CAPE TOWN, South Africa, December 6, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The death of South African former President Nelson ‘Madiba’ Rolihlahla Mandela on Thursday has led to an outpouring of glowing praise for the man most known for ending apartheid – a system of racial segregation. However, pro-life leaders have warned that praise from Christian leaders is inappropriate given Mandela’s role in bringing abortion-on-demand and homosexual “marriage” to South Africa.

According to official statistics, nearly a million unborn children have been killed in South Africa since President Mandela signed legislation in 1996 permitting abortion on demand two years after taking office. Same-sex ‘marriage’ was legalized in 2006, with Mandela having supported it long before its passage.

In the face of praise for Mandela coming even from Catholic leaders all over the world, Paul Tuns, the editor of the Canadian pro-life newspaper The Interim, wrote, “A little balance is necessary in our reaction to the man who fought one injustice, but helped institute another.”

Similarly England’s John Smeaton, President of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) commented on his blog saying, “It is absolutely vital that Catholic leaders do not allow themselves to become respecters of persons, swept away by personality cults. Catholic leaders have a duty to stand up to public figures with anti-life and anti-family records, however praiseworthy their record may be on other issues.”

Smeaton’s comments came in reaction to praise for Mandela from the Bishops conference of South Africa. However, since then, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Pope Francis have also issued statements of praise for Mandela.

Pope Francis’s official statement says, “Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations.”

Cardinal Dolan’s statement calls Mandela a “hero to the world.” The Cardinal recalls the praise for Mandela from Pope John Paul II’s visit to South Africa in 1995.

That visit came before Mandela passed the law permitting abortion.

It was 1996 when Mandela signed into law one of the world’s most pro-abortion laws. Passage of the “Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill” was assured since Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) refused its members a free vote on the issue of providing state-funded abortion on demand.

The same year, Mandela’s new constitution made South Africa the first country to place “sexual orientation” alongside race and religion as a restricted grounds for discrimination – something that paved the way for homosexual ‘marriage’ a decade later.

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Smeaton quotes from a book of quotations from Mandela noting his statement on abortion: "Women have the right to decide what they want to do with their bodies." In addition to his promotion of abortion, homosexuality, contraception and close ties to Communism, Smeaton notes Mandela’s formation of ‘The Elders” as a cause for concern.

In 2007, Mandela announced ‘The Elders’ as a global council of retired world leaders who would give behind the scenes advice and direction to government officials and rulers around the world. The proposal was received by pro-life leaders as being of great concern since its membership formed a ‘who’s who of the pro-abortion and pro-population-control movements.

While during his life, Mandela denied being part of the communist party despite his friendly interaction with communist world leaders, the African National Congress revealed today that Mandela was in fact a high-ranking member of the Communist Party.

“Madiba was also a member of the South African Communist Party, where he served in the Central Committee,” said the ANC release.

Given the adulation Mandella has received from the worldwide media, it is possible that many Christians had little or no knowledge of the controversial aspects of Mandela’s life.

While it may be difficult for Catholic officials to discern how to proceed with world leaders and politicians who are pro-abortion, in 2004, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops adopted a policy on the matter. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions,” it said.