Father Fidelis Moscinski, C.F.R., goes to the front lines. He’s a Catholic priest with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and I run into him now and again. One of the most recent times was at a monthly Saturday morning Mass for life and healing at Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Afterwards, there’s always a prayerful procession to the flagship Planned Parenthood on Margaret Sanger Place. This has been happening for a decade in Soho in New York City. That particular morning, there were counter-protesters at the Mass. I’ve seen a lot of things, but witnessing a protest at Mass is jarring, especially when many of the Mass participants are people who walk the walk of the pro-life movement, which is about truth and justice and love and radical hospitality. Some of them, friars like Fr. Fidelis and sisters with the Sisters of Life, quite obviously so.
I also read about Fr. Fidelis in the news now and again. He has dedicated years of his time to counseling women outside abortion clinics, and he sometimes goes inside and manages to get himself arrested in these “Red Rose Rescues.” As his religious community explained in a statement after a recent arrest:
An essential part of our work of evangelization and care of the poor is our public and prayerful witness to the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. We recognize that the human right to life is the foundation of a just and peaceful society. Furthermore, we recognize that those whose right to life is denied them, for whatever reason, are truly poor and most in need of Christian service and the saving power of the Gospel.
In this interview, he talks about why he believes this civil disobedience in the face of legal abortion is important.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: Why do you keep going into abortion clinics with roses?
Fr. Fidelis Moscinski: Because there is an urgent need to reach out to mothers in crisis pregnancies, especially when all other efforts to dissuade them from abortion have failed. I have seen the devastating impact abortion has had on women. We all know that in every abortion a unique human being created and loved by God is brutally destroyed. These are our brothers and sisters. Once someone has this knowledge, then it is clear that every effort must be made to protect these children and their mothers. Our love for them must not stop at some artificial property line established by those who profit from the killing.
Lopez: How many times have you been arrested for this?
Fr. Fidelis: I have been arrested five times for participating in the Red Rose Rescues.
Lopez: Abortion protests are not something new to you. Why has this been such an important part of your life, since before your ordination? Is it even a vocation within a vocation now?
Fr. Fidelis: I began rescuing in 1989, three years before I became a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal. I attribute my involvement in the pro-life movement, and rescue in particular, to the grace of God. At a certain point, I truly realized the outrageous injustice of legalized abortion, and I knew that I had a serious and life-long moral obligation to fight against it. This is now confirmed and given shape by my Franciscan Order’s legislation, which states that “the friars do not hesitate to participate in acts of conscientious objection to actions that attack the inviolability of human life and seek to break the common bond of human solidarity.”
Lopez: You are someone with an advanced degree. Why do you think this work is so important, when there are other things you no doubt have to do?
Fr. Fidelis: Lives are at stake every day. I believe that nothing should take priority over the defense of innocent life. I try to do what I can within the blessing of religious obedience and my own limitations. I suppose one way to look at it is this: If your life or my life was in mortal danger and someone was able to save us, would we accept the excuse that they did not try to save us because they judged some other thing was of more value than our lives?
Lopez: Can you really rescue a woman who is exercising her legal free choice? God gives us free will, after all.
Fr. Fidelis: The only thing we can do is appeal to the mother, encourage her and support her in any way possible. Of course, in many situations the woman who chooses abortion feels intense pressure and considers this her only option. Free choice is a myth.
Lopez: What is it like getting arrested for such a thing, dressed the way you are dressed? What do people do and say?
Fr. Fidelis: If I was dying in a hospital, and there was nothing more medical science could do to save my life, then at the very least I would want someone to remain with me in my last moments. No one wants to die alone. So too these children being killed by abortion should not be left to die alone. This is why we do not leave the abortion facility. We remain in solidarity and prayer with our brothers and sisters who are being killed. We could not save their lives, but at least our continued presence witnesses to their humanity and dignity.
Of course, getting arrested is never a pleasant experience, but it is nothing compared to what the children suffer in an abortion. When I am arrested, I am wearing my religious habit and identify myself as a Franciscan priest. Obviously, people’s reactions are quite varied, and I normally do not pay much attention to what they do or say.
Lopez: Is God calling you to do this? Is He calling more of us to do this?
Fr. Fidelis: Yes, God is certainly calling me to do this rescue mission within the pro-life movement. And I know that He is calling others. Although it might appear difficult or extraordinary, in fact rescue activity is the sanest response to the abortion holocaust, and I can attest that God gives superabundant graces to those who are willing to respond to His call to “rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).
Lopez: Why is the March for Life important?
Fr. Fidelis: We need this massive, vocal national event in our nation’s capital to express our utter contempt for Roe v. Wade. We need to vigorously demand an immediate end to legalized abortion. All those who serve in government must be held accountable for their actions. If they are not willing to work for the legal protection of the unborn child, then they have no right to any position in the federal government.
Lopez: Does the Catholic Church really have any kind of moral authority right now, especially when it comes to demanding innocent life come into the world?
Fr. Fidelis: The Catholic Church has now, and will always have, the divine authority which Jesus Christ bestowed on it at His Ascension. Unfortunately, many of those entrusted with the pastoral responsibility of exercising that authority have failed to do so with moral integrity. Their failure must not cause the voice of the Church to be silent at this time. The Gospel must be preached in season and out of season.
Lopez: What made you become a Franciscan friar?
Fr. Fidelis: Many things, but probably the most influential was the life of St. Francis himself. After I read about him, I was amazed that someone could have that kind of relationship with Jesus. I wondered: If that was possible for him, can it be possible for me as well?
Lopez: What does it mean to be a priest in the midst of such scandal in the Church? Has it changed you?
Fr. Fidelis: The ongoing scandal in the Church is a source of daily sorrow and a heavy burden to carry. As a priest, I not only feel the need to make reparation for the sins of the clergy, but I also feel more intensely the need to always give good example to others. Although we are in dark times, I am encouraged by those who have come forward calling for real reform, especially people like Archbishop Vigano and James Grein.