The Catholic Church in Australia, a strong supporter of Amnesty International in the past, could be about to cut ties with the organization altogether following AI’s adoption of a new policy to advocate abortion.

Many Christians, especially Catholics, are expected to resign from the human rights organization and perhaps establish an alternative human rights organization because of the new policy. Some expect the Church in Australia to cut its ties with Amnesty altogether and the country’s church leaders have met to discuss the issue.

Many of AI’s 2.2 million members and supporters are church-based, including about 72,000 in Australia. Amnesty estimates that 500 Catholic schools in Australia have member groups, as do other Christian schools.

Amnesty’s international executive board adopted the policy last month as part of its campaign to curb violence against women. Previously Amnesty was neutral on abortion.

Fr. Chris Middleton, head of St Aloysius’ College in Sydney, told The Age newspaper that Amnesty’s Australian membership would be deeply hit by this policy decision.

He predicted that Amnesty’s Third World membership would be reduced to a partisan and ideologically exclusive group.

This new policy would also weaken the campaign against capital punishment in the United States by driving a wedge between its two most vocal critics, Amnesty and the Catholic Church, he said.

Amnesty has been criticized for its secrecy regarding this policy change. It had initially announced that it would have an international debate on this policy in Mexico City later this year, but its leadership council went ahead with the policy decision instead and many members of its own staff were left stunned when they heard the news from outside parties.

Advertisements