Catholics respond with prayer and song when protesters disrupt conference

Zelda Caldwell   By Zelda Caldwell for CNA


Attendees at a gathering sponsored by the Napa Institute sing the “Salve Regina” to drone out protesters who demonstrated at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, California, on July 30, 2022. / Screenshot from Chris Stefanick video

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 2, 2022 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

When protesters tried to disrupt a conference of Catholics leaders held over the weekend in Napa, Calif., they soon gave up when their chants were drowned out by 800 people singing “Salve Regina,” a hymn to the Virgin Mary.

The July 30 incident, which later became a viral sensation on social media, took place at the 12th annual summer conference of the Napa Institute, a group dedicated to training the Church’s leaders how to evangelize in an increasingly secularized society.

Austin Quick, who was attending the conference at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, told CNA that former Attorney General William Barr had begun his keynote address on Saturday night when he was interrupted by chanting.

Quick, a military veteran, said he rushed outside to see if he could engage with the protesters to get them to stop. He said there were six or seven women shouting and playing what appeared to be prerecorded chants through a loudspeaker system that were “mostly about abortion.” Among the chants: “You can’t take us back to the 1800s,” “Motherhood should be a choice,” and “Get your rosaries off our ovaries.”

That’s the moment that the crowd joined together in prayer, followed by the singing of “Salve Regina.”

“Right when the singing started that’s when they left,” he said, adding that the demonstrators returned to their cars and honked their horns.

Quick, who runs a popular Instagram account called The Basic Catholic, said he later learned that a priest from The Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky started the prayer and the singing of the hymn.

Chris Stefanick, an EWTN host and creator of the popular “Real Life Catholic” video series, was a witness to the scene and shared a viral video of the incident.

He posted on Twitter: “The response of the Napa conference to Marxist protestors screaming like maniacs outside. After this … they were quiet. I love being Catholic.”

After the event, several groups posted on social media that they were among protesters at the conference.

A group called NDN Collective, which claimed to represent the concerns of indigenous people, shared photos of their protest that included a sign saying “Bans off Our Bodies.” In a tweet, the group wrote: “We’ve seen what the evils of fascism and the Catholic Church have brought to Indigenous people and our lands. Tonight we disrupt the Right’s political agenda that’s tied to the Napa Institute.”

Two other groups, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Church Militant, also claimed on social media to have demonstrated at the event.

The Napa Institute was founded in 2011 by businessman Tim Busch and Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., in order to train Catholic leaders in faith formation and apologetics. The Busch Family Foundation is also a major donor to The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and helped establish the university’s business school.

Busch is a member of EWTN’s Board of Governors, and EWTN chairman and CEO Michael Warsaw is a member of the Napa Institute’s Board of Directors. CNA is a service of EWTN News.

The conference, which took place from July 27–31, included daily Mass, opportunities for prayer and Confession, as well as lectures and panels on St. Thomas Aquinas, the New Evangelization, reading the Bible, Catholic education, the evils of human trafficking, a Catholic vision of women’s rights, and life after Roe v. Wade, among other topics.

Barr’s speech, titled “Strangers in a Strange Land: How Do Catholics Live as ‘Resident Aliens’ and Faithful Citizens at the Same Time,” echoed the title of Catholic novelist Walker Percy’s posthumously published book of essays “Signposts in a Strange Land.”

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1 Comment

  1. Napa Institute’s co-founder, Timothy Busch, does not speak for all Catholics. This new “voice of the church” uses the Napa Institute to spread his “prosperity Gospel.” He prides himself on being a tax attorney who specializes in “protecting the assets of the wealthy” and providing them with the comforts of his numerous luxury resorts managed by his firm. Meanwhile, he has been quoted as saying he does not believe in a minimum wage. Busch glorifies an extreme form of capitalism that does not have compassion for the poor while courting the Koch Foundation for their substantial donations to his business school and expansion projects. Every year, the Napa Institute’s summer conference, hosted by Busch, repeatedly fails to address problems facing the country. The Napa Institute does not represent the church I know. How can we stop wealthy businessmen from taking Jesus’ teachings out of Catholicism? Why are these businessmen now leading our church? No amount of money should give them the right to determine the church’s future. If this trend continues, we will no longer be a Jesus church — the one that serves the poor and loves their neighbor.

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