizations capable of confronting the challenge of those who were promoting a culture of death.[14]

    ' Memorial by Ernest L. Ohlhoff, National Committee for a Human Life Amendment

Father James T. McHugh was ordained as a careerist priest for the Modernist Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey on May 25, 1957, at the age of twenty-five. A creature of the Second Vatican Council and a devotee of Americanist John Courtney Murray, S.J.,[15] and priest-dissenter , Father Charles Curran of Catholic University, McHugh joined the staff of the Family Life Bureau (FLB) of NCWC in 1965, and in 1967 became homosexual Bishop Bernardin’s choice for Director of the new NCCB/USCC’s Family Life Bureau (Office).

McHugh Forms Anti-Life Axis at FLB[16]

Among the earliest projects set in motion at McHugh’s Family Life Office at the NCCB/USCC office in Washington, D.C. was the introduction of “sexual catechetics”[17] (which replaced sound doctrinal catechetics) into parochial elementary and secondary schools and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes for public school children across the United States.[18]

The American bishops’ 1950 statement opposing classroom sex initiation programs – which was in line with Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on Christian Education of Youth[19], and the Holy Office’s subsequent affirmation of the papal ban of so-called “sex initiation” programs – was ignored. On November 15, 1968, all opposition from Catholic parents was swept aside, as the American bishops issued their Pastoral Letter Human Life in Our Day, which made “systematic” classroom sex instruction “a gave obligation.”[20]

This was the first prolife battle that was lost to the post-Conciliar and pro-homosexual forces that dominated the bishops’ episcopal conference.

It would not be the last.

Prolifers Lose the Human Embryo Battle

An obvious case of the USCC tail wagging the NCCB dog occurred on July 10, 1969, when McHugh defended certain experimental human reproductive procedures including in vitro fertilization that are prohibited by the Catholic Church in his nationally syndicated diocesan column, The Ties That Bind.

In a brilliant piece of “newspeak,” McHugh comments favorably on a June 13,1969, Life magazine article, “Challenge to the Miracle of Life,” by Life science editor Albert Rosenfeld:

    According to the Life article, scientists are now seriously experimenting with new ways to initiate the reproductive process that would not require the act of conjugal love between husband and wife. There is the possibility of implanting the male sperm within the woman medically, and there is the possibility of removing an already fertilized ovum[21] from one woman and implanting it in another, a process that has so far only been tested in animals (bold added).… Many scientists are convinced that we will also discover how to join sperm and ovum outside the woman’s body, thereby initiating the life process in a test tube. Then there is the possibility wherein the female egg, without fertilization by the male sperm, doubles its supply of chromosomes, thereby fertilizing itself. Since this is not uncommon in lower forms of life, scientists conjecture that we will discover the key to initiating the chromosome duplication, perhaps by use of electric shock, some special X-ray process, or the laser beam.[22]

    It’s still a matter of guesswork as to how successful scientists will be, but if only a few of their theories work out, we will have more control of the life process than we are presently prepared to accept.[23]

    The important point to grasp at the onset is that such speculations are not an insult to God nor a denial of His creative plan. There is no reason why God’s power to summon man into existence must be limited to the reproductive process as we know it now. Indeed, there is no reason to presume that the Divine plan does not go far beyond our present scientific speculation and encompass evolutionary breakthroughs that are even beyond our imagination.[24]

Needless to say, the Prolife Movement did not win the battle against in vitro fertilization. Nor did it win the accompanying battle against human embryo experimentation. “Qui tacet onsentit”

– “Silence gives consent.” And the American bishops remained silent, and let McHugh do the talking for them.

McHugh – The Trojan Horse in the Prolife Camp

By the time McHugh and his boss, the young Joe Bernardin, took office, the” Abortion Reform Movement” was already well underway. This Anti-life Establishment was part and parcel of the broader “Sexual Reform Movement”[25] of the 1920s and 30s, that promoted masturbation, fornication, adultery, divorce, birth prevention, abortion, sterilization, homosexuality, “sex education,” artificial insemination, pornography, eugenics, and euthanasia.

The nationwide efforts to legalize the murder of unborn children was backed by the powerful Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, which in turn, financed numerous abortion lobbies and organizations including Planned Parenthood-World Population.

Abortion was deemed as a necessary adjunct to failed or omitted contraception as PP-WP spokesman Dr. George Langmyhr admitted in 1971:

    It goes without saying that Planned Parenthood Affiliates have long been involved in programs of abortion information, counseling, and referral. Before the recent changes in abortion laws, these activities were, necessarily unpublicized… Abortion must be “an integral part of any complete or total family planning program,” because “the dilemma of a woman who has a legitimate method failure, or any type of unwanted pregnancy, cannot be avoided by Planned Parenthood clinic personnel.”[26]

      Too bad the American bishops weren’t listening to Langmyhr when they decided to acquiesce on federal “family planning” programs, while moving the prolife defense line backwards to surgical abortion.

      McHugh Establishes National Right to Life Office

      The American bishops responded to the Anti-Life Establishment by creating an anti-abortion organization within the existing FLB. The new NCCB/USCC was known as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), with McHugh serving as Executive Director. He was assisted by two young paid personnel, attorney Martin McKernan and Michael Taylor. In 1979, McKernan became an attorney for the Diocese of Camden. Michael Taylor went on to a paid position on the USCCB’s National Committee for a Human Life Amendment. We’ll meet up with McKernan and Taylor later on in this series.

      Known to be silent on contraception and early abortifacients, and wildly in favor of classroom sex programs, McHugh’s NRLC proved to be a liability to the exploding no-compromise grassroots Prolife Movement and its early legislative and political initiatives at the state and federal levels.

      A case in point was the efforts in the fall of 1970 of the Society for the Christian Commonwealth (SCC), a magisterial-minded, no-compromise Catholic lay group, to organize a national meeting of prolife leaders and organizations in Washington, D.C. to forge a united effort against abortion. All the members of the SCC Steering Committee were distinguished national prolife figures. They included Law Professor Charles Rice, Family Life advocate, Dr. Herbert Ratner, and Yale Professor James Chu, a vocal critic of classroom sex programs.

      The “National Right to Life Congress,” (with the same acronym, NRLC, of McHugh’s prolife office) was scheduled to convene on April 6-8, 1971, in Washington D.C. at the Sheraton Park Hotel.

      But the Congress never happened.

      This critical effort, which could have and would have set up the Prolife Movement to act decisively and effectively on multiple political and legislative fronts in the face of any proabortion action by the Supreme Court, was systematically sabotaged and eventually killed by McHugh with the able and willing connivance of Joe Bernardin at the USCC.[27]

      McHugh managed to convince the American bishops that the Church could “not get into politics.” Nor could it oppose abortion “from the pulpit” or by passing the collection plate.[28] This argument was asinine as the USCC had been established as a civic corporate arm of the NCCB for the express purpose of influencing national legislation and federal public policies.

      McHugh Advises Against S.C. Challenge

      McHugh’s undermining of grassroots prolife efforts continued even after January 22, 1973 when the Supreme Court issued Roe v Wade (and its twin decision, Roe v. Bolton).

      On January 27, 1973, just five days after the Court decision, McHugh convened a closed door meeting of leading prolife lawyers including Charlie Rice of Notre Dame and a national Advisor to the USCL. AT THIS CRITICAL JUNCTURE, MCHUGH ADVISED THE LAWYERS AGAINST CHALLENGING THE SUPREME COURT’S RULINGS.[29] Yes, you read that right.

      McHugh, who was representing the USCC Family Life Office and the NCCB Diocesan anti-abortion agencies across the nation, told the prolife lawyers that a “States Rights” approach was the most promising avenue to “restrict” the (unrestictable) Court’s decision which legalized the killing of unborn children up to the time of birth in every State.

      McHugh’s position came as no surprise. In 1972, McHugh’s NRLC sent letters to all State Right to Life groups urging them NOT TO SUPPORT H.J.R.1186, sponsored by Congressman John Schmitz of California, which called for a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn child.

      McHugh’s States’ rights proposal was rejected by the lawyers’ group who noted that the January 22nd ruling DID NOT LEAVE A SHRED OF ENFORCEABLE LAW ON WHICH TO ERECT NEW STATE LEGISLATION TO PROTECT EVEN A HANDFUL OF UNBORN CHILDREN.

      Instead, the prolife lawyers put together a committee to draft a Constitutional Amendment that would establish the personhood of the unborn child.

      But the damage was done – the Prolife Movement was fatally divided with grassroots Catholics favoring a Constitutional Human Life Amendment that acknowledged the personhood of the unborn child at every stage of human development, and the NCCB/USCC favoring a States Rights approach to “regulate” and/or “restrict” the killing of the unborn.

      McHugh Advances Up the Clerical Ladder.

      When the bishops reorganized and expanded their prolife offices at the NCCB/USCC in the late fall of 1972, McHugh became the Secretary and Executive of the Ad Hoc Committee for Pro-Life Affairs, that later became a formal Standing Committee of the NCCB called the Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities. While the new Pro-Life Secretariat was theoretically under the control of a chair and seven other bishops, in practice, the routine work and development of new prolife programs and strategies were handled almost exclusively by McHugh. His power and influence as the bishops’ point man for prolife affairs continued to increase.

      In addition, in 1974, the bishops created and financed a new anti-abortion lobbying arm of the called the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA) under the direction of a McHugh clone named Ernie Ohlhoff.

      Unfortunately, McHugh’s vision of what constituted a pro-life agenda and plan of action was radically different from that of grassroots prolifers as well as some members of the Catholic Hierarchy.

      Cardinals Oppose States’ Rights Amendment

      The nature of this ongoing conflict became abundantly clear at the historic first Congressional hearing for a Constitutional Human Life held in March 1974 before the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Senator Birch Bayh.

      One of four cardinals giving testimony in favor of a Constitutional Human Life Amendment to protect all unborn children, was Cardinal Humberto, Cardinal Medeiros of Boston, who forthrightly replied to the question of “exceptions,” that the Catholic Conference was opposed in principle to any and all “exceptions,” as “the prohibition against the direct and intentional taking of innocent human life should be universal and without exception.”[30]

      Cardinal Medeiros also rejected the principle of a States’ Rights amendment, explaining:

        A ‘States’ Rights’ amendment which would simply return jurisdiction over the abortion law to the States, does not seem to be a satisfactory solution to the existing situation. Protection of human life should not depend upon geographical boundaries.[31]

      However, one year late, on July 8, 1975, at the last session of the Bayh Human Life Amendment hearings, Medeiros’s opposition to “exceptions,” and a “States’ Rights strategy was undermined by testimony given by Professor David W. Louisell, a law professor at the University of California, who introduced the Noonan States’ Rights Amendment. Louisell’s appearance had been arranged by the NCHLA, in cooperation with McHugh and his Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Affairs.

      The NCHLA then approached Senator Quentin N. Burdick of North Dakota, known to be in favor of numerous “exceptions,” and persuaded him to introduce the Noonan Amendment at the upcoming closed session of Bayh’s Subcommittee meeting on September 17, 1975. A vote on each of the pending amendments including the Hogan-Helms Human Life Amendment supported by prolife grassroots activists, was expected at that time. A letter endorsing the Noonan Amendment was released by the Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Affairs and the NCHLA, claiming the States’ Rights amendment was a “carefully drawn compromise proposal.”

      In reality, the Noonan Amendment was not a Human Life Amendment[32] at all. It merely gave a State the right, not the obligation, to protect “life” (and not specifically human life). Further, it failed to:

      • Declare the unborn child a person under the Constitution with specific reference to the 5th and 14th Amendments.

      • It failed to state at what point in time the “right to protect life” would be affected.

      • And it failed to empower Congress to pass legislation to cut off pro-abortion domestic or foreign funding since the term “federal jurisdictions” used in this amendment applied to geographical locations such as the District of Columbia.

      On the final balloting, all the Constitutional Amendments failed to be voted out of Bayh’s subcommittee. Even the “compromise” Noonan Amendment was defeated by a 4-4 tie vote. For the record, McHugh’s “man of the hour,” Senator Burdick, did not cast a vote for any Human Life Amendment!

      The real kicker, however, was that no dyed-in-the-wool Catholic grassroots prolife group would support such a deadly “compromise,” but diocesan-funded anti-abortion leaders acting under orders from McHugh, would probably acquiesce – thus fracturing the Prolife Movement even more.

      And the bloody war against baby killing dragged on into the 21st century.

      (To be continued)

      Endnotes for Part II

      [1] Michael Warner, Changing Witness, Catholic Bishops and Public Policy, 1917-1994, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C., 1995, p. 81

      [2] Thomas B. Littlewood, The Politics of Population Control, University of Notre Dame Press, 1977, p. 91.

      [3] See Engel, The McHugh Chronicles, pp. 92-95.

      [4] Ibid., p. 88.

      [5] Littlewood, p. 90.

      [6] Ibid., p. 91.

      [7] “The Beasley Family Planning Scandal,” Pro-Life Reporter, U.S. Coalition for Life, Export, PA, Vol. 4, No. 10, Winter 1976, p. 3.

      [8] Testimony of Rev. James T. McHugh, Family Planning Services hearing before the Subcommittee on Public Health and Welfare of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., August 3, 4, and 7, 1970, p. 359.

      [9] Littlewood, op,cit., p.104.

      [10] Pro-Life Reporter, op. cit., p. 4.

      [11] Littlewood, op. cit., p. 104.

      [12] Littlewood, op. cit., p.101.

      [13] McHugh prided himself on having a first name relationship with Planned Parenthood-Sex Information, Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)’s founder, Mary Calderone. The pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Calderone said she called him “Jimmy.”

      [14] E. L. Ohlhoff, “Bishop James McHugh, A Pro-Life Champion For More Than 35 Years,” at https://www.nrlc.org/archive/news/2000/NRL12/mchugh.html.

      [15] Richard M. Doerflinger, “The Intellectual Legacy of James T. McHugh,” available online at https://www.pdcnet.org/cssr/content/cssr_2002_0007_0013_0033. Doerflinger, Deputy Director, Secretariat for Po-Life Activities, NCCB, believed McHugh was “a special gift to the Catholic Church in the United States.” Doerflinger is best known for his role in inserting false definitions for the terms “pregnancy” and “fetus,” into the 1981 Federal regulations of the Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR), a unit of the National Institute of Health. His criminal actions opened the door for abortifacients and human embryo research.

      [16] Complete details on the revolving door of anti-life activities and personalities at the FLB under McHugh see The McHugh Chonicles, pp 6-14.

      [17] For an update on the dangers of classroom sex instructions see http://www.newengelpublishing.com/the-evolution-of-sex-instruction-in-catholic-schools/.

      [18] Prior to coming to the NCCB/USCC, McHugh was a member of he Newark Archdiocesan Family Life Apostolate which pioneered classroom sex instruction programs in Newark’s parochial schools. The Fox Life Education Program for Catholic grade school children introduced masturbation and contained explicit descriptions of sexual acts and clinical definitions.

      [19] Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical Letter on Christian Education banning classroom sex programs was issued on December 31, 1929, four months after the World League for Sexual Reform announced its programs for universal sex instruction for youth.

      [20] NCCB/USCC Pastoral Letters, Vol. III, 1962-1974, p. 175.

      [21] What McHugh refers to as a “fertilized egg,” is, in fact, a newly created human being.

      [22] John J. Mulloy, “Sex and Scientific Manipulation – F. McHugh’s Conception of the New Man,” The Wanderer, February 5, 1970, p. 4.

      [23] Ibid.

      [24] Ibid.

      [25] See McHugh Chronicles, pp.1-3.

      [26] George Langmyhr, M.D., “The Role of PP-WP in Abortion,” Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1971, Vol. 14, pp. 1191-1196.

      [27][27] The details of this horrific betrayal are provided in The McHugh Chronicles, pp. 27-30.

      [28][28] These statements were reported by an eye-witness at a prolife legislative meeting on Capitol Hill on February 16, 1970, at which McHugh was in attendance as a representative of the NCCB/USCC.

      [29][29] “Right to Life Lawyers Advised Not to Challenge Court,” The Wanderer, February 8, 1973.

      [30][30] Cardinal H. Medeiros, “From Conception Onward, the Unborn Child is a Human Person,” The Wanderer, March 14, 1974, p.6.

      [31][31] Ibid.

      [32][32] USCL “Special Report on the Noonan Amendment,” September 24, 1975.

      © Randy Engel


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Randy Engel

Randy Engel, one of the nation's top investigative reporters, began her journalistic career shortly after her graduation from the University of New York at Cortland, in 1961. A specialist in Vietnamese history and folklore, in 1963, she became the editor of The Vietnam Journal, the official publication of the Vietnam Refugee and Information Services, a national relief program in South Vietnam for war refugees and orphans based in Dayton, Ohio... (more)


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