Vatican cardinal calls on Catholics to stop funding Amnesty
· Group ‘betrayed mission’ over new abortion policy
· Human rights organisation fears dip in donations
Tom Kington in Rome
Thursday June 14, 2007
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, accused Amnesty of turning its back on its mission to defend human rights.
"The inevitable consequence of this decision, according to the cardinal, will be the suspension of any financing to Amnesty on the part of Catholic organisations and also individual Catholics," said a statement from Cardinal Martino’s office yesterday.
Amnesty changed its neutral stance on abortion in April, but its Italy chairman Paolo Pobbiati insisted its new position had been misinterpreted by the cardinal.
"This has nothing to do with legitimising abortion as part of a campaign for human rights, it is to do with combating violence against women," he said.
"It was partly inspired by our experience in Africa where soldiers rape women in communities they attack to force them to have their children. We also believe women who have had abortions should benefit from medical care regardless of the reason for the abortion. Moreover we aim to promote education and contraception to reduce abortion rates."
"AI does not take a position on whether abortion should be legal or whether it is right or wrong," it added in a statement.
In his interview with the National Catholic Register, Cardinal Martino did not see any grey areas.
"The Church teaches that it is never justifiable to kill an innocent life. Abortion is murder," he said. "To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed. How can we say that killing a child in some cases is good and in other cases it is evil?"
In a statement released in Italy, Amnesty stated it did not receive funding from the Vatican or the Catholic church. Amnesty also declines support from governments and political parties. But Mr Pobbiati admitted that the fallout for funding could be serious if individual Catholics heeded Cardinal Martino’s advice.
"This could be a danger to donations and we are extremely upset about these statements," he said.
Amnesty’s joint campaigning with Catholic organisations could also be complicated by the Vatican’s position, he said.
"We mount joint campaigns with organisations like Caritas and the Community of Sant’Egidio against the death penalty and child soldiers and in favour of arms control. We sincerely hope Catholics will not share Martino’s views on funding."
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