April 5, 2001
volume 12, no. 95

Priest Ejected while Pro-abort Politician Honored

    NEWARK, New Jersey, Apr. 4, 01 ( - 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 school.

    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 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:]

Dear Friends,

    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 Trenton McGreevey voted twice against banning the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure. The whole parade was one big Democratic Rally for Jim McGreevey. 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 to 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 way.

    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, but at no time did we engage in disruptive behavior inside the school hall. Other pro-life supporters remained outside with signs and passed out literature.

    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 document "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 did 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 First Amendment rights as he peacfully walked along the sidewalk along the parade 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 very 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 me 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 roots.

    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.)

April 5, 2001
volume 12, no. 95
Pro Life News
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