Saturday, September 22, 2007

Scottish schools join Amnesty International exodus

IT SEEMS THAT every day another country announces the closure of Amnesty International groups in schools as a result of the organisation's pro-abortion policy.

Catholic schools in Scotland are the latest to join the exodus from AI. According to the Scottish Catholic Observer, one of these schools, Glasgow's Holyrood Secondary, is the largest high school in Europe and has had an active AI group for more than 20 years.

The newspaper quotes a Holyrood teacher explaining his school's decision to disband its AI group: “I felt we had to withdraw not just because of the policy, but because of the way it’s presented, which was one-sided and unwilling to account for the pro-life viewpoint," he said.

The director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service Michael McGrath said he did not expect any Catholic schools to continue their support of AI and encouraged schools to campaign for human rights and justice and peace through other organisations. “While many Catholic schools have been generally supportive of Amnesty International in the past,” he said, “rather than having hard ties to the groups I think that support will now go down.”

Mr McGrath also said that schools would also be encouraged to question AI on why it had adopted the new abortion stance.A spokesman for AI in Scotland said that he would welcome an opportunity to discuss the situation with the Catholic authorities directly. Unfortunately, the point is that AI has not listened to its members in the past - many people have emailed this blog suggesting that AI did not respond to their letters. The decisions of the school boards should not be of any surprise to AI as they had been cautioned of the consequences of their decision.

The consultation process that AI conducted in the run-up to the adoption of the policy has been widely discredited and AI has yet to explain why Amnesty International UK continued to tell members the consultation was ongoing long after a decision had been reached.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

328 Australian schools ditch AI over abortion policy

THE TIDAL WAVE of schools dropping Amnesty International following the organisation's decision to adopt a pro-abortion policy continues unabated with the news that 328 Australian Catholic schools will quit AI.

The director of the Catholic Education Office in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Stephen Elder, said his office had made repeated attempts to contact Amnesty over the issue to raise its "serious concerns about the policy". However, he said efforts to discuss the stance had proved fruitless. This is unsurprising as Amnesty International refused to respond to many members' queries on the issue over the last couple of years, and some sectors went as far as misleading their members (see previous posts). Now all of the archdiocese's schools will cut their links with AI in favor of other human rights groups.

Maria Kirkwood, assistant director of religious education and pastoral care in the Melbourne archdiocese, added that a significant number of schools had supported Amnesty programs over many years.

"It's an organisation we would encourage schools to support, which is why this is so disappointing," she told the Age newspaper in Australia. "But this particular issue [abortion] is a very significant one for the Catholic Church and it is impossible for the Catholic Church to continue to support Amnesty with a policy of this nature in place."

A spokesperson for Amnesty International Australia confirmed to the newspaper that a number of schools had already written to the organisation to withdraw membership. As mentioned in a posting yesterday, the organisation faces a potential long-term crisis in supporters; many adult members became involved with Amnesty through their school or church - the establishments that AI's policy has now rejected.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Schools out for AI

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS in Northern Ireland are breaking their ties with Amnesty International following the organization's decision to advocate abortion as a human right.

Next month the Irish bishops will meet to discuss whether or not any of the Church's schools should maintain links with AI, but moves by some schools in Belfast would indicate that it is a foregone conclusion that the policy throughout the country will be to drop AI in favour of other human rights groups. The auxiliary bishop of Down and Connor, Donal McKeown said that his diocese had already taken the view that it would be inappropriate for Catholic schools to continue supporting Amnesty.

"Amnesty's espousal in recent months of campaigning for abortion access in limited circumstances will leave many people in a difficult situation, " he said. "All we are saying here is that it seemed inappropriate in those circumstances for Catholic schools to be promoting the organisation."

The deepening rift between many current members and AI over its pro-abortion stance will have longer-lasting implications for the organization: since its formation by the Catholic Peter Benenson in 1961, it has become common for Catholic schools to establish an AI group of their own, or to at least support the organization's campaigns and many former pupils have gone on to support the organization after they left school. With its decision to divide its membership base, AI is likely to lose the prospect of longer term supporters.

In Canada, the Catholic Bishops Conference is also expected to make a strong statement condmening Amnesty's aborion move when it meets in October. Last week St Basil's Secondary School in Ontario, Canada announced that it would no longer have ties with its local AI group.

In Australia the Bishops have already called for AI to reverse its policy and in August St Aloysius College in Sydney, Australia announced that it would disband its Amnesty International group and instead establish a Benenson Society at the school to campaign for human rights.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Arrivederci Amnesty

ITALY'S Conference of Catholic Bishops has called Amnesty International's decision to campaign for abortion as a human right "astounding."

Criticizing the organization's recent decision to promote abortion, the President of the conference Monsignor Angelo Bagnasco said: "These are departures that warn us further of the dangerous erosion afflicting human conscience."

With the customary response to the mounting criticism leveled at the organization, an Amnesty International spokesman said that AI was not trying to argue that abortion is a human right, but as has been discussed in previous posts, this argument is based on semantics. The organization has stated that it believes abortion to be a woman's right and that as a "human rights" (unfortunately, we must now use quotation marks when appending this phrase to AI) organization, it should champion that right. Many AI supporters of the new policy are happy enough to accept that AI is now advocating abortion as a human right, as are the opponents of the new policy; however it is AI's press officers and leaders that have a problem with the term, believing it will generate bad publicity among supporters and potential members. The organization has yet to reveal the details of their two-year consultation process.

Last week the Australia's Bishops condemned Amnesty's move; the US and Canadian bishops have also criticized the organization and several prominent members of the British Catholic clergy have resigned their membership of the organization, urging Catholic members to reconsider whether or not they can continue to support a pro-abortion AI.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Aussie Church calls on AI to rethink abortion stance

THE CATHOLIC Church in Australia has become the latest group to call for Amnesty International to reverse its policy on abortion.

In a statement one of Australia's most senior Catholic clerics Archbishop Philip Wilson said that AI's pro-abortion stance was "deeply regrettable" and said that AI had "moved to a concept of human rights founded not upon the good of the human person, but simply upon the autonomy of the individual."

“Catholic people have had a long association with Amnesty International, going right back to its inception and the two bodies have been closely aligned in their commitment to social justice,” he said.

“However, Amnesty International has now adopted a position, under the misleading term of ‘sexual and reproductive rights’ which is at odds with the Catholic understanding of the dignity of the human person and sexuality.

“This decision has led some people, including some Catholic school groups, to withdraw from membership of Amnesty International and to seek other ways in which to pursue the same aims of fighting injustice, ending human rights abuses and standing in solidarity with the imprisoned and the oppressed.”

Archbishop Wilson said that he had written two letters on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference during the past year, urging Amnesty International to abandon the policy change.

“Unfortunately, despite similar entreaties from people the world over, Amnesty International decided to proceed with the new policy,” he said.

“We will now consider the situation carefully, in consultation with the Catholic education sector and the many other arms of the Catholic Church in Australia which have had association with Amnesty International.

“It is not too late for Amnesty International to take stock of the damage being caused by this change of policy and to return to its former neutral stance on abortion. I would urge them to do so.”

Photograph: Archbishop Philip Wilson, from www.acbc.catholic.org.au

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Amnesty defends pro-abortion stance on Al Jazeera

EVEN AL JAZEERA has covered Amnesty International's new decision to support abortion. The clip here shows an interview between AI's Widney Brown and Helen Alvare of the Catholic University of America.

Widney Brown has been one of the people zealously pushing the policy onto the organisation with a dogmatic belief that abortion is a human right. In fact in her fervour, Ms Brown apparently has not bothered to find out about what Catholic teaching is in relation to the matter, preferring instead to use crude (and completely erroneous) stereotypes of what she believes to be Catholic teaching. This is another demonstration that the organisation has been forced into this by a leadership not fully comprehending what it was doing but just clinging on to the belief that it was right. To be fair, in the middle of the interview poor Ms Brown lets it slip that it wasn't just Catholic beliefs she didn't fully grasp, apparently she didn't quite realise what Amnesty US has done in relation to its interpretation of women's health and its stance on supporting the availability of partial birth abortions.

Now other AI spokespeople have been a little circumspect about the numbers leaving AI - see, for example, Phillippe Hensmans's view who almost complained it wasn't fair that the Catholic Church was asking its members to think twice before supporting AI. Not so Ms Brown, who says that there has not been an exodus of people leaving the organisation as was predicted when the policy was announced in April (actually other reports contradict her, and she hasn't produced her statistics)....but, hold your horses Widney: surely, the policy wasn't announced in April - well, at least that's what Amnesty International would have us believe. In fact Amnesty went out of its way to try to cover up the policy with confidential internal documents and attempts to mislead members into thinking that the consultation it claims was so democratic was continuing right up until August.

What happened was when the top secret documents got into the public domain thanks to Consistent Life, the hapless Widney gave an interview to Reuters about the policy....red faces all round as Amnesty's leadership realised it had been well and truly caught out.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pope's veiled attack on Amnesty's pro abortion stance

THE POPE said he spoke for unborn children when he warned that abortion was not a human right and pleaded for countries not to allow their abortion legislation to treat children as illnesses.

Although Pope Benedict XVI did not directly refer to Amnesty International's decision to campaign for abortion in the statement he made in Austria on Friday, his remarks are a thinly-veiled criticism of the human rights organisation which has recently equated abortion with a human right. The Pope also called for countries to retain laws restricting abortions; a position that is also contrary to AI's newly adopted abortion policy. AI was founded by Peter Benenson after he converted to Catholicism and its new policy has been widely criticised by the Catholic Church (see previous posts) and high-ranking Vatican officials.

The Pope said:

"It was in Europe that the notion of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right – it is the very opposite. It is “a deep wound in society”, as the late Cardinal Franz K├Ânig never tired of repeating.

"In stating this, I am not expressing a specifically ecclesial concern. Rather, I wish to act as an advocate for a profoundly human need, speaking out on behalf of those unborn children who have no voice. In doing so, I do not close my eyes to the difficulties and the conflicts which many women are experiencing, and I realize that the credibility of what we say also depends on what the Church herself is doing to help women in trouble.

"In this context, then, I appeal to political leaders not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness, nor to abolish in practice your legal system’s acknowledgment that abortion is wrong. I say this out of a concern for humanity."

Friday, August 31, 2007

AI's strange definition of human rights not shared by many members

WE MENTIONED the other day that there were two pieces in this week’s Tablet magazine about Amnesty International’s decision to adopt a pro-abortion policy. The other article is predominantly about the decision of the English Bishop of East Anglia Michael Evans to resign after 30-odd years with the organisation, but it also touches on a couple of other issues; one of which is a brief comment attributed to Amnesty International member and veteran campaigner Bruce Kent (pictured below), which, if correct, I find a little odd coming from a campaigner of his pedigree.

According to the Tablet, Mr Kent is optimistic that a way forward can be found to allow Amnesty International members opposed to abortion to remain members if their contributions and efforts were not used to support the pro abortion policy (I do not believe this to be in any way feasible, but the logistics of that is not my concern here).

Bruce Kent is a man of peace and I am sure that his suggestion - if it is his - comes from his innate conciliatory desire. But the suggestion necessitates Amnesty International becoming a very broad church to accommodate the vastly different views of human rights, and it makes the argument from a relativist viewpoint: where everyone’s view is right and truth is only a matter of perspective.

Basing a human rights organisation on the premise that all truths are equally valid is both dangerous and self-destructive. At first, it might seem attractive: we'd get a warm and fuzzy feeling getting along just fine, interpreting laws, conventions and charters in the loosest possible way so that we can even get round that irritating "right to life" phrase that once seemed quite simple. But if a human rights organisation cannot itself agree on the basic truth about the nature of human rights and, by extension, it sanctions the position that all interpretations of human rights are equal and truthful, then the organisation has made itself obsolete: it has accepted there can never be any actual abuse of human rights as those rights themselves can never be objectively defined. This, in part, is what makes Amnesty's abortion move so irrational and illogical.

Twenty years ago the then Catholic priest Monsignor Kent was a leading light in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (he is still Vice President of CND), but he also wished to stand for the UK parliament. Canon Law prevents priests from standing for political office and Kent was forced to choose between his political ambitions and his active ministry: he chosecndlogo the former and was laicised. He has championed Amnesty International and human rights in the past and has demonstrated the courage of his convictions on many occasions. I do not share his views on nuclear disarmament, but I recognise him as a man of principle, and admire him for that.

I would doubt, therefore, that Mr Kent would be willing to continue to support CND if it adopted a policy that campaigned for some countries to have nuclear arms in "certain circumstances" (a phrase du jour of the AI leadership). I would guess that the main opposition to the policy would not be about whether monetary contributions were spent on a pro-weapons campaign - although this would be a factor, but rather the fact that the policy betrayed the underlying principle of the organisation.

For many people that is exactly what has happened to Amnesty International: many of us believe that the fundamental human right is the right to life and abortion denies the unborn humans that right. For those of us who believe that abortion is an anathema to human rights, it is with a heavy heart that we have to accept we can no longer support Amnesty International as it now stands. We must look for other organisations to support while we campaign and hope that Amnesty International eventually sees sense and reverses its pro-abortion policy. We cannot remain with the organisation as Mr Kent is said to have suggested.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More comments on AI's pro abortion policy

A few more comments about Amnesty International's decision to adopt a pro-abortion stance. More to come...

“People who support so-called ‘abortion rights’ are probably very pleased and feel they’ve scored another ‘coup'. But I think it is going to leave Amnesty International with a very questionable reputation from now on.” Rev Thomas King, SJ, Professor of Theology, Georgetown University, United States

"AS ABORTION brings about the death of a child before birth, it clearly violates the right of a child to life. What then of the mother and any rights she might claim? The position in relation to children's rights versus adult rights should be clear and is arguably covered by the paramountcy principle which states that: "the welfare of the child is paramount" and this is enshrined in International, European and UK legislative frameworks, hence the Children Act 1989" - Dr Rosemary Keenan, National Board of Catholic Women, England & Wales

"I DO not see how anyone who is committed to equal respect for all human life, whether on religious or philosophical grounds, can remain a member of Amnesty International." Ray Campbell, director of the Queensland Bioethics Centre, Australia

"Advocacy on behalf of both [mother and child] would take action when a policy of genocidal rape is being followed. It would provide help and support to the pregnant women, and community building to help their children find acceptance. In short, true compassion tries to provide healing following the violence, rather than extending the violence to the death of another human being." - Edith OSB,Monastic Musings blog, United States

“ Abortion provides no relief from the realities they [rape vctims] face. It does nothing to alleviate injustice...God is bigger than Amnesty International and his plan for justice will not be thwarted." Deirdre A. McQuade, Director of planning and information for the USCCB Pro-Life Activities Secretariat

“It strikes against the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, which states that every child “needs special safeguards and care, including legal protection, before as well as after birth. This is surely a crossing of the Rubicon..." Fr Chris Middleton SJ, principal of St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, Australia

Here you can read Fr Middleton's full statement on the decision to stop supporting Amnesty International at his school and instead form a new society to work on human rights: the Benenson Society, named after the late founder of Amnesty International.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Scottish cardinal quits Amnesty over abortion policy

SCOTLAND'S most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Edinburgh says he will leave Amnesty International following the organisation's decision to adopt a pro abortion policy.

The cardinal, who has been a member of AI for 40 years, said he was leaving the organisation as a "matter of conscience". He commented: "That basic and most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life is recognised by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document upon which Amnesty International was founded. Sadly now Amnesty International seems to be placing itself at the forefront of a campaign for a universal ‘right' to abortion in contravention to that basic right to human life." In contrast to many other countries, the Scottish Catholic hierarchy has been quiet on the issue until now and this is a welcome, though belated, message from the Scottish Catholic church. The full text of Cardinal O'Brien's comments are given below.

More...

"The recent decision by the International Council of Amnesty International to “Support the decriminalisation of abortion and to defend women’s access to abortion” has forced me to reconsider my membership of this noble organisation.

As a matter of conscience and with great sadness I have decided to resign from Amnesty International having first joined as a student and supported it over many decades.

Throughout my priestly ministry and more recently as Archbishop and Cardinal I have shown my desire along with my Church to defend life in all its aspects. Along with the Bishops of Scotland in 2001 in guidance ahead of the Scottish elections we stressed the commitment of the Catholic Church to life but we wanted to be clear what that meant. It was not something narrow but something wide and all encompassing. And we said then that: “We believe in a consistent ethic of life. We are pro-life in the fullest sense of that term”.

In recent years I have spoken out strongly on pro life issues including our necessity to ensure life for the poorest of the poor people of the world and have shown my care and concern by visiting some of those poorest countries especially in Africa and Asia and including also my visit to Darfur. I have also shown my high regard for life in consistently speaking out with members of other Churches here in Scotland against the renewal of the Trident Nuclear Weapon system which is based in Scotland.

Even more recently I have spoken out strongly against abortion when I marked the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act in the Westminster in 1967. With regard to abortion I have now had to examine my own conscience, realising that Amnesty International was approving proposals in support of abortion.

I have listened to the teachings of my own Church in recent weeks in the form of a statement from Cardinal Renato Martino the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace said with regard to Amnesty International that it had “betrayed its mission” by abandoning its traditional neutral policy on abortion. Only a week ago Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone the Secretary of State of Pope Benedict XVI said on Vatican Radio that: “Men and women of the Church throughout the world have already made their stark opposition to this decision clear violence cannot be answered by further violence, murder with murder, for even if the child is unborn it is still a human person. It has a right to dignity as a human being”.

I also realise the anguish suffered by Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia who has been an active member of Amnesty for 31 years and who has also recently announced his decision to resign. He indicated that the recent decision made it very difficult for Catholics to remain members of Amnesty or to give it any financial support saying: “This regrettable decision will almost certainly divide Amnesty’s membership and thereby undermine its vital work” adding “among all human rights, the right to life is fundamental”.

I am also aware that Amnesty International has previously criticised the Vatican for its stance against abortion and in 2005 described the refusal by America to pay for abortions overseas as “an attempt to stifle the evolution of the human rights framework”.

I hope I act in a manner which is ‘pro-life’ following what I believe is the teaching of Jesus Christ and the teaching of my Church. That basic and most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life is recognised by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document upon which Amnesty International was founded. Sadly now Amnesty International seems to be placing itself at the forefront of a campaign for a universal ‘right’ to abortion in contravention to that basic right to human life.

For me it is a matter of conscience that I have decided to resign from Amnesty International.

Others must follow their own consciences. But I would suggest that any who do and who resign from Amnesty International, would put their previous contributions to Amnesty International to agencies which do indeed support the right to life of each and every human being wherever conceived and in whatsoever part of the world, and to help women who have suffered violence at the hands of others, particularly those who have endured rape.

We are all members of the one human family and we must defend unborn children in our family however conceived, they may be seen as unwanted or inconvenient, but they have from moment of conception, been given the gift of life by Almighty God."

Picture: Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Einburgh, from http://www.archdiocese-edinburgh.com/

Monday, August 27, 2007

Amnesty loses friends over abortion policy

The issue as covered by the UK's Tablet magazine. The Tablet is a Catholic magazine read widely around the English speaking world and unfortunately its coverage of the issue to date has been disappointing. Nevertheless, two pieces appear in this week's edition: the one that follows and an article about Bishop Michael Evans resigning from AI.

Amnesty loses friends over abortion policy

THE VATICAN this week intensified its call to Catholics to stop supporting Amnesty International following the pressure group's decision to back the legalisation of abortion.

AI affirmed a revised abortion policy at the conclusion of its leadership council meeting in Mexico last week, making official a departure from its longtime neutrality on the issue despite protests from many Catholic leaders.

"With the prevention of violence against women as its major campaigning focus AI's leaders committed themselves anew to work for universal respect for sexual and reproductive rights," the organisation said in a statement released after the meeting.

Under the new policy, the group said, AI would support the decriminalisation of abortion, push for access to health care for women suffering from complications of abortion procedures, and "defend women's access to abortio, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger".

More...In all, the group said, the revisions to its policy aim to emphasise that "women and men must exercise their sexual and reproductive rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence."

The announcement was followed by strongly worded criticism by the Vatican. "One cannot eliminate life as such, even if it is the fruit of violence," said the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB.

Analysts feared the move would weaken joint efforts between church groups and AI on several other justice issues, including disarmament and the abolition of capital punishment.

Italy's leading Catholic newspaper said the decision to back legalised abortion, even in the case of rape, was a "disturbing precedent" in a "glorious organisation" that had worked so effectively for human rights.

by Timothy Lavin and Robert Mickens, The Tablet 25 August 2007.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Amnesty duped pro-life celebrities

The UK's Sunday Times today reports that Amnesty International has been accused of duping pro life pop stars - including Christina Aguilera (pictured) and Avril Lavigne - by persuading them to record tracks for a CD to raise funds. The article quotes representative from the Rock for Life organisation. The full article appears below. (Note: the headline as it appeared in print is given below, the internet version of the story was headlined "Pro-life rockers clash with Amnesty" on the Times' website.)

Amnesty "duped" pro-life pop stars

By Maurice Chittenden and Dipesh Gadher

Amnesty International risks alienating some of its high-profile rock star backers in the row over its decision to support women’s access to abortion.

The group has been accused of “duping” the singers Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne, who have both made statements against abortion and are among

More...

contributors to an Amnesty CD released to raise money for survivors of the atrocities in Darfur.

Two weeks ago, just two months after the album’s release, Amnesty adopted a worldwide policy to back the right of women to abortion in carefully defined circumstances — for example, when their health or life are in danger or when they have been victims of rape in areas of conflict such as Darfur.

The album, which has already sold more than 400,000 copies, features cover versions of hits by John Lennon such as Imagine, and Give Peace a Chance. It was made possible by Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono, who gave the rights to all his solo works to Amnesty in 2003.

The policy on abortion has brought Amnesty into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, and has shown how new divides have displaced the old left-right geopolitics that gave rise to Amnesty. The group was founded in Britain in 1961 by Peter Benenson, a radical socialist lawyer and a Catholic convert, to campaign for the release of prisoners of conscience.

Now Rock for Life, a collaboration of musicians linked to the antiabortion movement, has accused Amnesty of using the album to promote abortion without making its intentions clear to the singers.

Erik Whittington, director of Rock for Life, said: “The human suffering going on right now in Darfur is horrific. To add insult to injury, however, using this tragic abuse of human rights to raise money for a pro-abortion organisation is hypocritical and beyond belief.

“The manipulation of musicians to fund this hypocrisy is maddening.” He added: “We are writing to all the artists to ask for their views.”

Amnesty, which claims 260,000 members in Britain, more than the Labour party, has been surprised by the ferocity of the reaction to its new policy.

The position has been condemned as support for a “right to kill” never envisaged in the United Nations 1948 declaration of human rights that formed the original bedrock of Amnesty’s focus. The Vatican has called on Catholics to withhold donations and Amnesty’s Irish section has said it will effectively opt out of the policy and not participate in abortion-related campaigns.

Last week Michael Evans, the Catholic bishop of East Anglia, resigned from Amnesty after 31 years as an activist saying it had been “deeply compromised”. Many Christians among Amnesty’s 2m members worldwide are said to be considering following suit, although Amnesty officials in London insisted only “a handful” had done so.

The views of singers who have contributed to the album - who also include George Harrison’s son Dhani - on Amnesty’s change of heart are not yet clear.

But Aguilera, 26, is a devout American Catholic. She is reportedly expecting her first child and has taken part in a television show in which she interviewed a teenager who had kept her baby rather than have an abortion.

Avril LavigneLavigne, 22, [pictured left] is a French-Canadian from a tight-knit Christian family. Her song Keep Holding On is the backing track to a pro-life video on YouTube that declares “abortion is murder”.

Aguilera and Lavigne were unavailable for comment. An aide to Lavigne said: “I don’t think she would want to comment on this. But what has abortion to do with Amnesty? It’s for a lot of different things such as prisoners of conscience and human rights.”

Rock for Life has drawn up a list of 700 acts, including Bryan Ferry and the rapper MC Hammer, who it says are opposed to abortion.

An Amnesty spokesman said: “We don’t know the personal opinion of the artists on abortion but the CD has been launched to raise awareness of the situation in Darfur.”

Widney Brown, Amnesty’s director of policy, said there had been “overwhelming support” for the policy change at the meeting in Mexico City. Since 2005 72 branches of Amnesty around the world have passed similar motions.

Amnesty’s position now is not for abortion to be a universal right but for it to be decriminalised and for access to abortion to be permitted within its defined circumstances.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

US Catholic Bishops accuse Amnesty of false compassion for women's rights

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded to Amnesty International's recently-adopted abortion policy by warning AI that the Bishops would be looking to work with other human rights groups. The Conference also calls for AI to reverse the policy.

The President of the Conference, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane said in a statement:

"This basic policy change undermines Amnesty's longstanding moral credibility and unnecessarily diverts its mission. In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members (many of whom are Catholics and others who defend the rights of unborn children) and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions.."

He continues: "To some, the action of Amnesty International may appear to be a compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy, but this is a false compassion. True commitment to women's rights puts us in solidarity with women and their unborn children. It does not pit one gainst the other but calls us to advocate on behalf of both."

The full text of the Bishops' Statement follows below.More...

A Statement of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Bishop William S. Skylstad, Bishop of Spokane August 23, 2007

After nearly a year of dialogue with leaders of Amnesty International AI), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly protests the recent action of AI's International Council to promote worldwide access to abortion. This basic policy change undermines Amnesty's longstanding moral credibility and unnecessarily diverts its mission. In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members (many of whom are Catholics and thers who defend the rights of unborn children) and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights.

Amnesty International's action will lead many people of conscience to seek alternative means to end grave human rights abuses, fight injustice, and promote freedom of conscience and expression. The essential work of protecting human life and promoting human dignity must carry on. We must continue to oppose the use of the death penalty and the crushing effects of dehumanizing poverty. We must continue to stand with prisoners of conscience, refugees and migrants, and other oppressed peoples. But we will seek to do so in authentic ways, working most closely with organizations who do not oppose the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death.

To some, the action of Amnesty International may appear to be a compassionate response to women in difficult situations of pregnancy, but this is a false compassion. True commitment to women's rights puts us in solidarity with women and their unborn children. It does not pit one against the other but calls us to advocate on behalf of both. As our Conference has argued, a far more compassionate response is to provide support and services for pregnant women, advance their educational and economic standing in society, and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against women. The Catholic Church provides these services to many women around the world and will continue to do so.

We call upon Amnesty International once again to act in accord with its noblest principles, reconsider its error, and reverse its policy on abortion.

Picture: The photograph is of Bishop William Skylstad from www.dioceseofspokane.org