I have been involved in pro-life efforts for approximately 30 years. As a Catholic, much of my earlier activism has been within the contexts of parish and diocesan structures and other affiliated organizations. I was a founding member of our parish pro-life committee. At the same time, I was also praying along with many other Catholics outside a Gaithersburg abortuary. Many of us in several parishes shared frustration that the support we received from several parishes was tepid at best. This included the Archdiocese of Washington. However, as tepid as that support was, the archdiocese did not try to squelch any actvism on our part, provided that it wasn't carried out as a specifically Catholic endeavor. McCarrick didn't bother about us, one way or the other. If others have different experiences, please advise via com boxes.
But that was at the grass roots level. Cardinal Hickey had created a pro-life office staffed by good pro-lifers. After he retired and McCarrick took over, I noticed disturbing things. The parish pro-life groups simply weren't receiving much in the way of leadership from that pro-life office. The latter's time was being gobbled up by what I can only call busy-work. Much of it centered around the archdiocesan "youth rally" that they conducted right before the national March for Life. There were talks, concerts, and a Mass that were all scheduled to end immediately before the march began. In other words, the archdiocesan Catholics did not participate in Nellie Gray's rally beforehand and thus weren't included in the counts conducted by the Park Police. That bothered me greatly. I recall asking one official (don't remember who) why they did that. I told him quite frankly that we could do with a simple Mass without all that other "dog and pony show" stuff. He responded (I kid you not), that some of Nellie's speakers weren't suitable for Catholic audiences. He mentioned one of the speakers as being the now-deceased Jesse Helms. I was aghast. From then on I didn't attend those rallies. Since my parish did, with the buses dropping off at the rallies, I started going separately via Metrorail and made sure that I was at the entire rally conducted by Nellie Gray.
When I saw things going horribly awry within the leadership of the Catholic Church, I started the website and this blog. I knew they weren't compatable with my membership in the Church-affiliated groups so I resigned my affiliations with the latter. By that time I had also become involved in sidewalk counseling and protests using the abortion victim pictures. Both of these activities the archdiocesan pro-life office (under different leadership) were loathe to support. I began to see the wisdom of conducting pro-life work outside the context and restrictions of parish and diocesan affiliations. When McCarrick retired and Wuerl came in, things became quite strange.
Several years ago I and other sidewalk counselors came across an announcement from the archdiocesan pro-life office that they were holding sidewalk-counseling training sessions, assisted by the Helphers of God's Precious Infants. On one hand, I was quite pleased that the archdiocese was finally seeing the wisdom of offering help to women before they did the deed and slaughtered their babies to their everlasting regret. On the other hand, I was rather puzzled that they didn't ask those of us who had been in front of mills every week for the past twenty years and who have saved hundreds to attend, let alone offer the benefit of our own experiences. We were being excluded and, I think, marginalized. I don't think much ever came of their efforts. A few counselors who I think were trained by the Helpers still remain, but I believe they are not operating under diocesan direction.
The archdiocese also thumbed their noses at the idea of associating with those who took leadership roles in dealing with Leroy Carhart when he first came to Germantown. When "Pray For Germantown" held rallies and protests on Wisteria Drive, the archdiocese did not send official representation. We are grateful for the individual priests who lent their support over those several years, but regret that the archdiocese did not join the other churches and grass-roots prolifers. I learned why when archdiocesan emails were mistakenly forwarded to me. They eschewed any affiliation with Troy Newman and Operation Rescue, claiming that OR's "reputation" (whatever that meant) was the reason. I also know that the archdiocese is very squeemish about the usage of pictures of abortion victims. To be clear, the archdiocese did conduct their own candlelight vigils, etc along Wisteria Drive. Still, their standoffishness was lamentable. I understand that now that Carhart has moved to Bethesda, the archdiocese still lends no support.
We noticed something else in relation to crisis pregancy centers. There are a number of them in Montgomery County - some run by Catholics, others by protestants under the Carenet network. Generally we tried to utilize the Catholic ones when we had the opportunity to take women there, owing to their understanding of the inherent evils of contraception. When they weren't available, we would resort to the carenet cpcs, as time was of the essense in securing assistance for the women.
When we started counseling at Spring Street, two Catholic cpcs were nearby. Centro Tepeyak at the time was located on Apple Avenue, within walking distance of the (now closed) Spring Street Planned Parenthood. We walked at least two women to that cpc, where they received immediate assistance. We also took women to Wheaton Birthright, located on Grandview Avenue.
A few years ago, however, very strange decisions were made. First, Birthright moved away from Wheaton further north into Glenmont. They moved into an archdiocese-owned building dubbed the McCarrick Center (I pray that they will rename that place, given recent revelations). A short while later, we learned that Centro Tepeyak also moved there. In other words, the location of both Catholic centers became less convenient to us. Moreover, we found that their hours were cut back. We couldn't depend on them being open when most of the area's abortions occur.
It certainly seemed odd to have two pregnancy centers located in the same building. That situation didn't last, as Birthright was moved to Olney. Frankly, I am not aware of any abortuary in Olney that would warrant such a move. If in fact there is such an abortuary, please advise. Well, at least the two protestant centers were open and (usually) available. But they are further away than the other two were.
So there you have it. In the space of a few years we see:
- the archdiocesan pro-life office cutting loose the individual parish pro-life groups and not dealing with real issues of the day. Did they ever do anything to prevent the passage of Obamacare, for instance?
- the de facto marginalization of veteran sidewalk counselors during the archdiocesan efforts to institute their own program (that seems to have fizzled)
- the archdiocese not joining with other churches in the efforts against Carhart in Germantown and Bethesda
- coaxing two crisis pregnancy centers away from sidewalk counseling sites
I had debated over the years whether or not to bring all this in the open. Given recent revelations over the past few days, I must admit the possibility of a desire to hamstring the local pro-life movement. I'm sure certain donors would have wished that very much.