USA    BISHOPS DENOUNCE ABORTION RIGHTS GROUP
The US Catholic bishops conference denounced an abortion-rights group on Tuesday for campaigning to have the Holy See's permanent-observer status revoked at the United Nations.
   The abortion-rights group, Catholics for a Free Choice, was trying to "silence the moral voice of the Holy See at the United Nations," the bishops said.
   "The public relations effort has ridiculed the Holy See in language reminiscent of other episodes of anti-Catholic bigotry that the Catholic Church has endured in the past," the Washington-based bishops group said in a statement carried in the daily Vatican bulletin.
   The Vatican, although a non-member and lacking a vote, has special observer status at the United Nations which allows it to take part in U.N. debates and conferences. The Church has used the position to play an active role in debate on family planning and abortion issues.
   The US-based Catholics for a Free Choice currently is challenging the Holy See's entitlement to the permanent-observer status, saying its status as a "state" is questionable.
   The National Conference of Catholic Bishops said Catholics for a Free Choice cannot rightly claim to be a Catholic organisation.
   "In fact, the group's activity is directed to rejection and distortion of Catholic teaching about the respect and protection due to defenseless unborn human life," the bishops conference said, calling the activist group "an arm of the abortion lobby in the United States and throughout the world."
   AP
18 May 00

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