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Cardinal Gregory criticizes activist group’s ‘antics’ at basilica on eve of March for Life

Pro-choice messages projected onto the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2022. / Catholics for Choice

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 21, 2022 / 10:20 am (CNA).

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, responded strongly Friday to an activist group’s projection of pro-choice messages on the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Thursday night, the eve of the annual March for Life.

Gregory said in a Jan. 21 statement: “Those whose antics projected words on the outside of the church building demonstrated by those pranks that they really are external to the Church and they did so at night – John 13:30.”

Referring to Judas Iscariot, John 13:30 reads, “He therefore having received the morsel, went out immediately. And it was night.”

Gregory said, “The true voice of the Church was only to be found within The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last evening. There, people prayed and offered the Eucharist asking God to restore a true reverence for all human life.”

Catholics for Choice was responsible for the images, which for 90 minutes were beamed from a median across the street from the basilica while a prayer vigil to end abortion was going on inside.

In large letters visible blocks from the basilica, the messages read “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS YOU ARE NOT ALONE,” “1 IN 4 ABORTION PATIENTS IS CATHOLIC,” and “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS.”

Other slogans included the words “STOP STIGMATIZING” and “START LISTENING” on the church. The words were projected on both the 329-foot bell tower and upper facade of the church above the front entrance. The projections included Spanish translations of the messages as well.

“The March for Life twists our faith to villainize people who seek abortion services and silences the 68% of Catholics who do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned,” Catholics for Choice President Jamie L. Manson said in a statement.

“That’s why, during the ‘Vigil for Life’ at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., we prominently projected our message to Catholics who support legal abortion access and those who have abortions themselves: no matter what the Church hierarchy tries to make you think, you are not alone,” she said.

The images were first reported on Twitter by Jack Jenkins of Religious News Service. Widely shared on social media, the images drew some support but also sharp denunciations.

“The attempted desecration is enormous. Diabolical,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco tweeted. “Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen.”

“Just when you thought @Catholic4Choice couldn’t sink any lower. The group inside is praying for babies and mothers—and for the group outside to repent and believe the Gospel,” tweeted Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

The American Life League tweeted on Friday, “Not only do they hate God’s Law ‘Thou shall not kill’, they hate His houses of prayer, too.”

Catholics for Choice’s act underscores a rise in hostility toward this year’s March for Life, when many pro-life Americans are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is expected in June.

On Saturday, a group called NYC for Abortion Rights plans to hold a rally titled “F— the March for Life” outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “Come picket and MAKE SOME NOISE with us!! We’re disrupting the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion bull— on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision,” the group tweeted Wednesday.

“MEANWHILE, we’re going to commemorate by disrupting their bull—- as much as we can, at the symbol of the Catholic Church’s grotesque power in NY. Come speak out, sing, play, and show the antis that abortion isn’t going away, and we aren’t either,” the tweet says.