Head of Catholic Church in Scotland resigns from Amnesty International

Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Cardinal Keith O'Brien


The spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has resigned from Amnesty International in protest of the organization’s policy promoting abortion.

Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, is the second UK bishop to leave the group because of its decision to support the decriminalization of abortion in developing countries.

Just over a week ago, Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia, a member of Amnesty International for 31 years, became the first bishop to withdraw his support.
The cardinal said today that he was resigning as “a matter of conscience and with great sadness”. O’Brien joined Amnesty as a student more than 40 years ago, and explained that throughout his ministry he has been committed to defending life in all circumstances.

Cardinal O’Brien noted that he and all of the bishops of Scotland stressed in the run-up to the recent elections, that Catholics should be committed to life at all stages. “It was not something narrow [protecting the unborn] but something wide and all encompassing. And we said then that: “We believe in a consistent ethic of life. We are pro-life in the fullest sense of that term”.

“In recent years I have spoken out strongly on pro-life issues, including our necessity to ensure life for the poorest of the poor people of the world and have shown my care and concern by visiting some of those poorest countries, especially in Africa and Asia and including also my visit to Darfur.”

The recent decision by Amnesty International caused O’Brien to examine his conscience and to look at the teaching of the Church.

He cited statements made by other Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, who said Amnesty had “betrayed its mission” by abandoning its traditional neutral policy on abortion.

He also pointed to the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s statement to Vatican Radio in which he said, “Men and women of the Church throughout the world have already made their stark opposition to this decision clear, violence cannot be answered by further violence, murder with murder, for even if the child is unborn it is still a human person. It has a right to dignity as a human being”.

The prelate also lamented the fact that, “[t]hat basic and most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life, is recognized by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document upon which Amnesty International was founded.”

“Sadly now Amnesty International seems to be placing itself at the forefront of a campaign for a universal ‘right’ to abortion in contravention to that basic right to human life.”

He concluded his letter of resignation by saying: “We are all members of the one human family and we must defend unborn children in our family however conceived. They may be seen as unwanted or inconvenient but they have, from moment of conception, been given the gift of life by Almighty God.”

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