The spring 2007 issue of Conscience, the publication of a nefarious group of abortion promoters who call themselves, strangely enough, “Catholics for a Free Choice,” has announced its new president. Jon O’Brien, who worked as program manager at the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Bureau in London, replaces Frances Kissling.

Kissling steps aside after spending 25 years at the helm of CFFC. Her successor pays her lavish homage, referring to her as “a prophetic voice,” in an article in the same issue that he titles, “How Catholics for a Free Choice Saved Civilization.” Hyperbole is not alien to CFFC.

In an interview as outgoing president, which is defiantly titled, “Be Not Afraid,” Kissling confides that “there are certainly days when I believe that the (Catholic) institution is so deeply corrupted that it should be destroyed.” In a previous interview in Mother Jones magazine, she was more brazen: “I spent 20 years looking for a government that I could overthrow without being thrown into jail. I finally found one in the Catholic church.”

Kissling, like Napoleon before her, has failed in her lofty ambition. Napoleon had troops at his disposal. Kissling has lies and deceptions. One may find reason to believe that the latter, if in the end are not triumphant, at least, for the time being, are more effective.

Kissling and her disciples at CFFC identify themselves as Catholics, though there is nothing about the church that they accept. At the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, Kissling placed Pope John Paul II at the top of her “enemies list.” “If there is a devil in Cairo, it can only be released (introduced) by the Pope’s obstructionist meddling.” The church’s opposition to abortion, she says, “is about money and power, not about spirituality.” Concerning Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), she remarks:  “What he (John Paul II) calls the ‘culture of death’ is really human freedom, being able to make choices based on conscience.” Conscience, for Kissling, has a great deal of latitude. It does not function, as the etymology of the word indicates, “with knowledge” (con + scientia), but, oddly enough, entirely without it. Moreover, so it seems to Kissling, no orthodox Catholic ever consults his conscience when deliberating over abortion.

Kissling’s venom is not reserved for the papacy. She once said of John Cardinal O’Connor, when he was archbishop of New York, that he is “the kind of man who, if the church still had the power to burn people at the stake, would be right there lighting a fire.” Being pro-choice is mandatory; being pro-love is optional.

It is a strange thing for a group of people to call themselves Catholics when the only doctrine it adheres to – the moral acceptability of abortion – is one that the Catholic church has consistently, clearly and resolutely denounced. It is like a group of people who identify themselves as baseball fans, but are united only by their common hatred of baseball. According to Archbishop Chaput of Denver, CFFC is “a tool to use against the Catholic church. Nothing more.”

A former and very active member of CFFC, Marjorie Reiley Maguire, reported to the National Catholic Reporter (a “liberal” newspaper that is hardly friendly to Rome) her personal disillusionment with this group. She branded CFFC as “an anti-woman organization” whose agenda is “the promotion of abortion, the defence of every abortion decision as a good, moral choice and the related agenda of persuading society to cast off any moral constraints about sexual behaviour.” She also reported that while she was involved with CFFC, she was never aware that any of its leaders ever attended Mass.

Nonetheless, the media continue to portray CFFC as a Catholic organization in good standing. And CFFC continues to identify itself as more Catholic than the hierarchy: “The bishops won’t tell you, but CFFC will: there is an authentic pro-choice Catholic position.”

What can be made of such shenanigans? The Catholic church is a formidable opponent of abortion. If, through lies and deceptions, the Catholic church could be presented to the world as legitimately pro-choice, then this formidable opponent, if not destroyed, could be re-invented as an abortion ally. In the end, however, light will triumph over darkness. In the meantime, we should not allow ourselves to be misled into thinking that the Culture of Death is the Culture of Life.

Professor Donald DeMarco is an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.