Vatican, Amnesty in abortion stoush

Amnesty International deputy secretary-general, Kate Gilmore, has accused the Catholic Church of misrepresenting the organisation's position on abortion after Holy See Justice and Peace Cardinal Renato Martino slammed Amnesty for "betraying its mission".

"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," Cardinal Martino said, according to a Reuters report.

"No more Catholic financing of Amnesty International after the organisation's pro-abortion about-turn," said Cardinal Martino who heads the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

He said the move was the "inevitable consequence" of a recent decision by Amnesty's executive council to support access to abortion for women who had been raped or whose health was endangered by their pregnancy.

"Thanks be to God, there is no internationally-recognised right to abortion," Cardinal Martino said.

But he attacked "the pro-abortion pressure groups which continue their propaganda in the framework of what (the late Pope) John Paul II called 'the culture of death'.

"It is extremely worrying that an organisation as worthy as Amnesty International bends to the pressures of these groups," he said.

But Amnesty International's Kate Gilmore rejected the criticism, accusing Cardinal Martino of misrepresenting the organisation's views.

"The Catholic Church, through a misrepresented account of our position on selective aspects of abortion, is placing in peril work on human rights," she told Reuters.

Ms Gilmore said Amnesty was not promoting abortion as a universal right but stressing that women have a right to choose abortion when their human rights have been violated, particularly in cases of rape and incest.

"We are saying broadly that to criminalise women's management of their sexual reproductive rights is the wrong answer," she said by telephone from London.

"We live alongside people's life experiences. We don't run a theocracy. We have to deal with the rape survivor in Darfur who, because she is left with a pregnancy as a result of the enemy, is further ostracised by her community," Gilmore said.

Cardinal Martino, in comments made to an American Catholic newspaper, said that by taking its new stand on abortion, Amnesty had "disqualified itself as a defender of human rights".

But Gilmore rejected this view. "This is not about abortion as a right but about women's right to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage the consequences of rape and human rights violations," she said.

"If the Cardinal had been in Darfur and stood between (rape victims) and the stones being thrown at them, let him then talk again about whether or not Amnesty has the integrity to stand firm for human rights," she said.

Gilmore accused the Vatican of unjustly trying to "excommunicate" Amnesty but said Amnesty will "continue to campaign for the protection of the Catholic Church" in areas where it suffers discrimination.

Vatican UN rep honours contraception supporter

In another story, Reuters reports that Vatican UN observer Archbishop Celestino Migliore presented Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, the legal adviser to Bahrain's Royal Court, with a Path To Peace Award because of her work to encourage inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue as president of the 192-nation world body.

Archbishop Migliore presented the medal from the Path to Peace Foundation to the General Assembly president at a dinner on Tuesday night attended by over 350 people at UN headquarters.

The foundation, which Migliore heads, was established to promote the Catholic church's message of peace primarily by supporting the work of the Holy See's UN mission.

Vatican suspends aid to pro-life Amnesty (News.com.au, 13/6/07)
Amnesty rejects Vatican criticism on abortion (Reuters Alertnet, 13/6/07)
Card Martino expresses 'strong disapproval' for Amnesty's 'pro-abortion turn-about' (AsiaNews, 13/6/07)
Vatican gives award to U.N. General Assembly president who supported contraception (International Herald Tribune, 13/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Amnesty International
Amnesty International Australia
US Catholic bishops website

Amnesty in call for decriminalisation of abortion (CathNews, 11/5/07)
Canadian bishops warn Amnesty over abortion (CathNews, 21/7/06)
Amnesty, Vic ALP moves on abortion provoke Catholic ire (CathNews, 8/5/06)

14 Jun 2007