By Elizabeth O’Brien

ROME, June 14, 2007 ( – Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for justice and Peace, has called on all Catholics to stop funding Amnesty International because of its recent support of abortion.

The nearly 50 year-old human rights organization gave its official stamp of approval to abortion in cases of “rape, incest and extreme risk to the health of the mother”. However, the new policy, which AI had attempted without success to keep from the public, calls for the universal decriminalization of abortion, thereby making the AI policy effectively advocate for abortion on demand.

The Cardinal told the National Catholic Register in a recent interview, “I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support, because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission.”

The organization “has betrayed all of its faithful supporters throughout the years,” said the cardinal, “both individuals and organizations, who have trusted AI for its integral mission of promoting and protecting human rights.”

Many bishops throughout Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have condemned AI’s change in policy. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier issued a statement saying that such a decision would be, “a step backwards for an organization that has done such outstanding work in defending human life and the rights of the most vulnerable.” They also predicted, “This change in policy would make it difficult for Catholics to continue supporting the work of Amnesty International.”

In a press release today Amnesty International responded to the statements of Cardinal Renato Martino and attempted to remain neutral on the question of abortion’s morality. The release explained, “Defending the right of women to sexual and reproductive integrity in the face of grave human rights violations, Amnesty International recently incorporated a focus on selected aspects of abortion into its broader policy on sexual and reproductive rights. These additions do not promote abortion as a universal right and Amnesty International remains silent on the rights and wrongs of abortion.”

While claiming to remain “silent”, Amnesty International’s policy endorses actions that the Catholic Church has always taught are intrinsically evil. For this reason, the Cardinal called for organizations as well as individual Catholics to withdraw financial support from Amnesty International.

He emphasized, “The Church teaches that it is never justifiable to kill an innocent human life. Abortion is murder. To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed. How can we say that killing a child in some cases is good and in other cases it is evil?”

“Such a distinction is incomprehensible for people of good will; and it is incompatible to the mission of Amnesty International, and, for that matter, to the common good of the human family.”

Today’s Amnesty News press release responded by reaffirming its support for human rights rather than “specific theologies”, saying that they invoke “the law and the state, not God.”  The report’s conclusion indicated that the Church was not as broad-minded or supportive of human rights as their own organization.

Ironically, they concluded by urging “the Catholic leadership to advocate tolerance and respect to freedom of expression for all human rights defenders, including Amnesty International, just as Amnesty International will continue to defend the freedom of religion.”

At present, Amnesty International is concerned that the Vatican’s statements will have a serious effect on their sources of private funding, the UK Guardian Reports. While they do not receive money from governments or the Vatican, they do rely on the donations of individuals. They are also concerned about the future of joint missions between themselves and Catholic organizations such as Caritas and the Community of Sant’Egidio.

National Catholic Register Interview with Cardinal Martino

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Statement on AI’s proposed policy change, July, 2006.

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