NEWARK, New Jersey, Apr. 4, 01 (CWNews.com/LSN.ca) - Father
Peter West, a staff member at the Priests for Life group in
New Jersey, was recently physically thrown out of a
Catholic school hall while a pro-abortion politician was
being honored inside.
While not a Priests for Life-sponsored event, Father West
and a group of 15 pro-lifers protested the St. Patrick's
Day Parade in Newark on Sunday, March 18. Their complaint
was that pro-abortion politician Jim McGreevey, the
Democrat candidate for governor, was appointed grand
marshal of the parade. Father West noted that much of the
parade and events afterward seemed like political support
events for McGreevey.
Wearing stickers reading, "McGreevey Supports Partial-Birth
Abortion" and "St. Patrick Is Pro-Life," Father West entered
one such post-parade gathering at St. Patrick's School and
gave McGreevey a copy of the US bishops' document "Living
the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics,"
which McGreevey said he would read.
However, after the discussion, Father West was approached
by a woman who shouted at him saying, "How many children
did you raise?" A debate ensued with several Catholic
pro-abortion McGreevey supporters. Some denied that
McGreevey supported partial-birth abortion, but Father West
produced a newspaper article with a record of McGreevey's
vote on the subject.
West said that a man in plain clothes, who identified
himself as a police officer, accused him of harassment.
Then he and a companion were physically pushed out the door
nearly causing them to fall down a flight of stairs.
However, after strenuously pointing out the irony that a
Catholic priest had been ejected from a Catholic school by
abortion supporters as a pro-abortion politician was being
honored inside, the pro-lifers were allowed back into the
Father West told LifeSite, "I believe our first mission is
to the Church, and trying to convince our own people that
we can not have any compromise on this issue."
[Editor's Note: Below is the full letter sent out by Father Peter West explaining in detail the events above. From the www.priestsforlife.org site, Father Peter's biography reads:
Father West has been a pro-life activist since 1986. He earned an M.A. degree in theology from Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, CT. and was ordained for the Archdiocese of Newark in 1991. Father West was the founder and director of Amicus, a successful Catholic young adult group for men and women in their twenties and thirties. He also has experience in working with youth as a teacher and a youth group leader. In his pastoral ministry he has preached frequently on the topic of abortion. He has been able to dissuade women from having abortions, and has helped women who have had abortions to find healing and peace.
He spent almost seven years in pastoral ministry before being released by Archbishop McCarrick to serve with Priests for Life. Fr. Peter West began his ministry with Priests For Life on April 1,1998. As the newest addition to the staff he has begun to travel the country to spread the Gospel of Life. He will be speaking to groups of both priests and laity carrying out the mission of Priests for Life.
Below is his letter:]
Many of you have been emailing me to ask what happened at the St. Patrick's
Day Parade in Newark on Sunday March 18. You may have heard that I was
physically thrown out of St. Patrick's School hall. This is true. I will
give you a full report.
I was present along with about 15 other demonstrators at the St. Patrick's
Day Parade in Newark. We used our First Amendment rights to heckle and boo
pro-abortion politicians at the grand stand in front of City Hall.
We also passed out leaflets along the way to protest Jim McGreevey who was
chosen to be the Grand Marshal of the parade. As a State Senator in
McGreevey voted twice against banning the gruesome partial-birth abortion
procedure. The whole parade was one big Democratic Rally for Jim
McGreevey for governor signs were everywhere and McGreevey campaign
literature was passed out liberally.
Afterwards, I visited several gatherings at taverns where McGreevey's
supporters were gathered. I wore stickers which said "McGreevey Supports
Partial-Birth Abortion" and "St. Patrick Is Pro-Life".
One of the gatherings for McGreevey was at St. Patrick's School. It
particularly grieved me that the Church officials would allow the Church
be used by a pro-abortion politician. I don't think Jesus, who drove the
money changers out of the Temple, would allow himself to be used in this
Some of us pro-life protesters decided to pay $10 and attend the gathering
to talk to people and find out what was going on. Since this was obviously
a political event to support Jim McGreevey we were clearly not welcome,
at no time did we engage in disruptive behavior inside the school hall.
Other pro-life supporters remained outside with signs and passed out
One of the protesters who entered the hall with me was Larry Cirignano.
Larry is a resident of Newark and the Director of Communications for the
Catholic Alliance. This organization is run by Raymond Flynn, the former
Mayor of Boston and Ambassador to the Vatican during the Clinton
Administration. Flynn is a pro-life Democrat. Larry and I waited patiently
to speak to Mr. McGreevey and Tom Giblin - the New Jersey State Democratic
Chairman. Mr Giblin was also the Chairman of the Parade Committee.
(Remember the excuse given by Church officials to permit use of the
Catholic school hall was that this was not a political event, but a
cultural one.) I gave Mr.McGreevey a copy of the American Bishops
"Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics" which he
assured me he would read. He was going on to other gatherings, but assured
me he would be in contact.
After our discussion we remained peacefully in the hall until I was
confronted by a pro-abortion woman who shouted at me "How many children
you raise?" I answered her back and debated with several Catholic
pro-abortion supporters of McGreevey. Some denied that McGreevey supported
partial-birth abortion, but I had a newspaper article with a record of the
vote to show his vote on the subject. At this point they began to say that
I had no right to protest McGreevey's support of partial-birth abortion
because of what Catholic priests do to little boys in confessionals. I was
also accused of protesting the event simply because I wanted to help the
Republican Party. (Anyone who is aware of my record of protesting former
Governor Whitman would realize that that is also a lie.) A man in plain
clothes identifying himself as a police officer heard the commotion and
blamed it on me, accusing me of harassment. At this point I was physically
thrown out the door and shoved down the stairs. This same person earlier
ripped up a sign of another pro-life protester who was exercising his
Amendment rights as he peacfully walked along the sidewalk along the
route. His sign read "McGreevey: Herod's Hero."
One pro-life protester was worried that I would be arrested and grabbed me
and tried to get me to walk away, but I insisted that I was in my right
mind and that I had done nothing wrong or of which I was ashamed. I was
prepared to be arrested if necessary, but I wasn't going to walk away. As
I was complaining about being thrown out the door Larry Cirignano was also
shoved out the door even more forcefully then myself. In fact, he came
close to falling down the stairs. Earlier Mr. Giblin said that he would
give him a copy of the Parade Journal. We wanted the Journal to find out
what organizations were on the Committee that chose the Grand Marshal.
Among them were the Knights of Columbus and the Ancient Order of
Hibernians. When Larry was seen by a McGreevey suporter with the journal
they simply assumed that he stole it.
I argued forcefully with the security guards and others assembled outside.
I brought up the irony that a Catholic priest had been thrown out of a
Catholic school by abortion supporters as a pro-abortion politician was
being honored inside. Realizing the possible political damage this could
cause Larry and I were finally admitted back into the hall much to the
chagrin of those responsible for throwing us out. In fact, there was an
argument among them as to whether we should be let back in. One man told
to proceed while another kept shoving me back. Michael McGlynn of the
Ancient Order of Hibernians was finally responsible for getting us back
inside. We stayed there until McGreevey went on to his next gathering. At
this point most of hall cleared out. Other pro-life protesters, who
apparently went unnoticed told us that while Larry and I were outside
McGreevey's parents addressed the crowd to talk about their son's Irish
I do think we made our point, but I am afraid that this will not be the
last time that Church officials allow themselves to be the silent partners
of pro-abortion politicians in New Jersey. Church officials defended the
use of Church facilities for this event which they deemed non-political.
(If you can call this event non-political you can call almost anything
non-political.) I have no doubt that McGreevey will find a sympathetic
priest to host more political events at Catholic facilities. One priest
gave the opening invocation and two other priests marched in the parade.
When this happens we need to be there in force. Fifteen protesters was
enough to make a noise, but we will need many more to convince Church
officials that it doesn't make sense for them to allow themselves to be
exploited by pro-abortion politicians.
Father Peter West
(I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, ordained in May 25, 1991 I
currently live in Staten Island New York at Immaculate Conception Rectory,
but my home is in Fairfield, NJ. My home parish is St. Thomas More.)