To The Barricades?

03-19-2023Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

The US Attorney General, recently testified before Congress and was grilled on the case of Mark Houck. Mr. Houck, a prolife advocate got into a scuffle with a pro-abortionist, who was saying vulgar and foul things to Mr. Houck’s 12yr old son while he and his son were protesting in front of an Abortion Clinic in Philadelphia. The local prosecutor declined to press charges, but the Federal Prosecutor decided to charge Mr. Houck with violations of the FACE Act which “prohibits violent, threatening, damaging, and obstructive conduct intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with the right to seek, obtain, or provide reproductive health services.” Mr. Houck volunteered to surrender to the Federal Prosecutor but instead, the Prosecutor sent in a SWAT team with over two dozen heavily armed agents to arrest Mr. Houck early in the morning at his home where he lived with his wife and seven children. A Federal Jury acquitted Mr. Houck of all charges.

The Federal Prosecutor had to know that the charges were extremely thin and probably would not stick. So why the grand display of force against a man who already agreed to cooperate and who did not have a violent history or criminal record? Intimidation. I am sure the Prosecutor wanted Mr. Houck and profilers in general to think carefully about the price they might pay for standing up for the Unborn. Do you really want a few dozen heavily armed Federal agents raiding your house early in the morning while your young children are getting ready for school? Do you really want to subject your children to that sort of trauma? Are the children thinking “every time my father prays in front of an Abortion Clinic is our house going to get raided again by Federal agents with long guns?” Do you want to face bankruptcy trying to defend your First Amendment right to protest? That seems to be what the Government wants to see happen. Our Justice system is putting its finger on the scale of justice against the Pro-Life Movement.

The Latin Mass may have been a threat to the Roman Empire in the First and Second centuries, but now? The fact that the Catholic Church is very diverse doesn’t seem like reason to conclude that it is infiltrated with revolutionaries. And besides, what evidence is there that traditionalist Catholic parishes are populated with extremists and white supremists? These canards come directedly from groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which labels traditional Catholics as a ‘hate group’ and publications like Salon and The Atlantic, which consider anyone who is not them a radical extremist.

But the very existence of such an FBI Memo itself, sows the seeds of division. If I attend the Latin Mass, is the person sitting next to me an FBI informant? Am I being monitored by the FBI just because of my liturgical tastes? The last thing you would want in any community is to create division and suspicion but then again maybe that is exactly what the Government wants to do. In addition to all that, the Memo doesn’t exactly bolster trust in the FBI among religious people. The FBI might not like it, but democracy is messy, dissent is a constitutive part of a healthy society. We were able to get Roe overturned not because we raided the Supreme Court with a SWAT team but because we peacefully made the case, through our elected representatives that abortion was incongruous with the US Constitution.

So, is it time to man the barricades? Well, yes and in this sense: we must push back and defend our First Amendment protected activities and not allow intimidating tactics to be used by our government. Such tactics are the very antithesis of our freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights and have a very chilling impact on our free society. If we cower in intimidation, telling ourselves “I don’t want any trouble” we will see ourselves living under a reign of terror.


Fr. John B.