Matt C. Abbott
At war with the USCCB; Pro-life reaction to Tebow Super Bowl ad
By Matt C. Abbott
February 9, 2010

Would it be best for the Catholic Church in the U.S. (and Rome, for that matter) if the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops were to be dismantled? I say yes, but more on that a bit later.

First, there have been a few interesting developments in the ongoing Catholic Campaign for Human Development controversy.

From a Feb. 5 story (excerpted; click here for the article in its entirety):

    'Various offices of the U.S. Bishops Conference (USCCB) have reacted to the two new reports issued by the Reform CCHD Now coalition (RCN) this week, but the reactions, claims RCN, have not addressed the core message of their reports.

    'While RCN has offered evidence that 31 CCHD grantees are partnered with a pro-abortion and homosexualist group, the Center for Community (CCC), and that two USCCB officials have served on the same group's board, the reactions have focused primarily on defending the pro-life beliefs of one of those officials — John Carr, who, as executive director of the USCCB's Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, oversees the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

    'The report on Carr's involvement in CCC was received by some as questioning Carr's personal pro-life convictions. However, RCN says that the reports in question — one from American Life League (ALL) and another from the Bellarmine Veritas Ministry (BVM) — specified that they were not questioning Carr or any USCCB staffer's personal stance on pro-life.

    'Immediately after the issuing of the reports Monday, a line supporting CCC was quietly removed from the CCHD Web site. Not so quiet, however, was the backlash against the perceived attack on Carr....

    'While RCN coalition members said they were pleased to hear these affirmations of Carr's pro-life stance, they also said they were concerned with what they called 'false' accusations from other officials which, they said, led even bishops to misconstrue their actions and intentions....

    'Michael Hichborn of RCN member ALL told LSN today that, 'We never once alleged that John Carr promotes abortion and homosexual agendas, and all of our public commentary verifies this.' Hitchborn added, 'In fact, in the initial report that I wrote, I specifically stated that we are not questioning the pro-life convictions of John Carr or anyone he works with.'

    'In Carr's response to the RCN reports, he reiterated his pro-life convictions and accused RCN members of not contacting him prior to releasing their reports, saying that 'Neither the American Life League nor the Bellarmine Institute contacted me, CCHD or the bishops' conference before making these accusations.'

    'But Hichborn claims that Carr's accusation is 'false.' Rob Gasper, head of RCN member BVM said, 'Carr has stated on multiple occasions that he will not meet or discuss issues with either ALL or [Human Life International].' Gasper added, 'The information in the BVM report should not have come as a surprise since it was primarily discussing information released well over two months ago'....'

I asked Rob Gasper to elaborate on his quote in the above story. He responded:

    'I am thoroughly disappointed with the response the Reform CCHD Now Coalition has received concerning our reports on the Center for Community Change. Instead of responding to our serious and well documented charges, the CCHD insists on characterizing our reports as a personal attack on John Carr's commitment to life. Neither report calls into question Carr's pro-life convictions; in fact, the Bellarmine Veritas Ministry report does not mention Carr at all.

    'Furthermore, Carr's charge that ALL did not first contact the CCHD regarding their report is misleading. The CCHD shut down all channels of communication with both ALL and HLI last November when they refused to meet with either group concerning CCHD grantees.

    'The Bellarmine Veritas Ministry's CCC report was a commentary on a Reform CCHD Now press release and subsequent news coverage concerning the CCC that occurred nearly three months ago. In a conversation with Ralph McCloud in December, I brought the initial reports to his attention, so Carr's statement that the CCC's pro-abortion activities were 'news to us' is quite puzzling.

    'Among the charges the CCHD has not addressed we have yet to receive any response concerning the thirty one CCHD grantees which are still partners with the Center for Community Change, or any response to former CCHD Associate Director of Programs Tom Chabolla's board membership with the CCC during the time when the CCC ramped up its anti life activities and which continues to this day while he is still listed as a consultant for the CCHD on the USCCB Web site. Instead the CCHD seems content to respond to charges that were never made in the first place.

    'We are not questioning the pro-life convictions of any USCCB staff member; however, we are questioning their prudence in working with groups that hold fundamental principles decidedly contrary to Church teaching.'

It's terribly unfortunate when the concerns of reputable pro-life organizations are belittled or ridiculed by Church officials — some Church officials, not all of them — ostensibly because said organizations have already been dismissed as "right-wing pressure groups" by those officials.

And this brings me to what I mentioned in the first paragraph of this column. It's my opinion — and I should emphasize that I'm not speaking for any of the pro-life groups that comprise the Reform CCHD Coalition — that the USCCB should be dismantled. Abolished. Done away with. Of course, I'm not going to hold my breath that such will be the case.

Actually, my opinion is shared by Catholic author and political commentator Tom Roeser, who wrote recently on his blog (excerpted):

    'Up to now the goal has been to reform the USCCB. That's ridiculous. The USCCB is not a valid organization of the Church. Always a sort of do-nothing trade association for the bishops, it became influential big-time when an Italianate bishop-pol named Bernardin took over its executive directorship. Shrewdly he used it to grease relationships with Rome professing he had the insight to recommend good candidates for the bishopric (instead he pushed such great names as the aptly named Rembert Weakland et al)...and conversely impressing potential bishops here that it would be good to make nicey-nice with Bernardin so he would give them his imprimatur.

    'In short, if it can be said that modern politics began with wheeler-dealers in the Church from early medieval days, the process of pat-my-back-and-I'll-pat-yours of Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell was revived in the 20th century by Bernardin who used the USCCB to get himself a good job: archbishop of Chicago...whereupon he aced himself back to the organization as chairman and exerted great power for liberalism in public policy...including the wily-conceived and brilliantly misnamed 'Seamless Garment' where he ensured that anti-capital punishment, pro-nuclear freeze and anti-'militarism' equate with opposition to abortion...ergo Walter F. Mondale who scored three out of four could call himself 'pro-life' whereas Ronald Reagan who scored one out of four could be denied approbation by Catholics....

    'The USCCB cannot be reformed. Its current head is Cardinal George who by no means is an energetic leader anywhere he serves, so expectation of change is unrealistic. The next president will be the Bishop of Tucson, Arizona, Gerald F. Kicanas, formerly rector of Mundelein and auxiliary bishop here...notable for his statement to the Sun-Times that if he had to do it over again, he still would have ordained Daniel McCormack now doing time for pedophilia — in response to which he was promoted here, made a full bishop and elected by acclamation as number 2 to George at the USCCB. Outrageous.

    'Since the USCCB draws its support from unwitting people in the pews there should be promptly initiated a demand that the bureaucracy be disestablished or, failing that, a contributors' strike. Again: the USCCB serves no purpose, is always slyly promoting liberalism and as a bureaucracy is the main propagandist tool of secular modernism in the U.S. Church. Administering euthanasia to this utterly useless appendage would be a signal act of mercy for the Church. The campaign should start with people in the pews.'


Pro-lifer Brian Kindzia has a very good take on the pro-life community's reaction to the Pam and Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad:

    'The entire pro-life movement gathered not to watch a game yesterday, but rather became like so many others on Super Bowl Sunday. We wanted to watch the commercials. But it was going to be different this year. Because it was already known that Focus on the Family was going to run a pro-life ad featuring Heisman trophy winner and National Champion Tim Tebow.

    'But I have already received multiple complaints today from many in the pro-life movement that they just didn't like the ad at all. Not forward enough. Too vague. Too short. Too sweet even. Everyone thought that they could have done it better. But what is the goal of advertising? It is to create a buzz and bring awareness. Normally to a product, but in this case, a campaign. By that definition, the Tebow commercial was already successful before it even aired. It didn't have to be spectacular because people were already talking about it. Radical feminists from groups like NOW were in such a tizzy that they were scrambling to block it from airing. The short, vague, indirect commercial was even more successful in a sense because regular folks are asking 'is that why they get so upset?' The pro-abortion side exposed themselves in a way that people just aren't going to listen to them as much in the future. All because of a 'bad ad' by some pro-lifers that wasn't good enough.

    'How do we really gauge if a TV show, or in this case a commercial, is successful? Some call it the water cooler effect. Are people talking about it the next day? By the number of e-mails from pro-lifers I would say yes. But let's go to the other side of the spectrum. What about the liberal outlets like MSNBC? What did they say in their review of Super Bowl ads? Sure, they bashed it too. They said Focus on the Family had $2.5 million for the ad that was 'not well spent.' But look at the review again. Of the first five paragraphs, the fourth paragraph talks about the Betty White Snickers ad. The other four out of the top five paragraphs are about the Tebow ad. It looks like people are still talking the next day about it. It looks like they accomplished something even when looking at left-leaning outlets like MSNBC.

    'Let's also not forget that CBS had to approve this ad. I am not sure what most folks thought they were going to watch knowing that it had to pass a test like that. But seeing how much buzz has been created this week, how much awareness has been raised about Pam Tebow's story, the credibility lost by groups like NOW, and the fact that people are still talking about it the next day, it seems to me that Focus on the Family got their money's worth from this campaign.'

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media, and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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