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Chapter 8

ON NOVEMBER 20, 1975, the American Catholic bishops issued their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities. This was just 6 days before President Ford endorsed the NSSM 200 study recommendations as public policy.

This Plan is a superbly detailed blueprint of the bishops' strategy for infiltrating and manipulating the American democratic process at the national, state and local levels. It creates a national political machine controlled by the bishops.

The Plan has been called by Timothy Byrnes the most "focused and aggressive political leadership" ever exerted by the American Catholic hierarchy.49 So much for respect for the American constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

In 1973, when the Supreme court decided Roe v. Wade, James McHugh was a monsignor and the staff director of the National Catholic Family Life Bureau. He is now a bishop. In a March 4, 1987 interview by Byrnes,50 McHugh observed that "within twenty-four hours" of the court's action, the bishops knew they would need to mount a political campaign in favor of a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion. "Indeed," Byrnes observed, "by November 1973 the bishops had explicitly declared that they wished `to make it clear beyond a doubt to our fellow citizens that we consider the passage of a prolife constitutional amendment a priority of the highest order.'"51

The Plan states: "It is absolutely necessary to encourage the development in each congressional district of an identifiable, tightly knit and well organized prolife unit. This unit can be described as a public interest group or a citizen's lobby." According to McHugh, some conference members asked, could the bishops credibly claim that these groups were not expressly subordinate to the NCCB? Byrnes states: "McHugh, who actually drafted the plan, told me that the NCCB's [50 member] administrative board (which first passed the plan and authorized its presentation to a plenary session for adoption by the conference as a whole) debated this section of the document for `several hours,' searching for a way to formally distance these politically charged advocacy groups from the tax-exempt church."52

Byrnes continues, "As finally adopted, the Pastoral Plan defined a `congressional district pro-life group' as `an agency of citizens operated, controlled, and financed by these same citizens' and added that `it is not an agency of the church, nor is it operated, controlled or financed by the church.' Some observers nevertheless pointed out that the actual -- as opposed to the formal -- independence of the lobby groups was belied by the highly detailed list of objectives and guidelines that directly followed this disclaimer."53 In other words, the bishops themselves recognized that the disclaimer was ridiculous.

In many ways, the draft of the Plan that was approved earlier by the administrative board is more revealing as to the true intentions of the bishops to create a political machine they controlled than the sanitized version that was distributed to the bishops after the full body gave its approval in November. For this reason, I chose to include, in its entirety, the unsanitized plan as it was approved by the administrative board.

The Plan, as it appears here, is verbatim. However, it has been typeset for this book. Certain passages that appear in the sanitized final version which do not appear in the Bishops' Administrative Board approved version are also very revealing. For this reason, I quote these passages in a subsequent section.


                           November, 1975

ACTION ITEM:               #3

SUBJECT:        Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities

                  Ad Hoc Committee for Pro-Life Activities

Action Required:   Written or voice vote on approval of
                   Pastoral Plan

Vote Required:     Majority of those present and voting



The value of human life has been seriously endangered by the U.S. Supreme Court abortion decisions of January 22, 1973, and by decisions of other state and federal courts during the past three years. Although these decisions deal primarily with abortion laws, implicitly they also touch on euthanasia.

These decisions also contradict the commonly held belief that the right to life is a fundamental human right, guaranteed protection by the Constitution of the United States.

Many Americans of different faiths and convictions are convinced that abortion is morally wrong and that a policy of permissive abortion is contrary to American constitutional principles. As a religious community within this larger society, the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is morally wrong. We do not seek to impose our moral teaching on American society, but as citizens of this nation we find it entirely appropriate to ask that the government and the law be faithful to its own principle -- that the right to life is an inalienable right given to everyone by the Creator. Furthermore, exercising our rights as citizens, and the freedom assured us by the First Amendment, we commit ourselves to the establishment of a system of law that will provide legal protection of human life from conception to natural death. The implications of this commitment are wide-ranging and demanding, but we feel morally impelled to pursue whatever course of action is required.

At present, this commitment leads us to put forth every effort to reverse the holdings of the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe and Doe, and to establish a constitutional base for laws that will protect unborn human life. For practical purposes this involves amending the Constitution of the United States to give a clear, unequivocal, and deliberate affirmation of the value of unborn human life, and to guarantee to unborn human beings the plethora of human and civil rights assured to all other persons.

            Plan of Action for Constitutional Amendment
                          National Program

I.  Mobilization of Leadership at National Level

       a) Priests and Religious
       b) Catholic Physicians Guilds
       c) Catholic Lawyers Associations
       d) USCC Advisory Council
       e) National Conference of Catholic Charities
       f) Catholic Hospital Association
       g) Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters
          of America, National Order of Foresters, Ancient Order of Hibernians
       h) Catholic Press Association
       i) National Holy Name Society
       j) NCCW - NCCL
       k) National Catholic Education Association
       l) Catholic Theological Society of America
       m) Canon Law Society of America
       n) Catholic Philosophical Society
       o) Nurses
       p) Social Workers
       q) Catholic Universities
       r) Ladies of Charity
       s) Daughters of Isabella
       t) Knights of St. George


    1. Inform leadership of each group of the deliberations at the 
       Regional Working Sessions, and the points of consensus 
       reached by the Bishops.  Provide an explanation of current 
       status of the proposed amendments, particularly in light of 
       the Senate Subcommittee action.  Enclose a copy of Respect 
       Life  --  1975, placing the abortion question in a broader 
       context.  Propose a meeting with leaders.
    2. Explain political strategy and discuss how each group may 
       participate.  Show the National Organizations how to in-
       ventory their internal political capabilities systematically by 
       means of their own government relations audit which en-
       ables each organization to build its own support system.
    3. Establish a communications structure from Washington to 
       the National Office of each organization to activate support 
       for the political program and to achieve readiness for nec-
       essary response action on our part.
    4. Emphasize inherent link between abortion and euthanasia, 
       and necessity of preparedness for euthanasia struggle.

II. Ecumenical Activity


    1. Initiate contacts with or respond to Churches that wish to
       discuss questions related to abortion or euthanasia.
    2. Follow up with additional meetings or structured consult-
       ations with the Churches that we have already met with.
    3. Engage in scholarly meetings with non-Catholic theologi-
       ans and other scholars on pro-life issues.
    4. In all ecumenical activity, the BCEIA should be appropri-
       ately informed and involved.

III. General Public Information Effort

    NB.  Although political activity to pass an amendment is di-
    rected primarily toward Congress, it is also important to gen-
    erate understanding and support from other groups or 
    individuals who can be persuasive with Congress and with 
    those who inform or influence public opinion.  Thus some ac-
    tivity should be directed toward:

    - All leadership types (business, government, professions, 
      academic, labor) to inform them of our position and deter-
      mination to carry through in a long range effort.

    - State legislators and state and local party leaders (in all 
      parties) to inform them of our position and ask their sup-

    - Communications leaders (press, TV, radio) to generate un-
      derstanding of our position even if they do not agree with 
      it, and to emphasize the need for a fair hearing of that 
      position.  It is important to realize that although major 
      networks may not be very cooperative, local stations are 
      generally willing to provide opportunities to discuss issues.

IV. Judicial Activity

    Although the U.S. Supreme Court is firmly committed to _Roe_ 
    and _Doe_, efforts should be made to reverse the decision, to re-
    strain lower courts from interpreting and applying _Roe_ and 
    _Doe_ more aggressively and more absolutely than the Su-
    preme Court.  The following efforts should be pursued:

    1. Urge appointment of judges who are fairminded and objec-
       tive on abortion, and on _Roe_ and _Doe_.

    2. Urge law professors and lawyers to write articles for law 
       journals attacking the philosophical basis of _Roe_ and _Doe_,
       and presenting the strictest and most guarded interpreta-
       tions of _Roe_ and _Doe_.

    3. Set up a hot-line in each state so that injunctions, court 
       challenges or prosecutions directed toward Catholic hospi-
       tals can be immediately and effectively met.  This effort 
       should  include monitoring all cases in state and federal 
       district courts challenging any hospital's policies in regard 
       to sterilization or abortion.

V.  Pro-Life Groups

    The many pro-life groups operate at varying levels of compe-
    tence and effectiveness, but their presence is important and 
    valuable to the pro-life movement.  Their objectives are cer-
    tain to vary in type and degree.  Uniformity of objective and 
    method is by no means essential.  The momentum, activity 
    and support which they create are more helpful to the overall 
    program.  It is important to encourage them, to cooperate 
    with them as closely as possible, and to assist their fundrais-
    ing efforts at the diocesan or state level.  The NCHLA and the 
    Bishops' Pro Life Committee will take every opportunity to 
    continue cooperation at the national level, without assuming 
    financial responsibility for these independent groups.

VI. The Catholic Press

   1. The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment 
      might provide every diocese with a voter information pro-
      file on all of the incumbent members of Congress for inclu-
      sion in the diocesan papers prior to next year's general 
      election.  This would help to inform our people of where 
      their elected officials stand.

   2. The Catholic Press has a special role to play in the Church 
      by providing people with information that enables them to 
      vote on issues in a way that reflects their moral principles.

VII. Specific Educational Efforts

    The Church as a Learning Community

    1. Develop a comprehensive and systematic effort to conduct 
       the annual _Respect Life Program_ in every parish, school and 
       church-sponsored agency.  The _Respect Life Program_ pro-
       vides the occasion to show the wide spectrum of pro-life 
       commitments of the Church, and it provides the opportu-
       nity to motivate Catholics to take an active role in support 
       of human life.

    2. Assure quick development and speedy dissemination of a 
       "life and abortion-education" program for use with the 
       rapidly increasing adult education programs throughout 
       the country and in the senior year of Catholic high school 
       "Problems of Democracy" classes as well as in senior C.C.D. 
       programs.  This program is especially important since a 
       large portion of the electorate at the time of ratification is 
       this year in senior high school.

    3. To coordinate the teaching opportunities of other Church 
       related organizations, initiate and develop liaison between 
       the Pro-Life Committee and the diocesan coordinating 
       agency for:

         1. Priests and Religious
         2. Hospitals
         3. Health Care Workers
         4. Catholic Social Services
         5. Education and Catechetics
         6. Lay Apostolate Organizations

Each of these groups could assume a large portion of the educa-
tion responsibility among their individual and unique constituen-
cies.  They should, however, be presented with a specific project 
which they would agree to assume.

                       Proposed Diocesan Plan

I.  Establish in Each Diocese a Pro-Life Committee

    _General Purpose_  --  The purpose of the Committee is to coor-
    dinate groups and activities within the diocese with respect 
    to federal legislative structures, particularly efforts to effect 
    passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn 
    child.  In its coordinating role, the Committee will rely on in-
    formation and direction from the Bishops' Pro-Life Office and 
    the NCHLA.  The committee will act through the diocesan 
    Pro-Life Director, who is appointed by the Bishop to direct 
    pro-life efforts in the diocese.

    _Membership_ -- Diocesan Pro-Life Director
                    (Bishop's Representative)
                 -- Respect Life Coordinator
                 -- Liaison with State Catholic Conference
                 -- Public Affairs Advisor^2
                 -- Congressional District Representative(s)
                 -- Representatives of Diocesan Agencies
                    (Priests, Religious, Lay Organization)
                 -- Information Specialists
                 -- Legal Advisor  --  Representative of
                    Pro-Life Groups


    1. Coordinate parish and Congressional district activity.

    2. Oversee the development of "Grass-roots" organizations, 
       and direct their activity and involvement.

    3. Maintain communications with NCHLA in regard to fed-
       eral activity, so as to be ready for necessary action in regard 
       to local Senators and Representatives.

    4. Maintain a local public information effort directed to press 
       and media.  Include vigilance in re public media, seek 
       "equal time," etc.

    5. Develop Core Groups with close relationships to each Sena-
       tor or Representative.

II. Organization of Grass Roots Effort in Every Congressional District

    Directed to:            Parishes
    -----------             DCCW/DCCM
                            Knights of Columbus
                            Catholic Daughters of America
                            Holy Name Societies/Other Groups


    1. Make every Senator and Congressman aware of continuing 
       effort to obtain a constitutional amendment.  Both the na-
       tional office and the state/diocesan office must have access 
       to each congressional district for all future political activity.  
       A chairperson should be designated in each district who will 
       coordinate the efforts of parish pro-life groups, K of C 
       groups, and non-sectarian pro-life groups, including right-
       to-life organizations.  In each district, the parishes will be 
       one basic resource, and the clergy will have to be activated 
       to lead and/or collaborate in the overall effort.  Each Con-
       gressional District Chairperson will need some basic re-
       sources, ie structure, small budget, endorsement and 
       support of clergy.

    2. The Congressional District Chairperson should be a member 
       of the Diocesan Coordinating Committee.  In a diocese with 
       many congressional districts, one or two Congressional Dist-
       rict Chairpersons may represent their many colleagues.

    3. Prudently convince others  --  Catholics and non-Catholics
       -- of necessity of constitutional amendment to provide base 
       for legal protection for unborn.

    4. Carry out the public information effort  --  create a presence 
       at public functions; conduct symposia; be available to press 
       and media.

    5. Coordinate efforts with existing pro-life and Right to Life 

III. Local Plan for Congressional Effort
    Directed to:

    1. All States/Dioceses should increase contacts with Senators 
       and Representatives urging positive support for a human 
       life amendment.  Senators should be made aware that we 
       are not satisfied with the Senate Subcommittee's failure to 
       report some amendment and we intend to continue our 
       efforts to pass an amendment.

    2. In States/Dioceses where Congressman who is a member of 
       House Judiciary Committee comes from, we urge extended 

    3. In States/Dioceses where Congressman is in favor of con-
       stitutional amendment and may be willing to co-sponsor an 
       amendment, do not invite cosponsorship, but do not inhibit
       it if Congressman wishes to support any of the House 

    4. In States/Dioceses where Senators or Congressmen have 
       endorsed states' rights amendments, establish communica-
       tions, explore possibility of support for human life amend-

Fall  --  1975  --  House Activity

    1. Begin activity on House of Representatives, requesting Ju-
       diciary Sub-Committee to conduct extended hearings.  Em-
       phasize need to give people a chance to be heard.  Since the 
       House is larger, we should expect a long-range effort to 
       build the two-thirds majority.

    2. Contact members of House Judiciary Subcommittee, and 
       get a commitment from each member.  The same applies to 
       the members of the full House Judiciary Committee.  This 
       renewal of commitment is pressing in light of the Senate 
       Subcommittee action.

    3. Establish contacts with friendly Congresspersons, urging 
       general support in the House.  Explore those who favor a 
       States' Rights approach, and see if they will support a 
       human life amendment.

    4. As the House Sub-Committee progresses, there will be a 
       need to step up contacts with the Subcommittee members 
       to commit them to a positive vote.

    5. N.B.  The House Recess Schedule makes the task of visiting 
       the representative in his/her own district both imperative 
       and achievable.


1.  It is assumed that overall coordination in each state will be the 
responsibility of the State Catholic Conference or its equivalent.  
Where a State Catholic Conference is in process of formation or does 
not exist, Bishop's representatives from each diocese might be 
appointed as the core members of the State Coordinating Committee.

2.  The _State Coordinating Committee_ will be comprised of the Director 
of the State Catholic Conference, and the diocesan Pro-Life 
coordinators.  At this level it would be valuable to have one or more 
persons who are knowledgeable about state politics and experienced in 
legislative activity.  This may be the Public Affairs Specialist 
referred to in the Proposed Diocesan Plan, or it may be a retired 
legislator or lobbyist.  In any case, it should be someone who 
understands and practices the new style of politics.

3.  The primary purposes of the State Coordinating Committee are:


There are a number of revealing passages in the sanitized version of the Pastoral Plan that do not appear in the unsanitized version. These passages further highlight how the bishops have developed an extensive and nimble political machine in the U.S., in order to advance papal interests. What follows here are direct quotes from the sanitized final version of the plan approved by the bishops' conference. This final version calls for a full mobilization of the Church's pastoral resources focused in three major efforts including public policy. The three-fold public policy action would be "directed toward the legislative, judicial and administrative areas so as to ensure effective legal protection for the right to life." Here are excerpts from this section of the plan: "a) Passage of a constitutional amendment providing protection for the unborn child to the maximum degree possible.

"b) Passage of federal and state laws and adoption of administrative policies that will restrict the practice of abortion as much as possible.

"Accomplishment of this aspect of this Pastoral Plan will undoubtedly require well planned and coordinated political action by citizens at the national, state and local levels. This activity is not simply the responsibility of Catholics, nor should it be limited to Catholic groups or agencies. It calls for widespread cooperation and collaboration...."


The blueprint provided by the bishops was designed to encourage the development of "grassroots" political action organizations. A key element of the plan was "the Pro-Life Effort in the Congressional District."

The plan continues, "Passage of a constitutional amendment depends ultimately on persuading members of Congress to vote in favor of such a proposal.* This effort at persuasion is part of the democratic process, and is carried on most effectively in the congressional district or state from which the representative is elected.

"Essentially, this effort demands ongoing public information activity and careful and detailed organization. Thus it is absolutely necessary to encourage the development in each congressional district of an identifiable, tightly-knit and well organized pro-life unit. This unit can be described as a public interest group or a citizens' lobby. No matter what it is called, its task is essentially political, that is, to organize people to help persuade the elected representatives...

"As such, the congressional district pro-life group differs from the diocesan, regional or parish pro-life coordinator or committee, whose task is pedagogic and motivational, not simply political, and whose range of action includes a variety of efforts calculated to reverse the present atmosphere of permissiveness with respect to abortion. Moreover, it is an agency of the citizens, operated, controlled and financed by these same citizens. It is not an agency of the Church, nor is it operated, controlled, or financed by the Church....It is complementary to denominational efforts, to professional groups, to pregnancy counselling and assistance groups.

"Each congressional district should have a chairperson who may serve as liaison with the Diocesan Coordinating Committee. In a diocese with many congressional districts, this may be arranged through a regional representation structure."


The bishops' solid infrastructure at the Congressional district level is then to be applied to the achievement of specific objectives, as listed in the plan: "This type of activity can be generated and coordinated by a small, dedicated and politically alert group. It will need some financial support, but its greatest need is the commitment of other groups who realize the importance of its purposes...and the absolute necessity of working with the group to attain the desired goals."
A copy of the complete sanitized version can be obtained from the Center. The bishops apparently never had any second thoughts about their Pastoral Plan, and its implementation began immediately. After 10 years of experience -- and success -- with the implementation, the bishops formally reendorsed the Plan at their November 1985 annual meeting.
* An amendment to the U.S. Constitution, of course, also requires ratification by three-fourths of the states. -- Ed.
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