Pro-life Catholic leaders reacted with shock and disgust at 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 in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the annual March for Life.
The group Catholics for Choice took responsibility for the images, which 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.
Ashley Wilson, director of communications and strategy for Catholics for Choice, tweeted an explanation of the group’s protest.
“I know that my faith teaches Catholics to honor personal conscience,” she wrote. “And yet, the Catholic hierarchy seeks to polarize pro-choice Catholics and villainize people who make the moral choice to have abortions.”
“I am tired of feeling shame and stigma for being a pro-choice Catholic,” Wilson added. “And I’m not here for people to judge my own personal relationship with God.”
At 6:42 p.m. EST Catholics for Choice tweeted “FACT: 68% of Catholics want #RoeVWade to remain the law of the land. The #MarchForLife & @usccb want folks to think they speak for Catholics, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
The images were first reported on Twitter at 6:31 p.m. EST by reporter 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 J. Cordileone of San Francisco tweeted. "Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen."
The attempted desecration is enormous. Diabolical. Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen. https://t.co/F89HCPnHUS
— Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone (@ArchCordileone) January 21, 2022
"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 President of the United States is the most prominent Catholic in America. He must condemn this immediately," tweeted CatholicVote.org. "His implicit defiance of Catholic social teaching on life has fueled this division in our church that activists are now exploiting."
Others were incredulous at the images they saw of the basilica.
"If this is real it is an atrocity. Support of murder projected on the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception???" tweeted Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas. "I pray that it is a fake photo photoshopped for evil purposes. If it is real it is horrible & even faking it is evil."
The provocative action by Catholics for Choice 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 Mississippi case 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 in Midtown Manhattan. "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.