August 26, 2007
Defying The Holy Roman Empire, Amnesty International Stands Tall
By Rita Corriel
has recently taken a monumentally courageous step for which I
am profoundly grateful. But it may cost them dearly.
in its 28th International Council Meeting in Mexico City,
Amnesty International reaffirmed its April decision to support
abortion rights in certain circumstances such as sexual violence,
rape, incest, or where the health, human rights or life of a woman
are endangered. This is especially relevant in places such as
Darfur, where rape is widely used as a weapon of war and terror.
But the policy decision has created a huge outcry from powerful
forces within the Roman Catholic Church. The voices of disapproval
and outrage are ringing everywhere; from the Vatican right down
to long time peace activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan. A large group
of Catholic clergy and organizations are calling upon Catholics
worldwide to join them in a financial and personal boycott of
the human rights organization.
declared that Amnesty International has betrayed its mission.
The head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal
Renato Marino stated, AI has betrayed all of its faithful
supporters throughout the years, both individuals and orgnizations
who have trusted AI for its integral mission of promoting and
protecting human rights. He went on to say that Individuals
and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support for Amnesty
International worldwide. Upon announcing his own withdrawal
from AI, British Bishop Rev. Michael Evans, along with other clergymen,
cited the 1989 United Nations International Convention on the
Rights of the Child. The Convention states that a child needs
special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal
protection before as well as after birth. The Bishop went
on to say that such appauling violence against the most
vulnerable and defenseless form of human life in a womans
womb cannot be tolerated.
a lack of self awareness and serious self reflection, hubris can
be one of the most insideously dangerous traits within human personality.
When this kind of self righteous, myopic thinking dictates to
the minds and hearts of the masses, it always has disastrous social
consequences. We need only look to historical events, both past
and present for the proof.
Since so many
in the clergy are eager to point to the UN International Convention,
I think we should consider the Churchs own record regarding
the safeguard and care of its own children.
If these men are sincerely concerned about the welfare and protection
of minors, why are they not calling for Catholics worldwide to
stop giving financial support to their own church? In light of
the countless crimes of sexual violence and rape perpetrated against
children within their own parishes, where are the resounding calls
for a boycott of the Church itself?
Skylstad, head of the U.S. Conference of Bishops claims that The
decision undermines Amnestys long standing moral authority.
I can think of no institution with less moral authority when it
comes to the protection of children than the Catholic Church.
I wonder what sort of legal protection and safeguards
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had in mind back in 2001 when, as Prefect
of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he issued
an edict ordering Bishops worldwide to keep all incidents of clerical
pedophilia from legal or public disclosure. The Cardinal, now
known as Pope Benedict XVI, ordered that all information regarding
child sexual abuse be sent to Rome, and handled through secret
tribunals. The reputation of the Church itself must take
precedence above all other considerations - including the health
and welfare of its victimized and abused children. Loyalty to
the institution supercedes caring and concern for the most
vulnerable within its own flock.
Why do these
men express more caring and concern for embryos that are part
of a womans womb, than for children who are real, whole
human beings; indivduals whom they personally know or know about?
Why are children whose psyches and bodies have been abused, violated
and permanently damaged, not treated with basic human concern
or respect? Where are their human rights? These clergymen
say that the unborn cannot speak for themselves or
defend themselves. So why has the Church stifled the speech and
rendered defenseless, children who have real lives. Why such callous
disregard for the already born?
the eyes of these men, the victimized children are not seen as
human beings, but as potential threats to the power and image
of the Church. It is far easier to take a strong stand about the
impersonal, theorectical concept of potential life, as defined
in the letter of church law, than to actually feel
compassion toward an identifiable child who could potentially
rock the boat. Adherence to dogma does not require
true empathy or humanity. But it does serve well the interests
of empire. The survival of the Church trumps the Spirit
of the Law. Isnt this precisely what Jesus was speaking
individual, institution or government can claim moral authority
they must first, at the very least, establish moral crediblity.
This implies proof of a fully working conscience and evidence
of character. These qualitites cannot be inherited or simply self
declared. For this church to speak against Amnesty International,
to the point of attempting to undermine its very existence,
is blatantly hypocritical and disgraceful. AI is being discredited
and even demonized, because it chooses to hold to its own sense
of integrity and conscience. Cardinal Martino says, To selectively
justify abortion, even in the case of rape, is to define the innocent
child within the womb, as an enemy and thing that must be destroyed
It seems rather
obvious to me, that no male has the innate authority to legislate
what goes on within a womans own womb. It is a sacred place
which Nature, in its infinite wisdom, obviously designed
and entrusted to feminine wisdom and care. And the notion that
Catholic clergymen claim the right to dictate to any woman concerning
her most intimate physiology, is really quite audacious. These
are men whose very lifestyle suggests a belief that distance from
women fosters closeness to God. It is mind boggling to think that
they actually percieve themselves to be credible authorities in
this realm. The very idea is just grandiose and foolish.
the prelude to compassion. But it can only be developed through
direct, personal connection and essential identification with
the other. It is the deepest form of interpersonal
understanding. If this is missing, then generic legalism, in all
of its guises, becomes the fall back position. The letter
of the law rules the day. I believe this is something Jesus
spoke of as well. These men have chosen to distance themselves
from the very people whose lives and bodies they wish to control;
over whom, they once again, proclaim moral authority.
has made itself quite clear. It will not be blackmailed into submission
by the Church. This tactic of secular ex-communication,
the boycott, will not bring AI to its knees. Neither
the heart nor the soul of this organization is for sale. Amnesty
International has indeed surpassed itself. I believe it will surely
survive -even without the blessings of the Pontif and his legions.
After all, Amnesty International does stand upon a much higher
principle; one that transcends the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic
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