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Cardinal O’Connor to Hear New Anti-Abortion Campaign

August 13, 1990

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ More than 200 Roman Catholic bishops holding an unusually secretive meeting get their first glimpse Tuesday of a new anti-abortion campaign put together by a public relations firm.

An official of the company hired by the bishops, Hill and Knowlton, said Monday they shouldn’t expect anything startling.

″There’s nothing new in this business, only new ways of packaging,″ said Phil Armstong, a Hill and Knowlton senior vice president.

The two-day meeting of the National Council of Catholic Bishops is closed to the press.

Church officials said they didn’t plan to release a text of a speech that was to be delivered Monday by Cardinal John O’Connor, the archbishop of New York and chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities.

Monday’s program included conferences, speeches and anti-abortion films, according to a participant who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The talks included one titled ″Abortion: Big Business.″ The film titles included ″Living Proof: A Visual Encounter with the Unborn″ and ″Adoption: The Option of Love.″

The Hill and Knowlton campaign is designed to ″reframe the abortion question for both the Catholic community and the general public,″ said Julie Sly, spokeswoman for the California Catholic conference.

Sly defended the meeting’s secrecy, especially involving the Hill and Knowlton presentation.

″They regard this as any other corporation that buys public relations services,″ she said. ″They won’t release a working report to the public. It could undermine their campaign.″

Armstrong said company’s presentation would ″basically involve research into public attitudes and show them how to better communicate the pro-life message.″

The bishops also retained the Wirthlin Group, a leading Republican polling firm that helped Ronald Reagan win his 1980 presidential campaign. That firm also was expected to deliver a report Tuesday.

The hiring of Hill and Knowlton drew criticism from Eugene Kennedy, a professor of psychology at Loyola University in Chicago.

″The bishops have found a way to drive the money changers back into the temple,″ said Kennedy, who has written extensively on the Catholic Church in America. ″They are making a terrible mistake. They are playing in the ballpark of the pro-choice people and abandoning their real strength, which is spiritual and pastoral.″

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