FORT WORTH, August 27, 2004 ( – The keynote speaker at the recent meeting of the heads of men and women religious orders (monks and nuns) was former Irish President and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson.  Robinson, an outspoken proponent of abortion as a “woman’s right” and special rights for homosexuals, addressed the joint conference of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) August 20.

Robinson encouraged the Catholic leaders to “combat the resurgence of fundamentalisms.” She said, “We need to be aware that a certain threat to women’s rights is also posed by the resurgence, particularly in the United States, of Christian fundamentalism, and the alliance of countries influenced by fundamentalist thinking evident at recent world conferences.”

Concerned Women for America (CWFA) is a Christian organization which plays a key role at the United Nations lobbying for the right to life and in support of the traditional family. CWFA spokesman Wendy Wright told that she, as an Evangelical, would be considered a Christian fundamentalist by Robinson.  However, Wright added, “If she’s talking about people who oppose what she considers to be women’s rights issues that have been raised at the UN then the Vatican would be considered ‘Christian fundamentalist.’”  Robinson told the assembly that she joined a picket outside a 2002 UN meeting “in order to bring home the threat posed to women’s health and reproductive rights.” She told the gathered Catholic leaders, “At the start of this new century women were once again struggling to preserve the space they have gained against powerful forces invoking God.” (See Robinson’s full address )  Wright notes that the United Nations uses terms such as “reproductive rights” as euphemisms for abortion. She stressed, not only U.S. Evangelicals but Catholics too have been in the forefront of the pro-life fight at the U.N.  “It’s faithful Catholics who have been involved in these conferences, including the Holy See itself, who have taken positions that (Robinson) would have problems with,” she said. Wright concluded, “I think one of the best things about the pro-life movement is that it is a true ecumenical movement where people from different faiths are involved but they don’t have to compromise their own basic beliefs in order to be involved.” contacted both the LCWR and the CMSM to ask about the appropriateness of having Robinson, a major proponent of abortion speak at the conference particularly in light of the recent document by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) ‘Catholics in Political Life’, which said: “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.” ( )  Representatives from both LCWR and CMSM said that the selection of Robinson was cleared by the USCCB.  However, the USCCB says it does not approve speakers for the conference.  Stan De Boe, OSST, Communications Coordinator/Justice and Peace Director for CMSM told “We were in dialogue with the bishops’ conference over that.  And because we were not giving her an award or anything like that it was just a keynote address on the issue of violence.  We received no indication from the bishops’ conference that there was a problem with this.  We made sure we were clearing all that through the bishops’ conference.”

Sister Annmarie Sanders Director of Communications at LCWR said regarding Robinson, “We have great respect for Dr. Robinson’s work over the years with human rights and we had checked her background out with sources at the USCCB and there was no indication that there would be any problem having her speak to us.”  Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Deputy Director, USCCB Department of Communications told, “I’m not aware that we okay speakers for LCWR/CMSM.” Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities told, “No one from LCWR/CMSM called our offices regarding Mary Robinson.”  jhw