Diocese of Little Rock backtracks from warning about Komen foundation

Diocese of Little Rock backtracks from warning about Komen foundation


A Catholic leader in Arkansas has apologized to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation for warning Catholics that fundraising activities for the breast cancer charity sometimes support Planned Parenthood.

Though the apology said the warning was based on an error, one pro-life group contended that the initial warning was necessary and that the apology ignored several problems with the charity.

Last month Monsignor J. Gaston Herbert, the administrator of the Diocese of Little Rock, said in a letter to parishes and Catholic schools that many affiliates of the Komen foundation contribute some of their funding to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider.  He also said that the foundation supports embryonic stem cell research and refuses to acknowledge a link between abortion and breast cancer.

On Thursday Monsignor Herbert met with foundation officials and issued an apology saying that the national Komen foundation and its Arkansas affiliates do not give grants to Planned Parenthood.  He said a small number of affiliates give some grants directly to Planned Parenthood for breast examinations, treatment, and education.

“The position statement issued on Feb. 7 was based upon unintentional error,” Hebert said in a statement released by the diocese. “To let the statement stand would be an act of injustice. With apologies to Komen, to those fighting breast cancer and to the survivors, to the Catholic clergy and faithful who were embarrassed by this mistaken policy, I rescind the position in its entirety.”

Monsignor Herbert also said that the National Cancer Institute states that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer.  “The preponderance of scientific research states that no such link exists, but there is a minority opinion that insists that such a link exists," the priest wrote.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation holds two races in the state every year to raise money for breast cancer research.

Sherrye McBryde, executive director of the Arkansas affiliate of the Komen foundation, said on Friday that she was pleased with the meeting and the apology, according to the Arkansas News Bureau.

“This misinformation has not just been a part of this diocese,” McBryde said. “It keeps popping up around the country, but this is the first time that a diocese has been willing to sit down with representatives from Komen and truly iron out the situation.

“We think this is groundbreaking and hope it will have an impact across the country.”

According to McBryde, at least five other Catholic dioceses in the United States have urged parishes and Catholic schools to stop supporting Komen foundation fundraising activities for the same reason.

Douglas R. Scott, Jr., president of the pro-life group Life Decisions International (LDI), criticized the apology.

"Despite the efforts of some to make this issue sound complicated, the facts are clear," Scott said. "The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation allows its chapters to fund Planned Parenthood and several of them do so. The Diocese of Little Rock has essentially said it is acceptable to be associated with a group that funds an abortion-committing goliath so long as local dollars are not going to the group. This kind of disconnect is exactly what Komen officials were hoping to achieve and they clearly succeeded."

Scott said that the issue is not whether the national foundation directly funds Planned Parenthood, but whether the national foundation directly supports a chapter that directly funds Planned Parenthood. "The parent could prohibit funding of Planned Parenthood by its chapters but Komen has steadfastly refused to do," Scott said.

"Much of the statement released by the Diocese of Little Rock will be familiar to pro-life leaders," Scott said, because it is “strikingly similar” to past statements made by the Komen foundation.

“It seems that all Komen had to do to immunize itself from criticism is some smooth talking,” Scott said.  “This has resulted in a divided and confused Pro-Life Movement.”

"If Komen had to choose between successful fundraising for the fight against breast cancer or an association with Planned Parenthood, wouldn't it choose the former?" Scott asked. "The charity is apparently not at the point where its leaders feel they must make a choice. And this is largely because they are not feeling enough heat."

Scott also attacked Monsignor Herbert’s discussion of research denying a link between breast cancer and abortion as a position identical to that of Planned Parenthood.

Alison Levin, executive director of the Ozark Affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said she also was pleased by the monsignor’s apology.  She said the foundation would continue to “work closely with Catholic charities... helping deliver important breast health information and awareness services to population areas in need.”