Bishops and the
A Time for Re-Assessment
by Randy Engel
Editor's note: For more than thirty years, the Pro-Life Movement in the United States has been fighting the anti-life policies and programs of the March of Dimes. During these same thirty plus years the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat has defended the eugenic policies of the March of Dimes------a position backed by a majority of the American bishops. Mrs. Engel is calling for a fair and open hearing and a re-assessment of these policies by the Catholic hierarchy of the United States. We heartily agree and we encourage our readers to follow the Plan of Action outlined by Mrs. Engel at the conclusion of this article.
Web Master's Note: This article will remain on line as is for as long as Catholic Tradition exists as a web site and the policy of the March of Dimes does not change. Please support the Michael Fund with your prayers and financial contributions. We can always pray if not able to donate funds. Mrs. Engel did not include the following in her Plan of Action, but we thought it might be useful: Contact Priests for Life, e-mailing a copy of this article or pointing them to it on the web.
On December 10-11, 1977, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare's President's Committee on Mental Retardation held an International Summit on Prevention of Mental Retardation from Biomedical Causes, at Wingspread, the headquarters of the Johnson Foundation in Racine, Wisconsin. I quote the final paragraph of the conference report given by Dr. Richard Koch of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles titled "Potential Danger of the Right to Life Movement:"
"The recent coalescence of the Right to Life Movement into a national force of significant proportions, I believe, has been a surprise to all of us. To some, this has become an unwelcome development. If we do not meet this force head-on, it could become a threat to the science of genetics, to amniocentesis programs, to sex education in public schools, and to help with the problem of teenage pregnancy, and it could seriously diminish our effort to prevent mental retardation.
"I am suggesting that we confront this force by linking up with other organizations such as the National Organization for Women, the AMA, Planned Parenthood . . . and abortion rights organizations . . . We must emphasize the importance of the protection of equal rights------the right of the child to be well born and the right of the mother to have healthy children."  (emphasis added)
I remember the first time I read Dr. Koch's closing statement in this eugenic blueprint of the Carter Administration and the U.S. National Institutes of Death and thinking, "If it weren't for the Pro-Life Movement's attack on the March of Dimes, we Pro-Lifers might never have become the nation's number one threat to the eugenics movement in the United States."
That the Pro-Life Movement should be credited with such a noble achievement is a wonderful thing to contemplate. Indeed, it is even more wonderful and remarkable when one recalls that it did so in spite of the official and vigorous opposition of the United States Bishops' Pro-Life Office------which has distinguished itself by becoming the nation's number one defender of the March of Dimes [MOD].
More than half a century has passed since the American Church first entered upon this fateful and fatal alliance with the March of Dimes. This article is written in the hope that pro-life Catholics will not have to wait another fifty years before the American bishops finally cut their ecclesiastical umbilical cord to the March of Dimes.
Early Ties With the MOD
The United States bishops' love affair with the March of Dimes, like that of many other Americans, began innocently enough in the fall of 1937 with the founding of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been stricken with polio sixteen years before.
Comedian Eddie Cantor, a Tammany Hall Democratic fund-raiser, came up with the catchy slogan, "March of Dimes," and the "President's charity" was off and running in search of the elusive cure for polio. 
The key to understanding the modus operandi of the MOD, then and now, is its large, well-financed Public Relations Department that could insure the foundation's financial success by generating a steady stream of good publicity. President Basil "Doc" O'Connor, Roosevelt's law partner; hired a battery of top-level Madison Avenue publicists and psychologists to refine the MOD's public image and fend off critics' accusations of financial malfeasance by agency officials and of the MOD's alleged exploitation of the public's fear of polio in order to bolster revenues. 
The MOD's Public Relations Department developed a pluralistic and ecumenical approach to fund-raising with a special emphasis on volunteerism, including a very successful Mothers' Walk Against Polio. Many Catholic dioceses and local parishes and schools as well as organizations like the National Council of Catholic Women and the Sons of Italy participated in these early fund-raising efforts and in the immunization of students with the Salk vaccine. Over the years the MOD came to develop a special relationship with the Catholic Church that was the envy of other national health agencies, none of which ever even came close to duplicating that relationship.
the American Church to the March of Dimes continued through the late
when the foundation announced that since it had "conquered" polio, it
now turn its financial and research resources towards a new "Birth
Prevention Program." So it is understandable that when the Pro-Life
launched its boycott of the March of Dimes in the early 1970s, most
including the members of the American hierarchy, were in the state of
Pro-Life Charges Against the March of Dimes
The earliest charges against the March of Dimes by national pro-life groups, including the U.S. Coalition for Life, which I head, centered upon the fact that the March of Dimes since 1958 had turned its attack against birth defects into a national campaign to eliminate pre-born children who have birth defects.
teaches that such experimentation, even on babies scheduled for
is immoral and illicit.
Keeping Bad Company
As early as the 1960s, the MOD had begun to assemble its Eugenic Mafia to fill positions on its various Advisory Committees for Medical Services, Basic Research, Clinical Research and Basil O'Connor Starter Research Grants. Many of these men were nationally known for their late term eugenic abortion skills. These included prostaglandin-induced abortions and hysterotomy abortions that provide live babies as a potential source of fetal organs and tissue.
These MOD National Advisors included William Spellacy, M.D.; Edward J. Quilligan, M.D.; Leo Speroff, M.D.; John C. Hobbins, M.D.; Maurice J. Mahoney, M.D.; and Henry L. Nadler, M.D.
Other nationally known pro-abortion MOD Advisory members [also MOD Research and Medical Services grant recipients] included Drs. Kurt Hirschhorn, Charles Flowers, Jr., David G. Nathan, John T. Queenan, Kenneth J. Ryan, Rodney Howell, Richard W. Erbe, Leon Rosenberg, Mitchell Golbus, Laird Jackson, Michael Kaback, Norman Kretchmer, Arno Motulsky, and David Rimoin. 
The MOD's Secret Weapon
Realizing that these and other MOD research grants and eugenic programs are opposed to everything that the Catholic Church teaches about the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, one would have expected that the American Bishops would have been at the head of any national boycott of the March of Dimes. Instead, the record shows they did-------NOTHING. No, actually, this is not quite correct-------they did do something-------they and their bureaucrats at the NCCB/USCC DEFENDED the March of Dimes.
For unbeknownst to pro-life leaders at the time, the March of Dimes, like the Greeks of old, had their own a Trojan horse in the Bishops' camp in the persona of Msgr. James T. McHugh, Family Life/Pro-Life Director at the U.S. Catholic Conference. 
Beginning in November of 1973, Msgr. McHugh prepared and distributed to the bishops a series of secret reports assuring the members of the American hierarchy that the MOD was pro-life in both word and deed.  In addition, his Washington, D.C. office prepared a pro-MOD packet exonerating the organization from any wrongdoing. These were distributed to Catholic schools around the country by both Msgr. McHugh's office as well as the March of Dimes Public Relations Department.
Two years later, on March 11, 1975, McHugh issued a second confidential memo stating that the Pro-Life Movement accusations against the MOD were the result of "misunderstanding of March of Dimes philosophy and activity by some pro-life organizations . . ." and that "the charges against the Foundation continue to be vague and indefinite, and should not be taken as a justification for prohibiting activity in support of March of Dimes Programs." 
The following May, Msgr. McHugh issued still another defense of the MOD's eugenic policies in the form of a memo titled, "Amniocentesis-------A Life Saving Technique." In what could only be a deliberate effort to muddy the waters of the MOD debate, Msgr. McHugh failed to distinguish between the use of third trimester amniocentesis for truly therapeutic purposes and that of first and second trimester prenatal diagnostic techniques used to detect non-treatable disorders such as Down syndrome and directly associated with the abortion of affected babies in the womb. 
Ironically, this distinction, that recognizes first and second trimester prenatal diagnosis as abortion dependent procedures, is openly admitted by numerous MOD advisors and grantees. For example, we have the statement of eugenic-abortionist Dr. Henry Foster, a National Advisor to the MOD and former President Clinton's ill-fated candidate for the Office of Surgeon General, who notes,". . . We do amniocentesis to decide whether or not the pregnancy should continue, and to provide a therapeutic abortion." 
Nor does the May memo mention the dangers posed to mother and child by prenatal diagnostic amniocentesis or the fact that false positive lab reports have led to the abortion of children without the "defect" that had marked them for death.
Re-reading these memos of Msgr. McHugh, one is hard pressed not to shake off the feeling that the main task of the bishops' Pro-Life Office was to keep the March of Dimes alive rather than to keep pre-born handicapped children safe from the MOD.
The MOD on "Pro-Life Agitation"
Fortunately, notwithstanding Msgr. McHugh's efforts on behalf of the MOD as the "official" spokesman for the American bishops on pro-life affairs, by the mid-1970s, the March of Dimes realized it was sitting on a ticking time bomb. The national media had picked up the scent of a major scandal involving the nation's most darling health "charity." Damage control was needed------big time.
On March 16, 1976, George Voss, MOD's President for Public Relations and Msgr. McHugh's occasional golf partner, issued his own memorandum "Pro-Life Agitation" that was designed by the national office to assist local MOD chapters in their encounters with what Voss called, "Pro-Life resistance." 
The Voss attack on MOD pro-life critics is important because it represented the first time that a spokesman for the American hierarchy, other than Msgr. McHugh, had publicly addressed the MOD Question.
According to Voss, Cardinal John Cody of Chicago speaking on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, had recently restated the Church's position on the March of Dimes that Catholics are not obliged to contribute time or money to the work of the MOD, but any Catholic who wishes to may do so in good conscience.  (emphasis added)
Voss concludes with the admonition that pastors and principals can verify the position of the NCCB, the official arm of the American hierarchy by contacting Msgr. McHugh at his Washington, D.C. office.
As interesting as the memo itself were the individual attachments accompanying the Voss memo.
One attachment by William Gallagher, the Michigan Campaign Chairman for the MOD, dated February 11, 1976, claimed that pro-life charges against the MOD were untrue and that "Msgr. McHugh's investigative findings on behalf of the Bishops' Pro-life Activities Committee support the March of Dimes program." 
USCL Mounts a Pro-Life Offensive
the MOD's high-powered Public Relations Department however could not
out in definitely against the TRUTH. And, in spite of the combined
of the NCCB/USCC Pro-Life Office and the MOD, 1976 actually turned out
to be a
pivotal banner year for the Pro-Life Movement in its battle against the March of Dimes' eugenic policies and its abortion/fetal experimentation related research.
This happy turn of events was due largely to the publication of a two-part, original, investigative study titled, Who Will Defend Michael? by the U.S. Coalition for Life. This exposé provided the first in-depth comprehensive and solidly documented report on a wide range of MOD's anti-life programs including the infamous Adams severed heads grant mentioned earlier.
The pro-life position in the MOD debate was also strengthened by the announcement of the USCL that it was creating a separate entity, the International Foundation for Genetic Research, popularly known as the Michael Fund, as the pro-life alternative to the March of Dimes.
In 1991, the USCL issued an update of the MOD controversy titled A March of Dimes Primer------The A-Z of Eugenic Killing listing 27 reasons why Americans should withhold their charitable donations from the March of Dimes.
As the author of both documents, I am happy to report that except for some minor typos both documents proved to be both McHugh and MOD bullet proof.
MOD Anti-Life Programs Continue
Still, unhappily, especially for handicapped unborn children with Down syndrome, Tay Sachs, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Neural Tube defects, the official position of the NCCB/USCC regarding the March of Dimes did not change. Feeling secure with Msgr. McHugh as its protector, in the late 1970s and early 1980s the March of Dimes pressed its eugenic agenda forward with ever-greater voracity.
At the top of that agenda stood the need to mainline prenatal diagnosis, backed up by eugenic abortion, in standard medical practice throughout the United States.
On September 21, 1978, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives received a letter from the foundation, signed by MOD president Charles L. Massey, lobbying for the passage of the Health Services Amendments to the National Genetics Disease Act of 1976. 
Since Massey was drawing a hefty six-digit salary with generous perks at the time, some of the Congressmen must have been taken back by Massey's lamentations on the costs for treating and institutionalizing severely affected survivors [of genetic disorders]. His foundation, Massey asserted, had led the nation's war to "prevent birth defects," now it was time for the federal government and the U.S. taxpayer to take over the task [of promoting the eugenic killing of handicapped pre-born children].
At the NCCB/USCC Pro- Life Office it was business as usual. It remained largely unfazed by the MOD's latest outrages against handicapped pre-born children. This reality was brought home in an article that appeared in the April 17, 1982 issue of The Compass, the official weekly of the diocese of Green Bay titled "Attacks On the March of Dimes Called Unfair." It was prompted by the USCL's call for a national boycott against the MOD's Walk America------their main national fund-raising event of the year.
The article stated that the Compass' own investigation, "showed no substantiation for the Coalition's charges" against the March of Dimes. Father Edward Bryce, Msgr. McHugh's replacement at the Bishops' Office for Pro-Life Activities, said he opposed the USCL's call for a MOD boycott and that, "I think she [Randy Engel, USCL Director] is very wrong on this matter. She has been carrying on this crusade for a number of years and I don't think she can prove what she is saying: I think the March of Dimes has exercised great restraint in not suing her for libel."
Apparently Father Bryce was so busy defending the MOD's stable of eugenic abortionists and researchers, that he missed seeing the latest news from the medical world hailing the new research findings in the field of reproductive carcinogenics by Dr. Stanley J. Robboy of Harvard Medical School.
In March 1982, three major medical journals began a series on Robboy's research that involved removing the intact reproductive tracts of aborted babies between the gestational age of 5 to 17 weeks. These tracts were then grafted into athymic "nude" mice, which were unable to reject foreign tissue. The mice [as opposed to the unborn children] were later "sacrificed" and their tissue examined for abnormalities as a result of being exposed to certain teratogenic and carcinogenic-inducing drugs. In keeping with the journals' standard format, Robboy identified the March of Dimes as one of his grant resources [grants Nos. 1-670, 1-139, and 1-837]. 
Bishops Break Rank
It. is a matter of public record, that to date, the only American bishops ever to give pro-lifers a fair hearing on the March of Dimes issue, have been the bishops of Pennsylvania. Their willingness to hear the case against the MOD can, I think, be attributed to two factors.
First, the USCL, which has played a major role in documenting the MOD's anti-life record, is located in Pennsylvania. The second and most important factor was the personal courage and tenacity of Benedictine priest, Father Joel Lieb, the Pro-Life Director of the Diocese of Greensburg who asked the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference to convene an advisory group of the state's pro-life directors to review the "MOD Question." In early 1980, I was asked by Fr. Lieb to make a formal presentation to the PCC committee and the national office of the March of Dimes was invited by the PCC to do the same.
On August 5, 1980, three months after the PCC Pro-Life Coordinating Committee filed its report, the Governing Board of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference voted to withdraw all institutional clearance from the March of Dimes fund-raising activities in Catholic institutions in the state.
The PCC decision however received almost no national publicity in the Catholic press and has retained somewhat of the nature of a well-kept 'official secret' up to the present time.
Knowing that if other state Catholic Conferences followed suit, their donations from Catholic schools and organizations would rapidly dry up, the MOD continued its pressure on the PCC to remove its fund-raising moratorium. Technically, they were not successful. The prohibition is still on the books. In actual practice however, beginning in the mid-1980s a number of Pennsylvania bishops again began to let the MOD raise funds in their diocesan schools and colleges.
The Culture of Death in a Petri Dish
In the 1990s two new pro-life issues were added to the American bishops pro-life concerns.
They were (1) stem cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos and (2) pre-implantation diagnosis that involves both in-vitro fertilization as well as the destruction of human embryos.
The American bishops led by Anthony Cardinal Bevelaqua, the new head of the Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat, have condemned both procedures and have urged the Bush Administration to defund any federally-funded research involving these techniques. Fine!
What, about the March of Dimes?
From the few examples I have already cited in this article, we know that the March of Dimes, since the 1960s, has generously funded research that has involved the destruction of human life at its earliest stages including the human embryo and his more developed brothers and sisters.
Recent investigative work by the USCL indicates that the March of Dimes also supports human embryonic stem cell research and pre-implantation diagnosis whereby "defective" human embryos created outside the womb are destroyed and a select number of "normal" embryos implanted in their mother's womb. Even these lucky few however are subjected to later tests such as chorion villus sampling or mid-trimester amniocentesis and aborted if found to have been damaged in the implantation process.
Last year, the MOD awarded a $65,225 grant to well-known MOD researcher Dr. Kurt Hirschhorn, Professor of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York: "To refine a method of ascertaining the chromosomal content of single cells. Goal: Pre-implantation analysis of embryos in IVF settings and prenatal diagnosis using fetal cells from maternal blood." 
Dr. Evan Y. Snyder of Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, has received a grant of $750,000 from the March of Dimes, that's three quarters of a million dollars folks, for human embryonic stem cell research to restore brain function. 
Why aren't Cardinal Bevelaqua and other American bishops condemning these latest anti-life policies of the MOD? If they are ignorant of the matter, who is to blame? If the blame rests with their own Pro-Life Secretariat perhaps it is time for a change in office leadership and personnel.
The Horse has been Flogged Dead
In the 1960s and 70s, when the MOD battle with the Pro-Life Movement was just heating up, I think the American bishops were reluctant to go against their own NCCB/USCC bureaucrats in the Office of Pro-Life Affairs. It was the word of pro-life lay activists against the word of an influential fellow cleric, Msgr. McHugh. They chose the latter.
When Msgr. McHugh became a bishop, they did not want to offend a fellow bishop. So, with a few exceptions, they continued their silence on MOD abuses.
With the death of Bishop McHugh on December 10, 2000 and in light of the MOD's support for human embryo stem cell research and pre-implantation diagnosis, will this deafening silence continue?
As of this writing, the Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat, led by Gail Quinn, Bishop McHugh's former secretary and Richard Doerflinger, Bishop McHugh's long-time ally, appears to be holding on to its pro-MOD position. And the American bishops appear to be satisfied with the status quo position on the MOD question.
Is, then, the Pro-Life Movement in the United States beating a dead horse when it comes to the American bishops and the March of Dimes? It may be. Speaking personally, after writing the A-Z of Eugenic Killing booklet in 1992, and getting zero attention from the American bishops, I decided to put all of my energies into promoting the Michael Fund as the pro-life alternative to the March of Dimes.
From the very beginning of its creation in 1978, the Michael Fund has been almost solely supported by the Pro-Life Movement, Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus and parents with children who have Down syndrome.
I am often asked by people who hear about us for the first time why the Michael Fund is not better known. Part of the reason is that we have no public relations department. The donations we receive are needed for our research program directed at finding a cure and/or treatment for Down syndrome and related chromosomal disorders. In the words of Dr. Lejeune, "If we can find a cure for Down syndrome maybe doctors will stop killing these children."
Another reason we are not well known, especially by Catholic school principals and pastors is that the Michael Fund has been on the Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat black list for the last 24 years. To the best of my knowledge Msgr. McHugh has never promoted the Michael Fund as an alternative to the MOD even though he was acquainted with the work of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the Director of Medical Research for the Michael Fund [1978-1994] and an outspoken MOD foe. And, over the years, only a handful of bishops have ever expressed their personal support for the Michael Fund. Two that come immediately to mind are the late Bishop William Connare of the Diocese of Greensburg and the late Bishop John R. McGann of Rockville Centre.
In any case, since the MOD's annual national Walk America is coming up in April, I thought it would do no harm to draw the attention of the American hierarchy to the MOD Question one last time.
After all, Our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead. Perhaps He will help us weary pro-lifers do the same for a dead horse.
Plan of Action in Support I of a MOD Boycott:
Other members of the Bishops' Pro-Life Committee who should be asked to place the MOD issue on the agenda of the bishops' upcoming semi-annual meeting in June or their Washington, D.C. November meeting are:
Most Reverend Charles Chaput,
Most Reverend Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop of Sioux City
Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, Bishop of Knoxville
Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport
Most Reverend William F. Murphy, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston
Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis
Most Reverend Daniel F. Walsh, Bishop of Santa Rosa.
Please write, call, or e-mail your own bishop asking him to support a national boycott of the March of Dimes and offer him the alternative of the Michael Fund. An electronic copy of this article can be obtained from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org .
the March 2002
Issue of Catholic Family News.