Has New York Become a Place Where Prayer Isn’t Welcome?

Father Fidelis Moscinski is physically confronted as he leads a prayer procession in Brooklyn, June 12, 2021. (Photo: Jeffrey Bruno)
Goodness knows, it needs some.

‘Racist cops, racist priests, we will not leave the streets.” This was the constant chant from a group of about 30, organized in Brooklyn last month under the Facebook banner of NYC for Abortion Rights. You’d think from the chant that it would be some kind of racial injustice. Actually, it was prayer they were trying to halt — prayer for an end to abortion in a city where in some ZIP codes more babies are aborted than born. The chants either betrayed utter ignorance or a dark perversion of reality. They got in the face of — and all around — Father Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, a Franciscan priest, pushing against him as he and others simply prayed the Rosary as after Mass they walked the streets of Brooklyn, the few blocks from St. Paul and St. Agnes Church in Cobble Hill to a Planned Parenthood in an office building. Catholics do this Witness for Life every second Saturday of the month there — and it’s fairly low-key without the opposition; last month there were a mere 15 pray-ers. But this week they had to meet with police to ask for help to keep the peace.

Father Fidelis is a controversial figure because he sometimes leads Red Rose Rescues, where he will actually go into an abortion clinic lobby and offer roses to women. It’s a symbol of life and peace and joy in a place of fear. He knows what anyone who spends time talking to women outside abortion clinics knows: Many of them feel that they have no choice except abortion. And many of them in my experience are scared 17-year-old girls, many of them black and Hispanic. So, he won’t leave until the abortions stop. It’s in the noble tradition of civil disobedience. When the protesters call the Witness for Life “harassment,” the pro-lifers “clinic invaders,” and Father Fidelis a “terrorist,” they appear to be conflating the regularly scheduled Witness for Life Mass and prayer assemblies with the Red Rose Rescues, which Father Fidelis has never done at the Brooklyn Planned Parenthood, and will not be doing Saturday. Just this past Saturday in Manhattan, at Old St. Patrick’s, I was present as Father Fidelis made clear after Mass that our First Saturday Witness to the Planned Parenthood a block away was about prayer and prayer alone. He blessed the outside of the clinic, praying for all within. It’s peaceful. And whether you agree with it or not, he’s certainly free to do it. But NYC for Abortion Rights says there is “no home” for that — pro-life people praying in New York City.

This is not the first physical interruption of prayer here. Pre-COVID, protesters made a human blockade for a half hour, keeping people from leaving Old St. Patrick’s on Mott Street to head to Planned Parenthood. Around that same period, the counter-protesters chanted that those of us at Mass don’t care about women, as I stood behind three Sisters of Life — nuns who give their lives to God and helping pregnant women and young mothers.

The kind of warped thinking that has a priest who lives the courage of his convictions shouted down, libeled, and physically confronted is another example of the darkness that is strangling New York City. They aren’t even trying to make a rational argument. They want anarchy and more violence — which is, of course, what abortion is. It’s the most intimate violence — that NYC for Abortion Rights wants more girls and women experiencing alone in their apartments by pill. “You Can Have a Nice Abortion at Home” was the title of their recent Zoom event.

The confrontation last month in Brooklyn was a mini–Washington Square Park, and there’s reason to expect more of the same on Saturday. And it would seem to have cover in the Democratic Party. In 2014, Andrew Cuomo told Catholics who believe Church teaching on abortion to leave the state. I encountered Kathryn Garcia on the campaign trail outside the Manhattan Planned Parenthood earlier this year. When I asked her if she wanted to be a mayor for people who believe abortion is evil, too, she would only tell me repeatedly that she is for a woman’s right to choose. What’s the Eric Adams answer to that question? Will he stand up to an increasingly bloodthirsty Left? Will he defend the rights of people who simply want to pray on the streets of New York City? Even the pro-lifers?


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