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Franciscan friar gets 6 months in jail for abortion clinic protests

Father Fidelis Moscinski, a member of the Franciscan Fathers of the Renewal, received his longest jail sentence so far
Father Fidelis Moscinski

Father Fidelis Moscinski (Photo: Theresa Bonopartis / National Catholic Register)

 

Published: July 01, 2023 06:43 AM GMT
Updated: July 01, 2023 06:50 AM GMT

Father Fidelis Moscinski, a member of the Franciscan Fathers of the Renewal, received his longest jail sentence so far -- a federal conviction of six months -- on June 27 for obstructing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hempstead, a community on Long Island, New York, last year.

It was his first conviction under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act. Six months is the maximum penalty for a first time offense.

Additionally, he received a 90-day sentence June 30 for a separate case involving another abortion clinic protest on Long Island.

Obstructing or interfering with access to abortion clinics is illegal under both the federal 1994 FACE) Act and the New York State Clinic Access Act. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 14 other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws governing access.

Father Moscinski, 53, a resident of Our Lady of the Angels friary in the Bronx, has been active in clinic protests organized by the Michigan-based Red Rose Rescue, but his activities in Hempstead were done on his own.

In that incident, according to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, Father Moscinski placed six industrial locks and chains on the front gates of the clinic, blocking the driveway into the parking lot and pedestrian access gates. When police removed the locks, Father Moscinski lay down in the driveway and had to be physically removed.

Father Moscinski and Laura Gies also were sentenced June 30 in Nassau County, New York, for obstructing governmental administration in the second degree at All Women's Health Care in Manhasset in April 2021. They were convicted on those charges Feb. 10.

"The depth of the wound of an abortion in a mother’s life is deep," Gies said in a statement she had prepared for her June 30 sentencing that was posted to the Red Rose Rescue Facebook page and provided to OSV News. "It is the wounded faces and broken hearts of too many of my women friends which motivates me to act as I have, in a true love and concern for other women to not go through this horrendous regret."

According to Red Rose's Facebook page, Father Moscinski declined to give a statement in court at the June 30 sentencing.

This is not the first time Father Mocsinski has gone to jail, along with other members of Red Rose Rescue, for abortion-related protests.

In March, he and three others, all members of Red Rose Rescue, were convicted of trespassing, obstructing/resisting a police officer and disorderly conduct, and were each ordered to spend 90 days in jail after an April 2022 protest at Northland Family Planning in Southfield, Michigan.

In August 2022, he and two others received 90-day sentences and fines for their role in a Red Rose Rescue demonstration in November 2021 at All Women's Health and Medical Services in White Plains, New York.

In December 2022, a local prosecutor dropped charges against Father Moscinski and three others for participating in a Red Rose Rescue protest at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Trenton, New Jersey.

Father Moscinski was represented in the Hempstead case by a lawyer from the Thomas More Society. The lawyer declined to comment to OSV News.

The Franciscan friary in the Bronx did not respond to a request to comment.

On June 8, the New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced she is suing Red Rose Rescue, accusing the group's activists of "terrorizing" patients and staff at abortion clinics in the state.

Calling members of the group "bigoted zealots," James is asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to prohibit members of the group from coming within 30 feet of abortion clinics.

The mission statement of Red Rose Rescue makes clear the group prioritizes physically occupying abortion clinics in order to save the lives of unborn children following principles of Christian nonviolence.

The Catholic Church opposes abortion because it holds that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death. However, the church also makes clear that all advocacy for justice must use only moral means, with St. John Paul II teaching in his 1993 encyclical "Veritatis Splendor" that a person cannot "intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order ... even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general."

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