by Steven Ertelt
December 3, 2004
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — New NARAL president Nancy Keenan is finding herself in hot water for possibly exaggerating claims that she "stood up" to pressure from the Catholic Church in Montana after she spoke publicly at a pro-abortion rally fifteen years ago.
Last month, NARAL selected former Montana elected official Nancy Keenan as its new president to replace outgoing leader Kate Michelman.
In comments to the Washington Post after her selection, Keenan said she found herself rebuked by a Catholic bishop after speaking at a rally backing abortion and there was talk of her being excommunicated from the church.
"It was a very personal experience for me having been born and raised Catholic," she told the Post. "It was very, very big."
A biography about Keenan issued by NARAL said she "also showed the force of her pro-choice commitment and the strength of her personal leadership when she stood up to a public effort to excommunicate her from the Catholic Church."
However, a spokesman for the Catholic diocese of Helena, Montana says Keenan is misstating what happened.
Eric Schiedermayer told the Cybercast News Service that the fact that Keenan spoke at a pro-abortion rally in November 1989, while serving as a member of the Montana state legislature, is not in dispute.
What happened afterwards is where the differences begin.
Schiedermayer told CNS News that the Catholic Church merely tried to "help [Keenan] understand" its opposition to her pro-abortion views as a Catholic layperson.
According to Schiedermayer, then-Bishop Elden Curtiss offered to meet with Keenan to discuss the issue of abortion and Keenan accepted the invitation later that month, CNS News reported.
In an article in the November 1989 issue of the Montana Catholic newspaper, the official diocesan publication, Keenan said she agreed with the Catholic Church’s position against abortion but claimed she could not "impose that belief on others."
"It’s one thing for the bishop to silence dissent in the Church," she told the Montana Catholic. "It’s another thing when the Church enters the halls of the capitol to silence dissent in the public arena."
Despite the disagreement, Schiedermayer told CNS that Keenan was never excommunicated nor was there any public or private attempt to do so.
He said Keenan’s depiction of the events as a huge brouhaha with the Church and winning an excommunication battle is a misrepresentation.
Schiedermayer told CNS that the new Helena, Montana bishop, George Thomas, may speak about the Keenan incident in the future and clarify what happened and the church’s position.
Keenan is a former three-term Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction.