Amnesty International’s abortion reversal is causing a reaction that is larger than the group may have believed possible. The head of the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne, Australia, Mr. Stephen Elder, has urged all 328 of the archdiocese’s schools to sever their connections to the human rights group.
Elder’s letter called on schools to "convey their disappointment" to AI, because they decided earlier this year to abandon their long-standing neutral position on abortion and to begin lobbying governments that ban abortion to decriminalize it.
The move was reaffirmed at the organization's International Council Meeting in Mexico City last month, which was attended by more than 400 international delegates.
Elder said that his office made repeated attempts to contact Amnesty over the issue to raise its "serious concerns about the policy". However, despite their efforts to discuss the new stance the talks proved fruitless.
"Abortion is a fundamental denial of the dignity of the human person and a breach of the human rights of the child," Mr. Elder said in a statement.
Amnesty’s policy change is seen by many as a betrayal of its founding, since it was a Catholic layman, Peter Benenson who established the group in 1961. Up until this past month, Amnesty International maintained a position of neutrality on abortion, saying that the issue was outside its mandate.
One school that has withdrawn its support from AI, emphasized this point by founding a new human rights group called the Benenson Society so that they could continue to carry out the original vision of the founder. For more on this story click here.
Maria Kirkwood, assistant director of religious education and pastoral care in the Melbourne archdiocese also weighed in on the sudden policy shift; "It's an organization we would encourage schools to support, which is why this is so disappointing."
"But this particular issue 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."
Indeed, this past Tuesday, CNA reported that the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson, called on Amnesty International to reverse its stance, which he described as deeply regrettable.
Days later, the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco also condemned the switch saying that it helped to erode the human consciences.
A spokeswoman for Amnesty International confirmed it had already received letters from individual schools, withdrawing their support from the organization because of its new position.