It’s not often that someone posts evidence of what looks like blackmail, but Michael Hichborn, President of the Lepanto Institute revealed at rightwing fundamentalist Catholic site Church Militant that his organization told Catholic Relief Services (CRS–a Catholic charity) and the United States Council of Church Bishops (USCCB) that they had to do something about two employees. In the article, “CRS and USCCB Employees Celebrate Same-Sex ‘Marriage,'” Hichborn includes the text of the letter his organization sent to CRS and USCCB in which he threatened to expose two of the organizations’ employees for displaying rainbow flags on their Facebook pages.
Hichborn argues that the Lepanto Institute warned the organizations that he was getting ready to write an article about the two employees, and gave the CRS and the USCCB until “noon on Tuesday, May 31” to “address and correct the situation.” Because both organizations refused to respond to Hichborn’s letter, he felt he had no choice but to go ahead and publish the information.
The Lepanto Institute works with Church Militant, which is run by Michael Vorhis, who earlier this year publicly thanked God for giving his mother stomach cancer so that Vorhis would stop having sexual relations with homosexual men. Vorhis denies being gay, and claims that he has since consecrated his chastity to the Blessed Mother.
Hichborn details how he became aware of the existence of a woman who works for the USCCB. “[F]or some reason or another” she looked at Michael Hichborn’s profile on LinkedIn. Hichborn was notified, and seeing that she was an employee at USCCB, looked at her profile. “It didn’t take long to find her Facebook profile, showing that she had celebrated the notorious Supreme Court same-sex ‘marriage’ decision from 26 June 2015.”
The proof of this celebration was that she had “superimposed a rainbow image (the symbol of the homosexual movement) over her profile image.” She compounded her offense by posting “a rainbow image with the hashtag, ‘LoveWins.'” Despite being unable to access the rest of her Facebook profile, Hichborn declares that this “little bit is enough to show that her beliefs and values are not in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Hichborn argues that his purpose is not to expose individuals, but “when a credible problem pertaining to personnel is discovered, we are compelled to follow the leads and make the matter known to the appropriate authorities. When it does not appear that the concern is being taken seriously, our only recourse is to take the matter to the faithful.” This explains why he was publicly posting his efforts to have the USCCB discipline an employee for believing that “love wins.”
Not content with this act of extortion, Hichborn decided that this was also the moment to mention that he had received a tip that an employee in the IT department of CRS was “alleged to be in a homosexual relationship and promoting same-sex ‘marriage’ on Facebook.”
Hichborn then reveals the “evidence” gathered from an act of Facebook stalking, which includes the employee’s membership in a gay men’s chorus, his “like” for the “LGBT-promoting ‘No H8 Campaign,’ his liking of cross-dressing organizations, and for “Boom Magazine,’ which describes itself as a ‘St. Louis based News, Advocacy and Community Publication Serving the LGBQIA+ and Urban Progressive audience.”
All of this “evidence,” is similar to other efforts made by the Lepanto Institute to out employees of CRS and the USCCB. Hichborn is forced to do this because he says there is a “systemic problem in their bureaucratic ranks.” He also claims that the “Church is facing quite possibly the greatest apostasy since Arius.” (Arius is associated with the belief that Jesus is not as divine as God.)
When Michael Vorhis issued his statements about his mother’s cancer, he was doing so, he said, because “the Diabolical” had threatened to go public with information about his earlier life. In his confession, he related the following: “..most of my thirties, confused about my own sexuality, I lived a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men. From the outside, I lived the lifestyle and contributed to the scandal in addition to the sexual sins. On the inside, I was deeply conflicted about all of it.”
Vorhis made his public confession on April 25, 2016. Despite feeling that it was the work of the devil to expose him, Vorhis posted Hichborn’s attempt to get people fired for what they liked on Facebook, and their personal beliefs in celebrating the right of all people to love.