For personal reasons, I should note that your humble narrator happened to be in the vicinity of Huntingdon Valley/Lower Moreland PA outside of Philadelphia last Saturday evening at around 4:30-4:45. Being Catholic, I looked for evening services and remembered that I was in the vicinity of St. Albert’s Parish, so that’s where I went.
I hadn’t been inside the church for a long time, and I didn’t realize that it had been remodeled; I would guess that about a third of the pews had been removed and the altar had been lowered and reconfigured a bit. I couldn’t immediately located the tabernacle, but after a minute or so, I realized that it had also been lowered and set off slightly to the right of the church (facing towards the congregation – always surprised when it isn’t centered and elevated on the altar a bit since I think that should be the focal point of everything; guess I’m just a purist that way).
So I enter the church and settle myself a bit, and the service begins in the usual way. I find out that the celebrant is Msgr. Joseph Duncan, the pastor, and the mass would be co-celebrated by Rev. Denis Wilde of Priests for Life (we’re reminded that October is Respect Life month, which actually was the first sign of trouble).
The Liturgy of the Word portion of the Mass proceeds through the readings and to the Gospel (read by Wilde, Mark 10:51 I believe), and then he starts with the homily.
And, my fellow prisoners, I must tell you that I have never heard such intolerant, hateful garbage in my life.
Wilde spoke briefly about the Gospel reading, and of course latched onto the theme of blindness to blow all of the typical conservative dog whistles (“abortion on demand,” “culture of death” – sorry I can’t paraphrase all of them properly, but it was the most ferocious right-wing verbal assault that I’d ever heard and I don’t recall every word as I’d like). And Wilde is a polished practitioner at this sort of thing, going on for nearly 40 minutes and sounding syrupy smooth for most of his rant, though he chose to yell at us at the very end, presumably to exhort us into action (this nonsense may work for those Teahadist fools or “values voter” morons, but at the time, it did nothing for me but make me more pissed off than I already was).
As I debated whether or not I should get up from my spot in the middle of the pew, excuse myself and leave, I basically rubbed my hands together because I found myself so enraged that I didn’t know what else to do with them. I was far away from the altar so that rushing to the pulpit and wringing Wilde’s neck wasn’t an option (I wouldn’t have done that in church anyway of course, despite how awful Wilde was).
To me, though, the whole “respect life” thing is cover for the Church anyway. What they really care about (and the reason for Wilde’s appearance) is Election Day on November 3rd; we’re going to be voting for PA Supreme Court judges, among other contests. The court currently has a 3-2 Republican majority over the two Democratic judges, and Wilde and his fellow “pro-life” zealots want to keep, and possibly build on, their Republican majority, since they have had much more success on the state level than the federal level in trying to carry out their anti-woman (and anti-family, I would argue) agenda.
So what exactly can we do about this? Well, if you live in PA, you can support Dems David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty for the PA Supreme Court (more here and here).
Of course, since we’re talking about the Catholic Church, they can’t literally tell people to vote Republican or that would endanger their non-profit tax status. So they use code language, which Wilde did artfully, such as telling people not to vote “checkbook union” (not too much of a stretch to realize what political party THAT was aimed at – when I heard that, I REALLY DID want to run up to the altar and punch Wilde in the face…I didn’t of course partly because I knew I was in God’s house, and I also would be arrested).
Oh, and did I mention that on every occasion where Wilde uttered the phrase “a woman’s right to choose” (which he did about four times), he laughed? Also, he said at one point that 48 million unborn children had been killed through abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973 (choosing to forget, of course, the fact that abortions had been performed pretty much since the beginning of recorded time), and at another point in his rant, he said that 58 million had been killed…he should get his propaganda straight the next time he demagogues in public like this (and knowing someone like Wilde, I can just about tell you that there WILL BE a next time).
All of this made me curious about Wilde, so I did some searching online for both him and Priests for Life. You soon find that this group has filed innumerable lawsuits, particularly against the Affordable Care Law, to the point that, were you inclined to donate to the group (which I definitely am NOT), you probably would be paying for court costs and legal fees as opposed to anything that would be more germane to what should be the spiritual mission of this organization. And to me, this point was driven home by the fact that, as noted here, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York broke with Priests for Life and the group’s head, Fr. Frank Pavone, because the group would not submit to a forensic audit.
As for what you might call Wilde’s own “body of work,” he was once arrested with several others while protesting outside of the White House here, basically for refusing to obey an order to disperse while protesting the so-called contraception mandate of the already-noted Affordable Care Law. And what was Wilde’s response?
”Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested,” Father Wilde said.
Well, my guess is that the Occupy protesters were ordered to disperse and actually obeyed the law, unlike you apparently.
Also, as noted here (tied in a bit with the number of unborn supposedly killed by abortion since 1973, the number that got mixed up), Wilde tried to equate his pro-life efforts with the civil rights battles fought by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is a familiar refrain for these individuals (and of course echoed by at least one Republican Party presidential candidate, as noted here). I should also note that Wilde compared the death of Terri Schiavo to 9/11 here (in a quote from the article, Wilde used the phrase “the womb is the most dangerous place to live,” which he also used in his homily).
Another legislative priority for Priest for Life is the so-called “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which has passed the U.S. House, though it is currently blocked in the U.S. Senate (and which President Obama has, quite rightly as far as I’m concerned, promised to veto). Basically, the bill is a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks. And as noted from here…
Compassionate choices appear at a minimum in the House’s 20-week legislation, which contains no exceptions for women’s health or fetal abnormalities.
During floor debate last month, Democrat Louise Slaughter, of New York, called the bill “disgustingly cruel” and Democrat Jackie Speier, of California, talked about how it felt to “carry around a dead fetus for two days” while waiting to obtain an abortion.
And while the legislation has exceptions for rape and incest victims, women who have been sexually assaulted must get counseling – not from an abortion provider – within 48 hours of obtaining an abortion. (Two doctor’s visits can mean increased cost and days off from work, prohibitive mandates for many women.) Minor rape victims must report their assault to the police, and there is no exception for adult incest victims.
“There is no science or medicine behind 20 week bans – just politics,” Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards said in a statement. “The vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester – but that doesn’t mean it’s the only time a woman might need an abortion.”
As Richards pointed out in an interview with Democracy Now, abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare: “This is usually a situation where you have a very much-wanted pregnancy go wrong and where doctors and women and their families need the best medical care possible.”
All of this amplifies (as far as I’m concerned) the belief that, as Sister Joan Chittister O.S.B. tells us here…
“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
And that is something that Wilde, for all of his snake-oil-salesman-cleverness, will never choose to understand.
Try laughing at that, you disgusting fraud (oh, and by the way, after this episode, I’ll never enter St. Albert’s Parish again).
Update 10/29/15: Uh, yep.
Update 4/1/16: And I’m sure Wilde thinks this is perfectly acceptable too.