Randy Engel
Bishop James T. McHugh: The forgotten man in the McCarrick equation (Part 5)
Quo Vadis: Which path will the prolife movement take after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision?
By Randy Engel
August 26, 2022

The USCCB and the Forgotten Constitutional Human Life Amendment

Bishop James T. McHugh was called to his Maker some twenty-two years ago on December 10, 2000, but his deadly legacy lives on in the current three-tiered USCCB-Washington D.C.-based “pro-life” bureaucracy composed of (1)The Committee on Pro-Life Activities (2) The “Secretariat” for Pro-Life Activities and 3) The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment. State Catholic Conferences and an army of Diocesan Pro-Life Directors make up the rest of the prolife bureaucratic contingent at the lower levels of the USCCB.

As previously noted in this series, when the American bishops reorganized and expanded their prolife offices at the NCCB/USCC in the late fall of 1972, Msgr. McHugh became the Secretary and Executive Director of the Ad Hoc Committee for Pro-Life Affairs (1972-1978), that later became a formal Standing Committee of the NCCB – the USCCB Committee for [on, of] Pro-Life Activities.

The hackneyed “Respect Life Program” promoted every October for the last 45 years and the hair brain scam of “People of Life Action Campaign of the Catholic Church in the United States,”[1] are two of the Committee’s expensive signature programs.

The current chair of the Committee is the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Chairman

Archbishop of Baltimore and chaplain to the Knights of Columbus..[2]

While the USCCB Pro-Life Committee was theoretically controlled by a cardinal chair and a large number of bishops, in practice, the routine work and development of new prolife programs and strategies were handled almost exclusively by the staff of the new USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities,[3] originally headed by Msgr. McHugh.

For several decades after McHugh left for Rome in 1978 to obtain advanced theological degrees, the Secretariat has been operated by his permanent bureaucratic clones including his personal family friend and former secretary, Gail P. Quinn, a 39-year veteran of the USCCB; Michael Taylor, who helped McHugh set up the original National Right to Life Committee at the USCC in the 1970s and later went on to head the NCHLA; and McHugh’s long-time gofer, Richard Doerflinger, who served as Associate Deputy Director of the Secretariat for 36 years until he retired in August 2016.

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment[4]

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, Inc. was created by the Catholic bishops of the United States in January 1974 for the singular purpose of securing at the earliest possible moment a Constitutional amendment protecting the life of unborn children.

The action followed the annual November 1973 Washington, D.C. meeting of the NCCB/USCC in response to pro-life critics who charged the American bishops with “failure to provide leadership in the pro-life area.”[5] At that time, the Catholic hierarchy, using funds ultimately gleaned from faithful pewsitters, made an allocation of a half-million dollars to cover the initial expenses of the NCHLA. Thus it was that the NCHLA joined the Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities and its Pro-Life Secretariat as the Catholic Church’s third “prolife” bureaucracy.

At the time of its creation, Msgr. McHugh was serving as both the Secretary and Executive Director of the NCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities and the USCC Family Life Director, and had full control of both, but eventually the Family Life Office formally withdrew from active participation and debate on a human life amendment.

Nevertheless, McHugh, continued to exert his influence on the NCHLA through two of his closest allies, Board member Valerie Vance Dillon, and his decades-old friend, the Camden Diocese attorney Martin F. McKernan, who still continues to serve as NCHLA’s Secretary and Treasurer.

On the advice of the NCHLA legal counsel, in order to achieve a tax-exempt status under Sec. 501 (c) (4) of the IRS Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, the new corporate entity was registered as a foreign corporation doing business in the District of Columbia.[6]

The NCHLA is a corporate entity. It is not a membership group. It has never been a grassroots organization. Its only constituency is the individual bishop donors who tap diocesan funds supplied by, once again, faithful pewsitters. Although technically a separate and corporate entity apart from the Bishops’ Committee and Secretariat, the NCHLA always was and always will be a creature of the American bishops and the USCCB.

The first organizational meeting of the NCHLA Board of Directors was held on February 14, 1974. The projected life of the new corporation, as a registered lobbyist, was estimated to be two and one-half years. In November 1976, the bishops were to evaluate the progress of the NCHLA and decide whether or not to keep the organization operative, but it is not likely the evaluation ever took place.

Forty-six years and more than $23 million later, the NCHLA is still with us, but alas, there is nary a Constitutional Human Life Amendment in sight at their corporate office, nor at the USCCB, and there hasn’t been for decades.

First NCHLA Executive Director a Homosexual

The first President of the Board of Directors and Executive Director of the American bishops’ new bureaucracy, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, was a 33-year-old Catholic homosexual with a late “vocation” named Robert N. Lynch, later aka Rev. Robert N. Lynch, Associate General Secretary (1984-1989) and General Secretary (1989-1995) of the NCCB/USCC, and aka Bishop Robert N. Lynch, the fourth Bishop of Saint Petersburg, Florida, today, Bishop Emeritus.[7]

It appears that under homosexual Bishop, later Cardinal, Joseph Bernardin, the first General Secretary of the NCCB/USCC, putting homosexual priests in charge of prolife activities had become kind of sick inside joke – a way of thumbing their noses at naïve anti-abortionists.[8]

Among the founding purposes of the NCHLA were (1) to serve as a unifying force among all prolife organizations; (2) to initiate an intensive clergy education program to insure that “the priests form the front line in the effort to secure a human life amendment.[9] and (3) to form a uniform basis for state units of prolife groups.

None of these purposes were ever realized.

According to Lynch, the NCHLA, “in effect, became the spokesman for the nation’s Catholic bishops on the human life amendment issue.”[10] But what he did with the initial half-million bucks of Catholic laity’s money remains a mystery. As the record shows, there was not a single significant legislative contribution made towards the advancement of a Constitutional Human Life Amendment during Lynch’s administration, nor those that followed him four decades into the future.

To be more specific, under the watch of the NCHLA, the American bishops’ campaign for a Constitutional Human Life Amendment has all but disappeared from the halls of the NCHLA and the USCCB national legislative “prolife” agenda.

Even so, as late as 2019, the NCHLA 990 IRS form for 2018 stated that the organization’s mission remains “the dissemination of information in order to secure the enactment of a human life amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

As it stands, this is a blatantly fraudulent statement.

Exactly when the American bishops or/and the NCCB/USCC or its heir, the USCCB, reached the secret corporate decision to abandon their support for a Constitutional Human Life Amendment, and switch gears to support various forms of incremental prolife legislation,[11] has never been made public. My educated guess would be sometime in the late 80s.

But not to worry.

The NCHLA has managed to stay the course for over 40 years without interruption, and without achieving anything coming even remotely close to a Constitutional Amendment to protect unborn children in America – its allegedly singular solitary mission.

In similar fashion, its executive directors have continued to hitch their wagon to the USCCB financial gravy train with hefty annual salaries plus perks that have climbed to well over $100,000:

  • Executive Director Michael Taylor[12] who headed the NCHLA from 1989-2015 has earned an estimated one to two million dollars plus of episcopal largesse over a 26-year period.

  • Executive Director Amy McInerny[13] (2016-2017) earned $134,039 in FY 2016 and $116,745 in FY 2017.

  • Executive Director Brian Duggan ,who died on May 3, 2022 had an annual salary and perks that were near or past the $100,000 mark.[14]

Recent annual revenues for the operation of the NCHLA is in the $500,000 range with the bulk of the funds going to salaries, benefits, pension plans, office expenses and information technology:

  • 2013 – $561,415 with a deficit of $72,873.

  • 2014 [not available at this time]

  • 2015 – $502,622 with a deficit of $45,820.

  • 2016 – $457,365 with a deficit of $68,143.

  • 2017 – $421,577 with a deficit of $6,049.

  • 2018 – $423,951 with a balance of $26, 889.

  • 2020 – $ 347,153 with a balance of $8.621.

NCHLA’s EndRoe.org and Human Life Action

The above NCHLA special projects are examples of two of the corporation’s recent unsuccessful, and expensive boondoggles.

EndRoe.org is a website created by the NCHLA in 2005, in cooperation with the Pro-Life Secretariat, to help Catholic parishes, dioceses, state Catholic Conferences, and Catholic lay grassroots groups “in advancing the prolife message.”[15] In 2011, additional funds were allocated to fund the “beta” relaunch of EndRoe.org and develop a new web site “designed primarily for the education of the non-legal audience.” The project was conducted in collaboration with legal experts.

In the words of the NCHLA, “The purpose of EndRoe.org is to promote a fuller understanding of what the Court did in Roe and Doe and why these fundamentally erroneous decisions must be corrected.”[16]

Pardon me, but are Catholics to believe that over the period of 32 years, between the time of the infamous Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade (1973) and the creation of the NCHLA’s EndRoe.org (2005 and 2011), that Catholic laymen and clergy are still in the dark as to the implications of the decision that legalized abortion up to – and a little past – birth, and the remedy – a Constitutional Human Life Amendment which embraces all unborn children including the human embryo at the earlies stages of his or her development? In the end, EndRoe.org project was abandoned due to lack of funds and the absence of NCHLA personnel to carry on the project.

In 2015, following the retirement of NCHLA careerist Mike Taylor, another new project called HumanLifeAction.org was initiated under the leadership of Executive Director Amy McInerny, a former employee of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities and Research Assistant for the NCHLA.

The stated public relations campaign themes of HumanLifeAction.org are “EDUCATE, ENGAGE, EVERYONE.” Very clever. But isn’t education on prolife activities and prolife legislation the job of the Secretariat for Prolife Activities which has its own staff and budget at the USCCB? Why the duplication of efforts?

But again, at the risk of sounding redundant, where in all this public relations verbiage is there any concrete reference to the NCHLA’s alleged sole mission in life – the securing of a Constitutional Human Life Amendment to protect all unborn children?[17]

So Where is the Constitutional Human Life Amendment Today? Nowhere!

In the concluding testimony of the NCCB/USCC on a Constitutional Amendment Protecting Unborn Human Life before the Sub-Committee on Constitutional Amendments of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary March 7, 1974, we read:

    VI. Conclusion – Law constitutes a fundamental and indispensable instrument in making it possible to build up a more just and loving society. Only the law, in conjunction with a broadly conceived program of education, can effectively extend the horizons of democracy and civil rights to include explicit and full protection for the rights of the unborn child. It has taken a century for the promises held out by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution to begin to bear fruit in our present society. However long the road before us in securing effective recognition of the civil rights of the unborn child, we must begin now with what is the necessary first step, the enactment by Congress of an appropriate constitutional amendment.

Forty-eight years later, on June 24, 2022, following the issuing of Dobbs v. Jackson, the USCCB and the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities hailed the States Rights decision and called the beginning of “the work of building a post-Roe America.” The statement concludes:

    Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where everywoman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.

    As religious leaders, we pledge ourselves to continue our service to God’s great plan of love for the human person, and to work with our fellow citizens to fulfill America’s promise to guarantee the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people.

There is no mention of a Constitutional Human Life Amendment.

American Hierarchy – The Promise Never Kept

For decades now, the Catholic laity have been paying through the nose for the large legal staff of the NCCB/USCC and the USCCB. Is it too much to expect that the American bishops demand that their well paid legal staff at the USCCB come up with a model Constitutional Human Life Amendment that would pass real Catholic muster – even if that meant getting a whole new legal team of prolife Constitutional lawyers to replace their Saul Alinsky-dedicated lawyers, which would likely be the case?

How long will the bureaucrats at the USCCB – with the permission of the American bishops – continue to exploit aborted unborn children for their own financial and political gain?

Isn’t it time for the Catholic hierarchy to “DRAIN THE USCCB SWAMP” and reclaim their prolife funding from the USCCB coffers and redirect their monies to worthy local and national prolife groups and initiatives that include lobbying for and securing a Constitutional Human Life Amendment that will protect all unborn children?

The McHugh anti-life legacy has brought death to millions of our nation’s unborn children. It’s time for the American bishops to end that deadly legacy now and make a fresh start by individually and corporately publicly dedicating their ecclesiastical administration to the securing of a Constitutional Human Life Amendment – a promise they made to the Catholic faithful in 1974 with the ill-fated creation of the NCHLA, and never kept.

Which Path Will the Prolife Movement Take?

This series is intended to reach thousands of prolife leaders, organizations, and grassroots right-to-lifers in the United States. For many younger readers it will be their first exposure to the early battle for the unborn and the Prolife Movement’s support for a Constitutional Human Life Amendment and opposition to a States Rights Movement. It is written with the hope that prolife leaders will not repeat the mistakes of the past. Hopefully, this article will open up a greatly needed conversation on the necessity of a Constitutional Human Life Amendment.



In the meantime, the one thing that all Catholics, including readers of Renew America and AKA Catholic can do is to support the National Prolife Archive Project designed to preserve the history of the Anti-Abortion/Prolife Movement. This project is being conducted by the International Catholic Media Association of Chicago and is headed by long-time prolifers, Barry Smith, President, and Brian Polacek, head of digital media production.

In the summer of 2019, I was privileged to give Barry and Brian a five-hour interview on the history of the U.S. Coalition for Life. This series is based on that lengthy interview. In addition, I have turned over hundreds of priceless, one-of-a-kind documents to be archived in the Prolife Historical Museum which will house the vast prolife reference library and podcast media center. The anticipated location of the Museum and Archives is Washington, D.C. Many other early prolife leaders around the country have been interviewed for the project including some of the founding members of the March for Life.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to the National Prolife Archive Project and Prolife Historical Museum by visiting the International Catholic Media Association website/facebook at (20+) International Catholic Media Association | Facebook. Checks and money-orders can be sent to the ICMA, attn. Barry Smith, 2323 Westcourse Drive, Riverwoods, ILL 60015. The ICMA phone number is 847-414-3422. Memorial gifts in the name of deceased prolifers, including family members, are most welcome.

It would be wonderful if, as a first step in their reparation program, the American bishops would give their full support to the National Prolife Archive Project. It seems to me, the least they can do is to honor all the unsung prolife heroes of the past. And most certainly, it is the least that we prolifers who are still alive can do to honor our dead.

The End

Endnotes for Part 5

[1] People of Life – The Pro-Life Action Campaign of the Catholic Church located at the USCCB Office in Washington DC at 3211 Fourth Street, solicits tax-deductible contribution from Catholics under the guise of brining “an end to abortion and euthanasia.” The pewsitter’s donation goes into the coffers of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat. See https://www.usccb.org/committees/pro-life-activities/people-life.

[2] Current members of the Pro-Life Committee are:

    Chair, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore;

    Most Reverend Mark E. Brennan

    Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston,

    Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss

    Bishop of Saginaw

    Most Reverend Stephen D. Parkes

    Bishop of Savannah

    Most Reverend David A. Zubik

    Bishop of Pittsburgh Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda

    Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

    Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge

    Bishop of Arlington

    Most Reverend Donald J. Hying

    Bishop of Madison

    Most Reverend Daniel E. Thomas

    Bishop of Toledo

[3] For names of Staff – Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities see Commitee Members, Consultants and Staff | USCCB

[4] Robert N. Lynch, “The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, Inc.: Its Goals and Origins,” The Catholic Lawyer, Vol. 20, No. 4, Autumn 1974, pp. 303-308.

[5] Ibid., p.303.

[6] Ibid., p. 304.

[7] Born on May 27, 1941, Bishop Lynch attended the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio, at the time a hotbed of sodomy, and the Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts. He was ordained on May 13, 1978 for the Archdiocese of Miami, and after serving for 11 years at the NCCB/USCC was appointed Bishop of Saint Petersburg in 1995. In 2002, Lynch was exposed as a predatory homosexual in the Urbanski scandal that cost the diocese over $100,000 in secret diocesan payments. Lynch is currently prevented from engaging in any liturgical activities in at least two dioceses due to his continuing homosexual advances toward young men. For further information see The Rite of Sodomy, Vol. IV. pp.777-796, available at www.newengelpublishing.com.

[8] For a study of the NCCB/USCC role in the advancement of homosexuality under Bishop Bernardin see The Rite of Sodomy, Vol. III, pp. 549-614.

[9] Lynch, p. 305.

[10] Lynch, p. 307.

[11] Legislation related to federal conscience protection laws (2011, 2012); religious liberty (2013, ongoing); Planned Parenthood defunding (2011).

[12] Michael Taylor spent most of his adult life, some 46 years, at the NCCB/USCC/USCCB. He was the National Right to Life’s first executive Director under Msgr. McHugh, and helped develop the NCHLA under Robert Lynch. From 1975 to 1979 he served as Associate Director of the Pro-Life Secretariat where he assisted in the production of the annual Respect Life Program. He took over the NCHLA when Lynch became the General Secretary of the NCCB/USCC in 1989 and retired in 2015 when he received the “People of Life” award at a private dinner sponsored by the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

[13] Amy McInerny, a law graduate of the Catholic University of America in 1991, was hired that same year as the Assistant Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. She was employed by the NCHLA as a research assistant for less than a year in 2014-2015. In March 2015 she was hired as the Executive Director of the NCHLA : Human Life Action ,a post she held from 2015 to 2017.

[14] While the Board of the NCHLA sets the salary of the Executive Director at the time of hire, the President, determines subsequent raises which are based on USCCB guidelines.

[15] See https://www.govserv.org/US/Washington-D.C./102089606535613/The-National-Committee-for-a-Human-Life-Amendment-and-EndRoe.org.

[16] Ibid.

[17] At https://www.humanlifeaction.org/issues/human-life-amendment/ there are helpful texts taken from various Congressional sites on past Constitutional human life amendments, but the information and data stops at 2004.

© Randy Engel


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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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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