A US lobby group on abortion, Catholics for Choice, whose head is scheduled to speak at a conference in New Zealand in November, has been described by a cardinal as “not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way”.
Catholics for Choice (CFC) president Jon O’Brien is one of the keynote speakers listed for the “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Conference, Aotearoa New Zealand, 2016”, to be held at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, Wellington, from November 10-12.
The conference is being run by New Zealand Family Planning, Abortion Providers Group Aotearoa New Zealand and the New Zealand Sexual Health Society.
A spokesperson for the New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops Conference, Simone Olsen, said of Catholics for Choice: “Clearly this group’s message is inconsistent with the Church’s teaching on family which seeks to protect the vulnerable and the voiceless including the unborn and at
every stage of life’s journey.”
Conference advertising on Family Planning’s website describes Catholics for Choice as “the leading pro-choice organisation advocating for sexual and reproductive rights from a standpoint of culture, faith, justice and morality”.
The advertising praised Mr O’Brien for “advancing reproductive health access for all women and increasing public support for abortion and contraception”.
The advertising continued: “He speaks for millions of Catholics in the US and abroad when he challenges the powerful Catholic hierarchy on these issues, urging a greater respect for core
Catholic values of individual conscience and social justice.”
But Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York recently said CFC is not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way and does not speak for the faithful.
The cardinal said this in a September 14 statement in his capacity as the chairman
of the US bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The statement came after Catholics for Choice ran a national advertising campaign in the US seeking the restoration of federal tax funds for abortions.
Cardinal Dolan said CFC “has no membership, and clearly does not speak for the faithful. It is funded by powerful private foundations to promote abortion as a method of population control”.
In the 1990s, the US bishops said the group, formerly called “Catholics for a Free Choice”, had “no affiliation, formal or otherwise, with the Catholic Church”.
“As the US Catholic bishops have stated for many years,” Cardinal Dolan said, “the use of the name ‘Catholic’ as a platform to promote the taking of innocent human life is offensive not only to Catholics, but to all who expect honesty and forthrightness in public discourse.”
“The organisation rejects and distorts Catholic social teaching – and actually attacks its foundation,” he continued.
“As Pope Francis said this summer to leaders in Poland, ‘Life must always be welcomed and protected . . . from conception to natural death. All of us are called to respect life and care for it’.”
In 2010, Canada’s Catholic bishops’ conference reiterated that “a small group originating in the United States and using the name “Catholics for a Free Choice”: 1) is not Catholic and 2) does not represent the teachings or views of the Catholic Church”.