By Katie Yoder and Joe Bukuras
Mulitple reports and social media posts are warning that abortion activists will disrupt Mass on Sunday — Mother’s Day. Should Catholics take these threats seriously?
Some Catholic churches and dioceses certainly are. And some Catholic and secular organizations are passionately responding.
The protests are in response to a leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The draft signaled that Supreme Court justices are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
Although some locations of the protests seem to be confirmed by parishes and dioceses, it’s still unclear how many protests across the country are being planned.
The Diocese of Charleston, the Archdiocese of New York, and some churches in Washington, D.C., are taking extra precautions. According to a statement shared by the Diocese of Charleston, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is now involved and warning parishes.
Police in Washington, D.C., and in New York are also on alert.
“MPD is aware of potential disruptions associated with First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring, assessing and planning accordingly with our local and federal partners,” the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., told the Daily Wire. “We have increased available resources, including the activation of our Civil Disturbance Units, in preparation for these activities.”
An alarming call to action
Earlier this week, a pro-abortion group, Ruth Sent Us, called on social media for activists to “Stand at or in a local Catholic Church” on Sunday, May 8.
“Whether you’re a ‘Catholic for Choice’, ex-Catholic, of other or no faith, recognize that six extremist Catholics set out to overturn Roe,” the group tweeted on May 3. Those six include conservative Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — as well as liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The tweet included a video clip of women shouting in the middle aisle of a church, “Abortion on demand and without apology! Without this basic right, women can’t be free!”
“Challenge time,” the video text read. “Do you dare to chant in your local church?”
The group has taken responsibility for disrupting Catholic churches before, such as at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco in February. During Mass at St. Mary’s, video footage shows protesters walking down the aisle toward the altar wearing red robes and white bonnets or “handmaids” costumes frequently worn by abortion activists. The costumes symbolize enslaved women who are raped and forced to give birth, inspired by Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Don’t engage protesters, D.C. advisory says
A tweet by Twitter user Matt Gorman shows that St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is preparing for protesters to disrupt Masses this weekend.
“All are welcome to join us for Mass at St. Peter’s,” a photo of an alleged announcement from St. Peter’s says. “Even though the disruption of the Holy Mass is a grave offense to every person of faith, we will strive to continue worship of God and exercise fraternal charity in any case.”
The statement instructs parishioners that if Mass is interrupted, to pray in a “prayerful posture,” to stay in the church and follow the pastor’s directions, and to not engage protesters.
Reporter Mary Margaret Olohan of The Daily Wire reported that another church in Washington, D.C. — St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill — also alerted parishioners.
St. Joseph’s pastor, Father William Gurnee, wrote in a letter that he received information from the Archdiocese of Washington’s police chaplain.
“They believe the protesters at the Supreme Court might seek to disrupt Mass this weekend. We have asked for the police to intervene,” he wrote. “I pray that you will not change your plans to attend Mass because this weekend we will celebrate the confirmation of three young men and Mother’s Day.”
The largest Roman Catholic Church in North America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C., expressed no concern to CNA in a statement.
“The Basilica exists to provide a respectful, distraction-free place of prayer, pilgrimage and worship,” a screenshot of the statement read. “The Basilica and its grounds are Private Property and, according to its longstanding policy, no activity shall take place upon the Basilica’s property other than those sponsored by the Basilica.”
In January, activists projected pro-choice images on the exterior of the basilica.
New York City police on alert
The New York Police Department will be sending extra patrols at Catholic churches in the city between midnight on Friday and midnight on Sunday, the New York Post reported. The Post reported that the information came from an internal police memo, which told officers that violent protests and chaos could ensue.
The Post reported that the memo says, “Special attention must be paid in the vicinity of the Catholic church especially during Sunday morning Mass.”
A New York Archdiocese spokesman told The Post that the archdiocese is planning to increase security over the weekend and “will work with law enforcement and take appropriate steps as needed.”
“We are aware of the call for some kind of protest, and without going into specifics, will work with law enforcement and take appropriate steps as needed,” he said.
Elsewhere, a woman named Samantha Mednik in Palm Coast Florida, said in a Facebook post that she is organizing a “women’s rights protest” in front of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in the Diocese of St. Augustine on Mother’s Day. Mednik said that the church is “known for their anti-abortion signs aimed towards women (and others with a uterus).”
Mednik continued, “Our voices will be heard – bring posters, signs, limited supply of water might be provided, wear comfortable clothing and most importantly, bring your VOICE! Share this event to your story and repost to spread the word.”
Mednik’s post, which had four likes and one share on Friday night, told protesters to refrain from entering or disrupting church services.
CNA contacted both the church and the diocese for comment, but received no response by time of publication.
Prince of Peace Catholic Church and School in Taylors, South Carolina, posted a statement from the Diocese of Charleston that urged diocesan churches to “be vigilant and careful” on Mother’s Day because of the possible threat of boycotts, protests, and vandalism.
CNA contacted the diocese to confirm the statement but did not receive a response by time of publication.
The Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, encouraged parishioners May 6 to “remain peaceful, prayerful, and recollected” in the face of any such protest.
“If you see any type of suspicious activity, please remain calm and immediately report it to church volunteers who are the ushers and guardian ministry members so that they can respond as directed in order to prevent confrontation and preserve and promote the safety of all,” the statement says.
Warning to Ruth Sent Us
The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty, family, life, and free and fair elections, sent a warning letter to Ruth Sent Us, the group that has been encouraging people to protest at local Catholic churches across the country.
The statement says, “We will gladly represent any church or person of faith who seeks legal recourse against you or your protesters for your unlawful disruption of any religious worship services.”
The political action group CatholicVote responded to potential threats on Thursday by asking President Joe Biden, who identifies as Catholic, and other leaders to condemn any efforts to disrupt Catholic Masses or protest outside justices’ homes.
Ruth Sent Us previously mapped out the geographical locations of some of the justices’ homes on its website. Google Maps, which the group used to map out the houses, appears to have since removed their locations.
“President Biden must immediately and forcibly condemn these domestic terrorist threats,” CatholicVote President, Brian Burch said. “Anti-Catholic zealots are plotting to intimidate and harass Catholics across the country, along with justices and their families. This country was built on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The President of the United States must stand up for both.”
Burch cited the growing number of recent attacks on Catholic churches, shrines, and symbols. The group linked to a story by Catholic News Agency about a Catholic church in Boulder, Colorado, that was defaced with pro-abortion graffiti for second time in seven months this week.
“We call on responsible leaders in Washington to unequivocally condemn these dangerous threats before they lead to violence, or worse,” he concluded.