Pro-life Group Attacks Conservative Newspaper For Rejecting Ad

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - A pro-life group is charging that the Washington Times newspaper has abandoned "its conservative principles" by refusing to publish an ad attacking the president of a Catholic abortion rights group.

The ad, sponsored by the American Life League (ALL) and rejected by the Times, claims Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), is a "self ex-communicated Catholic, whose past includes a stint at running abortion mills."

The ad also said Kissling makes a living by "getting anti-Catholic bigots to fund her shameless attacks on the doctrines of the Catholic Church."

The Washington Times blocked the ALL ad after Kissling's lawyers threatened to sue the newspaper if it ran the ad.

"We sought internal and outside counsel and [we] thought that [it was libelous] and decided not to run it," said Washington Times spokeswoman Melissa Hopkins. "I just think that they felt a lot more comfortable going with their counsel's recommendations."

The newspaper said it plans to hold its ground despite the pressure being applied by the American Life League.

Meanwhile, the war of words continues between the ALL and CFFC.

Catholics for a Free Choice says it is open to an intelligent debate and discussion of the abortion issue, but it considers the American Life League's assault on Kissling's character "unworthy of an organization that claims to operate in the Catholic tradition."

"For the most part, ALL's response to CFFC's Condoms4Life Campaign is an unfortunate and inaccurate personal attack on me rather than an intelligent critique of the positions CFFC has taken on condom education and provision as a critical component in preventing the spread of deadly disease," Kissling said in a statement. "The ALL campaign is the kind of attack people engage in when they have nothing of substance to say."

However, Judie Brown, president and founder of the ALL has no apologies for the ad's personal attack on Kissling.

"We have canon law in the Roman Catholic Church and when someone is involved with acts that result in the direct violation of one of the commandments of God, he or she ex-communicates themselves," Brown said. "This is not personal opinion, because according to canon law, Frances Kissling ex-communicated herself."

Brown claims Kissling and her group hide behind the name "Catholic" to stir up dissension against the Catholic hierarchy because it is easier to "attack the Church from within."

"Frances delights in doing everything she possibly can to contradict Church teaching and she loves particularly attacking the Roman Catholic bishops," Brown said. "I wish she would call herself what she is, a heretic."

Kissling shrugs off Brown's claim that she is an ex-communicated heretic.

"The question of whether or not a Catholic can be excommunicated for holding a position on either the legality or morality of abortion [differing] from that of the institutional Church is not one that can be decided by Judie Brown," Kissling said. "It seems to us that orthodox Catholics such as Ms. Brown who claim loyalty to the [the Church's teaching authority] ... have no competency to judge whether a Catholic is a heretic, [or is] ex-communicated."

Despite the libel claims, the ALL nonetheless considers its statements accurate and protected by the First Amendment.

Brown said Kissling's lawyers are threatening to sue ALL for defamation.

"Well, they can just sue away," Brown said.

Kissling said her group had not decided whether "it is worth our while to sue them."

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