(Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Recently retired NFL player Matt Birk who played center for the 2012 Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens, rejected the opportunity to join the team on the traditional champion's trip to the White House this week because of President Barack Obama's support for Planned Parenthood.
One of America's largest sexual and reproductive health care providers, Planned Parenthood's aggressive promotion of birth control and unapologetic facilitation of abortions have long been at odds with the value system of Catholics and other Christian groups.
Birk was noticeably absent from the lineup of players who attended the White House event on Wednesday, and on Thursday, he revealed the reason for his absence to a Minnesota Sports blog.
"I wasn't there," Birk explained on the blog. "I would say this, I would say that I have great respect for the office of the Presidency but about five or six weeks ago, our president made a comment in a speech and he said, 'God bless Planned Parenthood.'"
A devout Catholic and outspoken critic of same-sex marriage and abortion, Birk said he didn't want to appear to endorse the president's support for Planned Parenthood , so he opted to forego the event.
"Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year," said Birk. "I am Catholic, I am active in the Pro-Life movement and I just felt like I couldn't deal with that. I couldn't endorse that in any way."
"I'm very confused by [the president's] statement," said Birk. "For God to bless a place where they're ending 330,000 lives a year? I just chose not to attend," he noted further.
In a controversial speech at Planned Parenthood's national conference in Washington, D.C., in April, President Obama praised the pro-choice group for the work they are doing.
"I want to thank all of you for the remarkable work that you're doing day in, day out in providing quality health care to women all across America," said President Obama to Planned Parenthood representatives at the conference.
"You are somebody that women – young women, old women, women in between – count on for so many important services. And we are truly grateful to you."
He later capped off his speech with: "Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you."
Some critics like noted theologian John Piper and Washington's Ethics and Public Policy expert George Weigel said President Obama's blessing of arguably America's number one abortion organization was blasphemous.
"It was an appalling speech that had the sole benefit of clarifying the last-ditch commitment of the present administration to the most open-ended abortion license possible. And it drew a line in the sand that those committed to the biblical view of the sanctity of human life cannot ignore – and must challenge," noted Weigel in an earlier report.
"That is nothing short of blasphemy," declared Weigel of Obama's blessing. "Too harsh? No. For in its discussion of this grave sin against the Second Commandment, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2148) teaches that 'it is also blasphemous to make use of God's name to … reduce people to servitude, to torture persons or to put them to death.'"