Press Releases 2003

Catholics for a Free Choice urges church hierarchy to come clean about church law and abortion

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New publication seeks to educate Catholics on their rights

Catholics for a Free Choice today released a groundbreaking publication on the rights of Catholics, “Catholics and Abortion: Notes on Canon Law.” This is the first in a series of publications in which CFFC aims to educate Catholics on what the body of church law known as canon law says about issues such as abortion, divorce and remarriage. The publication was written by CFFC senior associate and canon lawyer Sara Morello.

“When it comes to canon law and abortion, the right wing extremists often claim to be experts,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. “However, their interpretation of canon law is flawed and often intentionally distorted,” said Kissling. “For example, unsubstantiated claims are made that prochoice Catholics are heretics whose beliefs make them subject to excommunication,” she said.

Kissling said specific examples of this distortion includes recent attacks on prochoice legislators, including such influential lawmakers as California Gov. Gray Davis, Sen. Edward Kennedy and the late President John F. Kennedy, which suggested that their votes put them at risk for excommunication or denial of the sacraments. The failure of the church hierarchy to reveal the truth about church law and abortion prompted CFFC to produce this publication, she said.

“Because the church hierarchy has done little to set the record straight or to distance themselves from those who misinterpret church law for their own purposes, we offer this publication to explain what church law really says about abortion,” Kissling said.

Kissling said this work, an effort to enlighten prochoice Catholics about their rights, presents fundamental concepts about canon law in general and about its provisions regarding abortion in particular. This work, however, is equally valuable to non-Catholics wanting to understand some of the heated discussion about these issues.

“We respect the church’s law,” said Kissling. “We respect, too, the law’s emphasis on the protection of people’s rights. We hope that this publication provides a deeper understanding of the law as well as provide guidance for Catholics who are concerned about making wise personal choices within the framework of church law.”

Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.