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.
"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/