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RC bishops encourage switch from Amnesty

21 November 2007

ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS in England and Wales have written to 2000 RC schools and 5000 RC parishes advising them to stop supporting Amnesty International.

Amnesty’s new policy, which upholds the right to access to abortion in certain circumstances, compromised the fundamental right to life, the RC Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, and the RC Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Crispian Hollis, told headteachers.

The policy had “put Catholic schools, parishes, and justice and peace groups in a very difficult position as regards formal membership of, affiliation to or financial support of Amnesty International”, the Bishops said.They recommend support for Action by Christians Against Torture and “new groups currently being developed in the wake of Amnesty’s change of policy”.

Amnesty’s international council voted in August for decriminalising abortion, changing its neutral stance in order to support women who had been raped or become pregnant as result of incest, or whose health or human rights were in danger (News, 17 August; News and Comment 24 August).

Its director, Kate Allen, said in a statement on Wednesday: “Amnesty decides policy to further its work, not to make statements on moral issues or to enter theological debates. Our policy on sexual and reproductive rights enables us to confront grave human-rights abuses, especially as part of Amnesty’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign.

  “There is more that unites Amnesty International and the Catholic Church than divides us. It is disappointing that people — individuals and schools — are being asked by the Catholic Church to consider alternative ways of supporting human rights.”

When Pope Benedict addressed the bishops of Kenya on Monday, he said: “While the understanding of Christian family life finds a deep resonance in Africa, it is a matter of great concern that the globalised secular culture is exerting an increasing influence on local communities as a result of campaigns by agencies promoting abortion.” Such “direct destruction of innocent human life” could never be justified.

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