The head of the Scottish Roman Catholic Church has resigned his membership from Amnesty International in Scotland over the human rights organisation’s decision to advocate for the provision of abortion services.
At its annual meeting in Mexico earlier in the month, Amnesty reaffirmed its decision in April to support abortion in some circumstances by stating it would work to "support the decriminalisation of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion and to defend women's access to abortion ... when their health or human rights are in danger".
The Catholic Church, however, believes abortion to be wrong, whatever the circumstances, and made numerous appeals to Amnesty to hold back from supporting the procedure.
In a letter to the Director of Amnesty in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien said that his decision to end membership was made with “great sadness” but maintained that he could not support the organisation’s decision to support abortion.
In his letter, Cardinal O’Brien said he had examined his own conscience and turned to the teachings of the Catholic Church for guidance in drawing his own conclusions, notably a statement from Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, saying that Amnesty had “betrayed its mission” in supporting abortion.
Cardinal O’Brien stated, “I hope I act in a manner which is 'pro-life' following what I believe is the teaching of Jesus Christ and the teaching of my Church.
“That basic and most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life is recognised 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.”
Cardinal O’Brien stressed that his decision was a “matter of conscience” and urged others to follow their own consciences. He added, however, that if individuals did decide to withdraw their contributions to Amnesty, they should give them instead to organisations which support the right to life.
“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," he concluded.
Cardinal O’Brien’s announcement follows the decision last week by the Roman Catholic Bishop of East Anglia Michael Evans to end his three decades of support for Amnesty, saying that the human rights group’s membership would be split and its work compromised by its change of position on abortion.