AUSTIN, Texas — Catholic bishops are directing churches across Texas to refrain from working with Texas Right to Life, exposing a widening rift in the state's anti-abortion movement.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops released the written directive Thursday, the Austin American-Statesman reported . The group sets policy for the parishes serving 8.3 million Catholics in Texas.
Texas Right to Life, the oldest and largest anti-abortion group in the state, is well-funded by GOP donors, organizes conferences that attract top Republicans and its endorsements of GOP candidates for state and local office can affect primary elections.
The bishops' directive stated that Texas Right to Life has engaged in misleading attacks against political candidates, lied about the Catholic church's position on state legislation and argued that church-supported bills don't do enough to limit abortions.
"We've asked our pastors, parishes and Catholic schools to refrain from asking (Texas Right to Life representatives) to come onto our premises because their teachings don't always align with what the Catholic Church teaches regarding certain life issues," said Bishop Joe Vasquez, head of the 25-county Austin Diocese.
Texas Right to Life leaders have not returned calls from the newspaper seeking comment. But Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain, who supports the anti-abortion group, said the bishops were "literally going after a group for being too pro-life."
The directive shows a long-simmering rift over tactics and priorities that are dividing groups with a similar goal to end legal abortion.
"It's very, very unfortunate that it came to this," said Kyleen Wright, president of the Texans for Life Coalition, which bills itself as an anti-abortion group with realistic legislative goals. "But for our organization ... to be maligned and slandered for several years, and for our candidates and people who work in good faith to advance good policy down in Austin to be unfairly and maliciously attacked, that hasn't been good for our movement either."