Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Break with Amnesty International Difficult for Catholics

 by Lisa Gulya

Tags: Spirituality, Catholics, Amnesty International, social justice, activism, human rights, death penalty, torture, abortion, America,

Anti-torture bannerCatholics are no strangers to schisms, but breaking secular ties is proving tricky, reports the Catholic newsweekly America (subscription required). When Amnesty International announced its policy supporting the worldwide decriminalization of abortion in August 2007, affiliated Catholic chapters had to decide whether the nonprofit’s work against torture and the death penalty outweighed its stance on abortion.

Unsurprisingly,  America found that many Catholic chapters disaffiliated from Amnesty International. “It’s disappointing,” says Monsignor Robert McClory, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit. “On particular cases, we can work together. But the kind of in-depth collaborative work of the past would be stifled by the decision they’ve taken.”

In spite of the controversial policy, some social justice–minded Catholics are finding it difficult to abandon Amnesty International's work completely. Notre Dame’s campus chapter changed its name to “Human Rights Notre Dame” but continues to rely on information from Amnesty’s “Urgent Action” alerts. Across the Atlantic, the predominantly Catholic Amnesty Northern Ireland has struggled with breaking ties, reports Ireland’s public service broadcaster RTÉ, and is considering letting Catholic schools re-join Amnesty International if they can be sure funds raised won’t help support abortion. 

Catholic human rights groups may continue to seek new affiliations. America speculates that some may look to abortion-neutral human rights organizations such as the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Image by Takoma Bibelot, licensed under Creative Commons.