National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Utah Bishop and Others Object To Abortion Group’s Letter Campaign

BY Barbara Stinson Lee

August 16-22, 1998 Issue | Posted 8/16/98 at 2:00 PM

 

SALT LAKE CITY—The bishop of Salt Lake City has expressed concern that the wording of a letter circulated by a Utah group that backs legal abortion may result in Catholic leaders being listed among its supporters.

Bishop George Niederauer was one of a number of prominent Catholic leaders who received a letter from Utahns For Choice asking for donations.

Pastors of two of Salt Lake City's largest parishes also received the letter sent to 15,000 people in the state.

The letter, in two different places, included a statement saying that if Utahns For Choice didn't hear from the recipient, “We will add your name to our pro-choice voter list.”

The organization promotes more relaxed state restrictions on abortion and broader funding for family planning services.

In response, Bishop Niederauer wrote to the group: “I strongly disagree with your convictions on these matters, I do not support your organization, its goals and its programs, nor do I wish to be associated with it in any way.”

And in an interview with the Intermountain Catholic, his diocesan newspaper, he said he was concerned that letters sent to others who do not agree with Utahns for Choice's agenda may have been simply discarded.

Those who just discard them will end up having their names added to the group's “pro-choice voter list.”

Msgr. John Hedderman, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Salt Lake City, said he recalls receiving a mailing from Utahns for Choice that he never even opened.

“I saw who it was from and just threw it away,” he said. “We get so much junk mail.”

He said he would not be happy to find his name on the voting list of any such group, and added that Utahns for Choice should not be depending on a lack of responses to compile their list.

“Junk mail,” is the same term used by Msgr. Sullivan, pastor of St. Ann's in Salt Lake City, to describe the letter, which he did receive and threw away unopened.

“It's a waste of postage for that group to be sending anything to me, and I don't want my name on their mailing list,” he said.

Bev Cooper, executive director of Utahns for Choice, told the Inter-mountain Catholic that the names of Bishop Niederauer and Catholic clergy should not have appeared on the group's mailing list and they should not have received the promotional letter. She urged anyone who is on the mailing list and does-n't want to be to write and ask that his or her name be removed.

“We have about 80 people on our advisory board and all of them were compiling lists,” she said. “Each person submitted names.”

Apparently, she said, the final list was never evaluated for appropriateness.

“I apologize that the names [of Catholic clergy] were on the list,” she said.

Cooper seemed bewildered by the firestorm of protest the letter engendered, saying, “We might be the victims of a slow news time.”

She said the list was confidential and would not be sold or leased to any other entity. “It will be used for the purposes of mailing only,” she said.

But the letter's fifth paragraph seems to dispute her claim, saying, “Your name and membership will help us recruit.”