A prominent pro-life priest known for his nonviolent attempts to hinder the operation of abortion clinics to save unborn children faces federal charges for padlocking closed the gate to a New York abortion clinic in July, blocking the entrance to the clinic in the hopes of counseling the women seeking an abortion that day to reconsider.
Father Fidelis Moscinski, 52, a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR), was charged last week under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, a 1994 federal law that prohibits the blocking of access to abortion clinics.
According to a Sept. 29 release from the Department of Justice, Moscinski — whom the release identifies as “Christopher” — arrived at the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York clinic in Hempstead, New York, the morning of July 7 wearing civilian garb.
He allegedly fastened several padlocks and bicycle locks, some with glue poured in them, onto the gated entrance of the clinic. Later, while wearing his friar’s habit, he lay in front of the gate to block access to the abortion clinic with his body. The clinic reportedly remained closed for two hours as a result of his actions.
The DOJ says first-time convictions of the FACE Act are misdemeanor violations punishable by up to one year in federal prison; subsequent convictions are a felony. The FACE Act prohibits “violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services,” according to the DOJ.
Terrisa Bukovinac, founder and executive director of the pro-life group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), decried the charges against Moscinski in an Oct. 2 statement.
Bukovinac said the FACE Act was enacted primarily to quash the efforts of Operation Rescue, whose members would frequently try to physically prevent women from entering abortion clinics.
“In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Rescue and of nonviolent direct action outside killing centers across America. And the response from [Attorney General Merrick] Garland’s DOJ has been swift,” Bukovinac said.
“The weaponization of this office has led to the unjust targeting of peaceful pro-life activists such as Mark Houck, Father Fidelis, Lauren Handy, and others. Alternatively, Garland’s Justice Department has allowed violent pro-abortion groups to continue their terrorization of churches and pregnancy centers across the country,” she said, referring to the large number of as-yet unprosecuted crimes against pro-life entities reported across the country in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision.
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.
More recently, following his July 7 arrest, Moscinski told EWTN Pro-life Weekly that he knew his actions in blocking the clinic entrance could engender “severe consequences” and that he chose to act alone so as not to implicate anyone else.
Moscinski told host Prudence Robertson that his goal was to “keep that Planned Parenthood closed for as long as possible so that I would have an opportunity to talk to the mothers that were coming in that morning.” He encouraged pro-life people to pray the rosary and to ask themselves: “What am I willing to sacrifice to show love to the mothers and children who are at risk for abortion?”
Prosecutors cited that EWTN interview as part of the criminal complaint against Moscinski.
Bukovinac of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising said her group is aware of at least 16 peaceful pro-life advocates indicted under the FACE Act in 2022 alone, including a member of PAAU, Lauren Handy.
Another recent indictment, that of Philadelphia pro-life leader and father of seven Mark Houck, has garnered widespread consternation and criticism. Houck was indicted by a federal grand jury Sept. 22 after a Planned Parenthood clinic escort alleged that Houck pushed him twice, causing him to fall to the ground both times. Accounts of how Houck was taken into custody have been met with sharp criticism from GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
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