“[Lori Hawkins] is kind of an extremist… [She’s] 100% in favor of and total acceptance of all of those things, and the person that’s writing all these things is pushing the very things the diocese is rejecting,” said Father Gerry Hessel of St. Mark Catholic Church in Kenosha. “These things” that Father Hessel is talking about are the issues that failed political candidate Hawkins supports. Hawkins, like many democrats, supports abortion until birth for any reason, radical LGBT issues, pediatric genital mutilation, pornography in schools, and anti-gun policies. CUSH also condems “Christian nationalism.”
Hawkins is the executive director of Congregations United to Serve Humanity (CUSH) and the chairman of Kenosha County Democrat Party. The members of CUSH are mostly fringe churches like Jonathan Barker‘s “Grace Lutheran Church” and “Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalists.” This is the church that had its Black Lives Matter sign burned during the riots of 2020, and it considered by Wikipedia to be a liberal church. This church doesn’t universally believe in God. There are two churches on the list of CUSH members that aren’t fringe. At least, shouldn’t be – St. Mary’s and St. Mark’s.
Kenosha County Eye reached out to Kenosha Priest Roman Stikel several times by email and phone. He wasn’t interested in talking about this issue.
Deacon Ron Lesjak of St. Mary’s did however speak to KCE. “I’ve always been a democrat and pro-union,” Lesjak told KCE. “People in the LGBT community need to be treated with justice and fairness. CUSH helps with that, and that’s why I’m a part of CUSH.” He didn’t address the more radical issues that CUSH supports. Lesjak is a board member at CUSH.
Father Flores of St. Mark’s is not shy about his pro-LGBT values. He even placed the gay pride flag behind the statue of Jesus’ during pride month. Florez ignored countless phone calls and emails from KCE.
Father Gerry Hessell of St. Mark’s in Kenosha did agree to speak with KCE. After he told us that Lori Hawkins is an extremist, he seemed to stick up for certain things that she believes in. “I don’t think abortion is among the gravest sins, but it is a grave sin,” Hessell told KCE, “What’s important for us, is to pray for those people and pray about those values. And we can do more by instilling our values, by belonging to those groups, that’s a part of our evangelization.” Father Hassell and Father Florez authored a letter condemning the shooting of Jacob Blake for what they said were racist reasons. They also wanted the City of Kenosha to defund the police to the tune of 20% and pay for subsidized housing instead.
KCE spoke with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee about the two rouge Catholic churches and they provided the following statements to us:
“Parishes are part of the community, and therefore they often work with other community-based organizations. Parishes should always be monitoring the activities and alliances of those organizations, and reconsider participation if their efforts are against the teachings of the Catholic Church.“
- Sandra Peterson – Archdiocese of Milwaukee Communications Director
According to Lepanto Institute, CUSH has received more than $200,000 from the Catholic Church in the last decade. The money was sent through the CCHD, Catholic Campaign for Human Development (A subcommittee of USCCB).
The grant list for the 2023-2024 year, however, doesn’t have CUSH on it. We made contact with Lori Hawkins of CUSH to ask why, and she acknowledged that they weren’t receiving the money, but seemed to insinuate that it had nothing to do with her extremist anti-Christian views. She also threatened to sue KCE if we published this article.
A life-long Catholic. who urged this investigative piece told KCE, “I haven’t donated to the annual stewardship appeal for years because I know that it funnels money to CUSH. I won’t donate until the Diocese decides to make better decisions about finding groups that go against Catholic teaching.”