Priest found guilty of blocking entrance to abortion clinic, faces prison time

 

Father Fidelis Moscinski (lower left, standing behind the cross), a well-known pro-life activist and priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) is seen during a tense standoff between pro-life and pro-abortion demonstrators in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022. The pro-life marchers were trying to reach a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic where they planned to hold a prayer vigil, and the pro-abortion demonstrators were trying to block their path. / Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 24, 2023 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

A Catholic priest who blocked access to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic could face up to one year in prison after being found guilty Monday of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, also known as the FACE Act.

On the morning of July 7, 2022, Father Fidelis Moscinski, 52, a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, effectively shut down the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York clinic in Hempstead for about two hours, according to the DOJ. He placed locks and chains on the gated entrance and covered some of them with glue, which prevented anyone from getting through the gate. After the fire department and the police department eventually cut through the locks, Moscinski laid down in front of the entrance to prevent cars from going through the gate, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

On Monday, the court delivered a guilty verdict from the bench. Post-conviction motions must be filed by Feb. 7, and the sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 24.

“The defendant attempted to prevent women from accessing their legal right to vital reproductive and pregnancy services,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement on Sept. 29, 2022, after Moscinski was charged.

“This office will enforce federal law to protect clinics and staff that provide reproductive health services while safeguarding the rights of their patients. I commend the local police, firefighters, and bystanders who came to the health center’s aid to ensure that it could continue serving the community.”

In an interview with EWTN on July 16, 2022, Moscinski acknowledged that he blocked access to the clinic so he could “talk to the mothers who were coming in that morning.”

“Imagine if you were one of those children scheduled to be executed that day,” Moscinski said. “Would you not want every possible effort to be made to save your life? And saying that something is a step too far is simply saying, ‘Well, some lives are less valuable than others; we could sacrifice only up to a point and then we’ll let these others die.’”

The sentencing will be before Magistrate Judge Steven Tiscione.

Pro-life community commends Moscinski

Some members of the pro-life community commended Moscinski for his actions at the abortion clinic and criticized those who would put him behind bars.

Michele Sterlace, the executive director of Feminists Choosing Life of New York, told CNA that the law is “unjust” and the pro-life movement should work to change laws to “protect innocent human lives.” She cited the overturning of Roe v. Wade as an effective example.

“People like Father Fidelis that have such courage, that we are in absolute awe of, they’re well aware of the consequences they may potentially face,” Sterlace said. “Father Fidelis is a smart, courageous individual … [who] was there to protect the lives of unborn human beings.”

Monica Migliorino Miller, the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, also praised Moscinski’s actions.

“When Father Fidelis chained the gate shut on the Planned Parenthood abortion center he performed an act completely appropriate in response to the impending extermination of innocent human persons,” Miller told CNA.

“A true, glorious nonviolent act of love and defense against the killing of the unborn,” Miller continued. “Father also sought to reach out to the women coming to the abortion center. The only reason he is convicted of the unjust FACE law is because in New York the unborn count for nothing as Father was denied a ‘defense of others.’ We can hope that Father’s heroic action will inspire others to rescue the unborn. We must be their voice.”

The FACE Act

Moscinski was found guilty of the FACE Act, legislation passed in 1994 to grant protections to reproductive health care centers including abortion clinics and pro-life counseling centers. According to the DOJ, a person is guilty if he or she engages in “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with an individual’s right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.”

According to the DOJ, first-time convictions are misdemeanors, which can carry up to one year in federal prison. All subsequent convictions are felonies.

In New York, abortion is legal up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, abortions are legal past that point if the woman’s life or health is at risk or if the preborn child is not viable.

Past protests

Moscinski has garnered media attention in recent years for his prayerful protests in the face of pro-abortion opposition and his work with the group Red Rose Rescue. In 2021, photos of the procession at Brooklyn’s Witness for Life day of prayer showed pro-abortion advocates shouting, holding signs, and smoking cigarettes in the face of a calm Moscinski.

The priest has served jail time for his Red Rose Rescue efforts before. Typically, a rescue involves a pro-life advocate entering the waiting room of an abortion facility to offer a red rose along with pro-life literature.


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1 Comment

  1. Below find an excellent eyewitness account of yesterday’s trial:

    While the putsch regime’s FACE attack on Fr. Fidelis Moscinski was reduced to a misdemeanor (presumably fearing the consequences of giving this holy priest a long incarceration), the maximum despicable sentence accordingly (unlike others being charged under FACE) will be no more than six months.

    Today, the regime is attacking Mark Houck with a FACE trial in Philadelphia.

    Below find a superb & only slightly edited account of yesterday’s trial by Will Goodman, who is himself under attack via FACE, & whose trial, as one of the Garland9 along with Joan Andrews, Lauren Handy, Paulette Harlow, Jean Marshall, Heather Adoni, John Hinshaw, Jay Smith & Jonathan Darnell, is at present scheduled for next August. Hinshaw, Goodman, Handy associates from PAAU, Matthew Connolly & Emiliano Bell were among those at the trial yesterday.

    Also under Face assault are Edmee Chevannes, Beverly Williams, Rosemary Geraghty & the Nashville11 – Chet Gallagher, Paul Vaughan, Eva Edl, Dennis Green, Paul Place, Caroline Davies, Coleman Boyd, Heather Adoni (again), as well as Calvin, Eva, & James Zastrow.

    +CATHOLIC PRIEST CONVICTED OF FEDERAL CHARGES FOR HIS PEACEFUL PRO-LIFE RESCUE By William Goodman

    Yesterday, January 23rd, at the United States Eastern New York District Court on Long Island, Fr. Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, was wrongfully found “guilty” of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) by federal judge Steven L. Tiscione.

    Before a packed courtroom, federal prosecutors sought to portray this pro-life Franciscan priest as being guilty of interference with “federally protected rights” to “reproductive health care,” viz, the dismemberment of innocent human beings in the womb.

    In opening arguments for the defense of life, attorney Dennis Ring from the Thomas More Society, stated to the judge:

    “Most cases coming before this court are crimes driven by the typical forces of lust, greed, anger, and selfishness. Fr. Moscinski is not driven by any of these, but by love. Love for unborn babies and their mothers. Fr. Fidelis is not hiding any of his actions or the facts in his case. Only one thing is at issue at this trial: Fr. Fidelis’ intention to save human lives, and keep his vow to God — to help the most defenseless, including the preborn.”

    This trial stemmed from a one man rescue mission Fr. Fidelis undertook at the Planned Parenthood extermination camp in Hempstead, NY, on July 7, 2022. In a “lock and block” style rescue, Father placed large bicycle locks on the gates outside of the killing center in order to protect the innocent from deadly violence. This was done to allow opportunity for him to speak with abortion tempted mothers about healthy, moral, life-giving options, and offer them practical resources to assist them during and after their pregnancy.

    When the police and fire department arrived and finally removed the locks, Fr. Fidelis quietly laid down on the abortion mill driveway just under the wheels of a Planned Parenthood staff vehicle, effectively preventing any lives from being lost. By this selfless act of love and bravery, the Franciscan friar demonstrated the urgency of the situation, the supreme value of motherhood and all human life, and a concrete means of protecting those in imminent danger.

    “Fr. Fidelis is a living witness of Christ’s love,” said a local New York sidewalk counselor who observed the priest’s rescue and unjust arrest. “His actions were an embodiment of Jesus’ Words, ‘there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends’ (John 15:13).”

    At the trial, one of the government’s five witnesses was a special agent from the FBI’s civil rights division who was a mother quite visibly pregnant with child. Pro-lifers in the courtroom were moved by this vivid reality of what exactly is at stake in this case– the defense of precious, helpless children of God living inside of their mothers.

    With an extensive investigation including over 200 exhibits of videos and photos and surveillance and phone records, the Department of Justice spared none of the American taxpayers’ expense to hunt down and prosecute the Franciscan priest. Part of the government’s evidence included a subpoenaed interview that Fr. Fidelis had on EWTN’s program “Pro-Life Weekly.”

    In what would be the climax of the entire trial, US prosecutors played the ENTIRE six and a half minute video in which Fr. Fidelis described this Christian mission of love.

    “The main motivation of this rescue was to keep this abortion facility closed for as long as possible…” said Fr. Fidelis, who went on to explain why these actions were not a crime, but rather a fitting response to a life in danger:

    “Imagine if you were one of those children scheduled to be executed that day. Would you not want every possible effort to be made to save your life? By saying this is a step too far, it is simply saying that, well, some lives are more valuable than others. We can sacrifice only up to a certain point and let these others die… Our motivation is to shine a light into the darkness where that evil is occuring, through our prayer and public witness. This motivation is simply love for Christ, love for the mothers and for their children.”

    (See full EWTN interview here:
    https://youtu.be/3See_6Ndfj4 )

    The thorough testimony Fr. Fidelis gave in this powerful interview made his appearance on the witness stand unnecessary. Throughout the trial Fr. Moscinski remained silent and prayerful.

    He was not alone in prayer however, as 24 supporters joined him in the courtroom, including three priests, four Franciscan sisters, along with local and national pro-life leaders. In addition to this, prayer warriors joined in spirit from throughout the US and even internationally– all praying together for an end to the global abortion holocaust.

    Fr. Fidelis’s second attorney from the Thomas More Society, Mr. Christopher Ferrara, offered to the judge a new set of constitutional arguments against the FACE Act itself. In one of these, Ferrara explained that the Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade demonstrates that there is not, nor has there ever been, a constitutional right to murder an unborn baby. He also argued on jurisdictional grounds that FACE is being unjustly used outside of congressional powers to regulate interstate commerce, and that this Act has been deliberately weaponized “to curtail peaceful protest utilizing time-honored non-violent tactics.”

    Many Americans have noted how the current administration’s Justice Department has singled out peaceful pro-lifers for federal raids and grand jury indictments, while those numerous abortion supporters who have violently attacked pregnancy resource centers and churches by the hundreds are never arrested.

    The pro-life attorneys further pointed out the absurdity of these federal charges by referring to that Fr. Fidelis was not even issued criminal charges after his unjust arrest in Hempstead. Rather, the local district attorney merely charged Father with a simple ordinance violation. However, the pro-abortion Biden administration with Attorney General Merrick Garland chose aggressively to over-prosecute Fr. Fidelis in a most prejudicial way because of his beliefs that preborn human life is sacred.

    In closing arguments, Mr. Dennis Ring affirmed that the trial “evidence proves one thing for certain — the defendant’s love and concern for unborn babies and their mothers…And he is not guilty of any crime.”

    Before retiring to his chambers, Judge Tiscione requested from the US attorneys the EWTN interview that he might review it in order to make his final judgement.

    After about 15-20 minutes of deliberation, the judge returned to the crowded courtroom stating that he had reviewed all of the evidence, twice, and found Fr. Fidelis Moscinski “guilty” of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

    Tiscione cited that the government’s case was met because all of the elements of the crime were proven: Fr. Fidelis interfered or intended to interfere (with the murder of babies); the Planned Parenthood facility is a “reproductive health facility” (which kills babies); and interference or intention to interfere with (killing babies) was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The judge set the sentencing hearing for April 24th, which happens to be the Feast Day of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a Franciscan priest and martyr, who is Fr. Fidelis’ special patron saint!

    The legal constitutional arguments made at trial against the FACE Act will be made with post-conviction motions and reserved for the right of appeal.

    Fr. Moscinski now faces a potential maximum punishment of up to six months in federal prison.

    In response to the federal court decision, Fr. Fidelis offered the following statement to the Church, the nation, and to pro-lifers:

    “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’s sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)

    To practice justice is to give to each one what is his due.

    What is due to the preborn children who are in imminent danger of a violent and painful death from abortion?

    In justice, these children deserve our wholehearted love, protection, and sacrifices. They deserve to be rescued.

    Today’s unjust verdict will not stop rescues from happening. The justice of God will always prevail over the injustices of men.

    I am grateful for the outstanding representation of my lawyers, Dennis Ring and Christopher Ferrara. And I am deeply appreciative of all who pray for me and for those who were with me in court today.

    God bless you all.”

    + Father Fidelis Moscinski, CFR
    ___

    Numerous pro-life leaders have now spoken out against yesterday’s unjust decision, especially since the federal judge and US prosecutors completely ignored the humanity and rights of the preborn person.

    “When Father Fidelis chained the gate shut on the Planned Parenthood abortion center he performed an act completely appropriate in response to the impending extermination of innocent human persons. A true, glorious non violent act of love and defense against the killing of the unborn. Father also sought to reach out to the women coming to the abortion center.” Said Dr. Monica Miller, Ph. D., Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society.

    Miller continued, “The only reason he is convicted of the unjust FACE law is because in New York the unborn count for nothing as Father was denied a ‘defense of others’. We can hope that Father’s heroic action will inspire others to rescue the unborn. We must be their voice.”

    There are several important reasons to keep this ongoing case in your prayers.

    1. This is the first FACE case against a Catholic priest since the mid-1990s when Fr. Norman Weslin and Bishop George Lynch rescued and faced unjust federal charges.

    2. This is the first post-Roe FACE Act challenge on constitutional grounds, citing Dobbs and other recent important Supreme Court decisions. The challenge is LONG overdue!

    3. This case represents an example of the malicious attacks on peaceful pro-lifers by the pro-abortion Biden administration, and the first such trial during his term. It sets the tone for several other FACE charges currently being wrongfully imposed on non-violent defenders of life.

    So let us continue to pray for authentic justice for the babies and mothers, and all those who seek to rescue them from harm.

    Thank you Fr. Fidelis!

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