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On Tuesday, Hichborn released a video offering to meet with CCHD Executive Director Ralph McCloud to publicly discuss his concerns about Lepanto's reporting on the pro-abortion, pro-LGBT bent of certain CCHD grant recipients. His challenge stems from a Nov. 29 email in which McCloud slammed the work of the Lepanto Institute, asserting:
Those who put forth these allegations ... do so based on solely internet research and have not had any contact with our funded organizations themselves. In their haste and incendiary rhetoric, the Lepanto Institute and similar organizations have simplified and misconstrued the great work of CCHD ... and many of its funded organizations to incite fear and uncertainty in the minds of faithful Catholics.
Speaking to Church Militant on Tuesday, Hichborn noted: "Mr. McCloud's comment about our reports simplifying or misconstruing the CCHD's grants is hugely ironic."
"Our reports provide highly detailed and specific pieces of evidence and explain why each is a violation of Catholic moral teaching and CCHD grant guidelines. But without ever addressing the specifics in our reports, McCloud completely misconstrues the contents and simplifies the problem," he said.
In his video message, Hichborn explained that he wants to address "the charges that McCloud levels against the Lepanto Institute and other organizations that have been critical of the CCHD."
"I want to set the record straight," he continued, "and make sure that our reports are not inaccurate, and that our findings do not simplify or misconstrue the work of the CCHD."
Addressing McCloud directly, Hichborn challenged the CCHD head to a public debate:
Mr. McCloud, I am offering you an opportunity to have an open and frank discussion about our differences in the public venue of your choosing, provided that it is unedited and available to all who wish to watch. Here's what I propose: You and I should have a moderated public discussion aired online so that we can completely and transparently discuss each other's concerns. You will have an opportunity to show how, in your view, the Lepanto Institute has been unfair in its criticisms of the CCHD grantees, and I, in turn, will have an opportunity to ask direct questions about some of our findings. We can have this open discussion at any time, at any location of your choosing. I will clear my schedule to accommodate yours.
To ensure that McCloud receives his invitation, he added: "I am sending you this proposal via certified mail, along with the means for you to contact me. I sincerely hope you'll accept my proposal and I hope to hear from you soon."
Hichborn pointed out that McCloud's email came in the wake of a bombshell Lepanto Institute report revealing that in 2019, CCHD directed $750,000 in funding to the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) — an organization he describes as "actively indoctrinating high school-aged kids in homosexual and transgender activism."
Hichborn has described the Jesuit social justice advocacy group as "an active promoter of homosexual perversions, including transgenderism," noting that ISN has "provided a speaking venue to the Vatican-condemned New Ways Ministry, which promotes same-sex 'marriage.'"
"On its website are numerous articles and events promoting homosexualism and its annual Ignatian Family Teach-In conference regularly includes talks and break-out sessions on LGBT activism and transgender inclusion," he observed.
One ISN workshop, titled "Transgender Voices in the Church," was convened by New Ways Ministry to promote transgender ideology by "building trans justice in [participants'] communities," according to the course's description.
After a pushback from faithful Catholics, CCHD insisted that such workshops are "in line with the Catechism." In his Nov. 29 email, McCloud doubled down, insisting that, "Our research and conversations with [ISN] staff have confirmed that the presentations and workshops given at the Teach-In do not violate the Church's moral teaching."
In his comments to Church Militant on Tuesday, Hichborn rejected these assertions:
Mr. McCloud's claim that the ISN's Teach-In for Justice never violated Church teaching is either ignorance of Church teaching or is a lie. Those workshops we spotlighted were indoctrinating high school aged kids in homosexual and transgender activism, so that such individuals should feel free to enter a church or Catholic school either dressed as a member of the opposite sex or hand-in-hand with their paramour. Dressing as a member of the opposite sex and maintaining a romantic relationship with a member of the opposite sex is gravely sinful, and such behavior has no place in a Catholic Church or school, but that is precisely what these workshops were encouraging.
McCloud has led the CCHD since 2007. Prior to this, he worked in Texas government, serving as campaign treasurer for radical politician Wendy Davis, nicknamed "Abortion Barbie" for her activism. After backlash, McCloud later said he was unaware of Davis' support for abortion, and claimed he never assumed any duties as treasurer.
Last month, the Lepanto Institute partnered with LifeSiteNews to launch a petition calling for every U.S. bishop to immediately halt all CCHD funding.
"The CCHD continues to ignore its own guidelines and is still funding groups directly opposed to the Catholic Church," the petition warned.
"It is clear to us that the CCHD has no intention of following Catholic teaching and that its leadership has no moral compass," it continued. "So, we are asking Your Excellency to withdraw your diocese from the CCHD altogether."