A key leader for the World Meeting of Families has come under attack from a conservative Catholic “investigative group” that says he donated campaign funds to pro-abortion candidates.
The Lepanto Institute said Robert J. Ciaruffoli, currently listed as chairman (but sometimes listed as president) of WMOF’s board of directors, has, in various years, given campaign donations to Allyson Schwartz, Chaka Fattah, Bob Brady, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson — all pro-choice Democrats. (The donations can be affirmed at the Federal Election Commission website.) The donation to Schwartz, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic before her stint in Congress, was singled out for criticism.
“The Church simply can’t afford to have event leaders so cozy with Planned Parenthood’s political cheerleaders,” said Michael Hichborn, the Virginia-based Lepanto Institute’s president. He sent the story out to reporters with the headline: “President of World Meeting of Families Funded Planned Parenthood Director’s Political Campaign.”
Ciaruffoli did not respond to a call and email for comment.
“The Lepanto Institute has proven once again that it is not interested in presenting information in any useful way,” the Philadelphia Archdiocese said in a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon. “Neither the World Meeting of Families — Philadelphia 2015 nor any of its leadership supports Planned Parenthood. Lepanto’s sole intention is to create division, confusion, and conflict within the Church. Actions of that nature run contrary to Christian tradition. Their reports are not to be taken seriously.”
It’s true, however, that The World Meeting of Families leadership roster is packed full of members of the Philadelphia Democratic establishment, which generally runs pro-choice. Mayor Michael Nutter and Gov. Tom Wolf are both listed as honorary co-chairs. Other notable politicos include Comcast vice president David Cohen — a top fundraiser for President Obama — who is listed as a co-chair of the organization’s executive leadership cabinet, as is Comcast honcho Brian Roberts, who has given at least $76,000 to Democrats since 2006.
Indeed, one could make the case that the World Meeting of Families — and the accompanying visit by Pope Francis — would simply be impossible to pull off in Philadelphia without the support and active assistance of the city’s leading Democrats, many of them pro-choice.
Hichborn told Philly Mag that Catholics shouldn’t make common cause with individuals who work against church teaching on issues like abortion and homosexuality. “If the caveat is that you give positions of honor to people who are attacking the Catholic Church, you don’t hold the event,” he said.
“They shouldn’t be working with or giving positions of honor to individuals who are attacking the church,” he said. “If you can find another way, you find another way.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput has been know to draw bright moral lines where church teachings are involved — over the summer praising a private Catholic school for firing a married gay teacher. Hichborn said he believes Chaput had been deceived by his staff with regard selecting WMOF leadership. “He’s also a pretty busy man,” Hichborn said. “He doesn’t have time to vet everybody.”
Hichborn declined to give membership numbers for the Lepanto Institute, saying it is “purely an investigative organization, designed to protect the Catholic Church from enemies without as well as within.” He had previously reported that a “gay agenda” was filtering into preparations for the World Meeting, a report also denied by the archdiocese.
The World Meeting of Families is September 22nd through the 25th. Pope Francis visits Philadelphia on September 26th and 27th.
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