The creators of the Catholic meditation and prayer app Hallow on Wednesday defended their decision to partner with actor Liam Neeson, who has engaged in pro-abortion activism in his native country of Ireland.

Neeson will be joining Jonathan Roumie of “The Chosen” and Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, in leading prayer and reflections for the app’s Advent Pray25 series. The three will be doing voice-over content and readings from the works of C.S. Lewis.

In a statement to CNA, Hallow CEO Alex Jones defended the move saying that the company is “proudly” pro-life and that the choice to partner with Neeson was based on the actor’s ability to “bring to life” the writings of C.S. Lewis “in a new way.”

Jones said that Hallow’s goal is to reach out to “folks who have fallen away, in the same way that I once had, and to invite them into a relationship with Christ.”

“This often means partnering with nontraditional partners and people from different backgrounds,” he said.

Additionally, Jones said, “we prayed deeply through this decision and consulted heavily with our advisers.” He added that he “strongly” believes that “this is what God is calling us to do.”

Advisers listed on Hallow’s website include Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades; Father Mike Schmitz from Ascension; Father Stephen Grunow, CEO of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries; Notre Dame theology professor Dr. John Cavadini; Andrew Abela, dean of Catholic University’s Busch School of Business; Sister Jaime Mitchell with the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago; Father Kevin Grove, CSC; author Lisa Hendey; former chief investment officer for the University of Notre Dame Scott Malpass; and author and speaker Laura Fanucci.

Neeson, a dual U.S. and Irish citizen, was an outspoken advocate in 2018 for overturning Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which asserted the right to life of the unborn. 

The amendment was successfully overturned in May of that year, legalizing abortion in the European nation.

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Neeson’s abortion activism

Leading up to Ireland’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment, Neeson wrote in a May 2018 op-ed in the Irish Independent that “men must stand with women” and added that it’s time to respect “women’s right” to abortion.

“There are times when we must stand for what is right. When the obvious injustice of a situation demands that we do so. For me, the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment is one of those times. A time to stand up and be counted. A moment when men must stand with women,” he wrote.

“In Ireland, men have complete control over their bodies. Women do not. Even if a woman has been raped, or her health could be damaged by a pregnancy, she has no control over what happens next,” Neeson wrote.

Neeson has been at the center of controversy before for his public opposition to the Eighth Amendment, stepping down in 2016 as the head of his childhood hometown boxing club in Ballymena, Ireland, which is associated with the local Catholic church, after a disagreement over his views on the topic, according to the Belfast Telegraph

Additionally, in 2015, Neeson lent his voice to a video advertisement calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which critics called “anti-Catholic.”

The ad features what appears to be the outer structure of an old abandoned church and scenes showing different crosses.

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“A ghost haunts Ireland, a cruel ghost of the last century,” Neeson says in the ad with the church in the background.

“It blindly brings suffering,” he says, while an image of a cross is shown on the video.

Hallow’s response

In Jones’ response to CNA, he said: “We’ve received a lot of feedback over the last few days on the Advent challenge, with many folks really excited and many, understandably, upset, hurt, or confused.”

Jones said that Hallow does not “stand behind or claim to endorse any of the personal views, past actions, or political opinions of any of the narrators on the app” while adding that other actors on the app have “differing personal views on many topics, some who are practicing Catholics, but several of whom come from different faith backgrounds.”

“Several have done things in the past or may hold personal views that we would disagree with. The one thing we do strongly stand behind is every word they read within the app itself,” he said.

He said that Hallow “stands proudly and unequivocally in support of all Catholic Church teaching, especially the pro-life stance of the Church and the USCCB’s affirmation of the end of abortion as the preeminent priority.”

He called abortion a “heartbreakingly important issue” and explained that the app has several pro-life prayers and meditations. 

“We would never allow any content on the app that goes against the pro-life teaching of the Church. We consistently send our team to the March for Life each year. We will do everything in our power as long as we are around to assist in the fight for life and to work to let God change hearts and minds,” he said.

Jones said that Hallow is “thrilled” to partner with Neeson as a voice actor “because of his powerful portrayal of Aslan [who is C.S. Lewis’ representation of Christ] in the C.S. Lewis films.”

Jones said that Hallow believes many will find the voice-over scripts by all three Advent voice-over actors “life-changingly powerful and that the challenge will help them grow deeper in their relationship with God.”

Jones said that Hallow has “two different philosophies for approaching partners.”

For partners who will share their reflections or sermons, “[t]he bar is very high,” he said. But for actors or other partners, the app discerns if it will partner with them judging “the extent to which it will help people grow closer to God while also seriously evaluating any risk that any content or partnership might lead people away from God.”

“These partners are each reading from a script ​​— usually Scripture passages or quotes from theological writings ​​— written by our theology team,” he said.

“As with every major decision at Hallow, we prayed deeply through this decision and consulted heavily with our advisers. It is a very difficult decision. Ultimately for us, it comes down to our discernment in prayer. I do not always get clear answers in prayer, but in this particular case, I do strongly believe this is what God is calling us to do. I understand if you disagree,” he said.

The full statement from Hallow can be read here.

Liam Neeson’s faith

Neeson, 71, is a Catholic, but it’s not clear whether he practices the faith. 

He grew up in a predominantly Protestant town in Ireland during a time in which there was an ongoing violent conflict between Catholic and Protestant groups known as the Troubles. 

The actor has said in several interviews that he served as an altar boy at his local church and that he even considered the priesthood when he was a teenager. 

In an undated interview with on his faith, he said: “There’s always a little light that goes off in my head when I read a script that’s faith-based in some way. I was brought up quite a staunch Catholic. I was an altar boy for quite a few years as a kid. The Church has always appealed to me in some way, especially when I became an actor, and I’m certainly questing after God and the nature of God. So, I am drawn to it, I must admit.”

In recent years, Neeson has seemed to question his faith. 

Neeson told The Times Magazine in 2016 that his faith was “waning,” the Belfast Telegraph reported.

Neeson told Al Arabiya News in 2015 that he was not going to convert to Islam after rumors spread following comments he made to a news outlet in 2012 that he considered it after filming the movie “Taken 2” in Istanbul, Turkey. 

In a 2017 interview with Patheos on the movie “Silence,” Neeson said: “If God were a stern master, I would have given up the faith long ago. God is love, love is God. I have had personal experiences of God’s love, beautiful and calming, all the things the Psalms talk about. If he was a stern master, well, I don’t know.”

In a video posted in August, the actor told talk show host Conan O’Brien on “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” that the last time he had been to confession was when he was 15 years old in Ireland when he said a missionary priest treated him sternly.

In an interview with “The Chosen” actor Jonathan Roumie, Neeson said that Hallow’s Advent series is something he is “really excited to share with people.”

He called the Hallow App a “great prayer, meditation app” and said its content is “pretty incredible.”

“I’ve partnered together with Hallow for this project to help guide folks through some beautiful meditations, and it’ll be an honor to journey through them with the community on the app,” he said.