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Catholic colleges have ties to Planned Parenthood

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The Catholic Church may be officially opposed to abortion and contraception, but a report by a Catholic education watchdog group contends that it has found more than 150 instances of links between U.S. Catholic colleges and universities and Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading family planning organization and the largest provider of abortion-related services.

The Manassas, Va.-based Cardinal Newman Society said it tracked the links — which include past and present fellowship opportunities, counseling referrals, internships and faculty affiliations — simply through online searches of the schools' own websites.

"Hopefully this report will serve as a wake-up call for those Catholic college leaders who have repeatedly hit the snooze button on the many alarms that have been raised over the state of Catholic higher education in the past decade," said Adam Wilson, a spokesman for the Cardinal Newman Society.

The report, titled "A Scandalous Relationship: Catholic Colleges and Planned Parenthood," was released Monday. Among the schools named were some of the most prominent in Catholic higher education, including Notre Dame, Georgetown, Xavier and Boston College.

Many of the schools listed in the report called the material outdated or overstated, and said many of the examples cited fell far short of any endorsement of Planned Parenthood or its stand on abortion rights.

The report was released as federal funding for Planned Parenthood emerged as one of the last sticking points in the spending deal reached last week between congressional Republicans and President Obama. The administration successfully held out for the removal of a GOP provision barring all taxpayer funding for the organization.

Mr. Wilson said that past reporting by the group often prompted Catholic colleges to remove pro-choice information from their websites or to rescind invitations to abortion-rights speakers. The 18-year-old organization describes its mission as "[helping] renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education."

The report's examples include direct endorsements of Planned Parenthood counseling services and a university librarian who once gave a lecture to a luncheon sponsored by the group.

Michael Hichborn of American Life League, a Catholic pro-life organization, said the presidents of Catholic colleges have the responsibility to ensure the religious identities of their schools.

"There can be no mistake about it: The Catholic Church has been hijacked by the culture of death," he said. "By allowing the enemy of the church to operate at a Catholic college, you are betraying the church and the students."

Georgetown University's Law Center is listed in the Cardinal Newman Society survey as having highlighted a student who received a fellowship from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and had interned with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. In another part of the report, several Georgetown faculty members are listed as having worked or volunteered with Planned Parenthood affiliates.

However, Rachel Pugh, director of media relations at the Jesuit school in the District, said that university officials are committed to the free exchange of ideas and that the Catholic Church's commitment to social justice underscores the many intellectual and spiritual pursuits at the school.

The fellowship does not constitute an endorsement by the school of all the positions taken by the organization offering the position, she said.

"The university provides grants covering housing and transportation to students pursuing summer fellowships at public-interest organizations or government agencies," said Ms. Pugh. "Georgetown University does not institutionally support entities whose primary mission is to counter church teaching."

Notre Dame University is listed as holding a "Voices for Reproductive Justice" conference co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood Indiana, PPIN's Fort Wayne Community Action Board, Friends of PPIN and the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

When contacted by The Washington Times, university spokesman Dennis Brown responded in an email: "In response to your inquiry, we do not respond to Cardinal Newman Society reports."

Debbie Ream, director of public relations at Mount St. Mary's College in California, said that the school does not endorse all the information from its website's links. The Counseling and Psychological Services page on the school website offers a list of pregnancy counseling and parenting resources that includes Planned Parenthood and Catholics for Choice, a pro-choice group not affiliated with the Catholic Church.

"MSMC and MSMC Counseling and Psychological Services do not necessarily endorse all of the content in each of these websites," said a statement at the top of the webpage. "They are provided for your reference."

The report also mentions University of St. Thomas in Minnesota as having an adjunct professor, Jennifer Oliphant, who lists among her work experience being a health educator with Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota.

Jim Winterer, director of the news service at the university, said that as long as professors are supportive of the mission and goals of the school, a prior affiliation with Planned Parenthood would not prevent them from being a member of the faculty.

"If they had worked at Planned Parenthood, that would not be automatic disqualification for them to be considered a member of the faculty," said Mr. Winterer.

The website for Marquette University Law School in Wisconsin is listed as having a "Milwaukee Survival Guide," written in 2004, which includes service organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women. However, the university has since removed the reference from the site.

"As a Catholic, Jesuit university, Marquette does not promote the services provided by Planned Parenthood," said Andy Brodzeller, a spokesman for the school. "The document referenced in this report is more than 7 years old and was produced by a law student. The document was removed from the school's website."

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to requests for comments on the report before press time.

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