A West Virginia priest is speaking publicly about his role in providing a funeral Mass and dignified burial for more than 100 aborted babies that pro-life activists say they rescued outside of a Washington, D.C., abortion clinic.
“I buried the babies myself,” Father Bill Kuchinsky, 62, a longtime advocate for the unborn who also runs the Catholic prison ministry for the entire state of West Virginia, revealed in an interview with CNA. He declined to disclose the burial location other than to say it was in a private cemetery.
“They are in a peaceful place and will be well cared for,” Kuchinsky said, adding that a “proper headstone” will be added, eventually. “They do have a large statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary looking directly over them for now,” he said.
CNA also found that Kuchinsky’s bishop, Bishop Mark Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, fully supports the actions Kuchinsky took to ensure the babies’ remains were treated respectfully.
“Father William Kuchinsky’s Mass for and burial of around 100 children aborted at a Washington, D.C., abortion facility follow a long Christian tradition of practicing the corporal work of mercy for the dead, honoring their physical remains and burying them with love,” Brennan said in a statement to CNA Tuesday.
“I fully approve Father Kuchinsky’s caring actions. They remind us that these were real human children, not lifeless things — until their lives were unjustly taken from them,” the bishop added.
Activists Lauren Handy and Terrisa Bukovinac of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) first told reporters on April 5 that they obtained 115 aborted babies from a driver for a medical waste company outside Washington Surgi-Clinic on March 25, with the intention of giving the babies a dignified funeral and burial.
Five of the babies, who appear to be of late-term gestation, were located and collected by the Metropolitan Police Department on March 30. PAAU says it arranged for D.C. police to collect and examine the babies, fearing that the babies’ injuries could be evidence of illegal abortions.
At the April 5 press conference, Handy, a Catholic, said that all of the 115 victims of abortion violence were given a funeral Mass, and that the 110 babies not in police custody were buried “in a private cemetery by a priest.”
While the priest remained unnamed at the time, Kuchinsky has since identified himself.
During the babies’ burial, Kuchinsky said he recited burial prayers, blessed the grave, and placed a crucifix on it, marking where they lie.
‘Deeply honored’ to be involved
Kuchinsky said that Handy first contacted him the day that she received the babies, on March 25. When he called her back, two days later, he learned about the aborted babies' remains.
“She asked that I come offer prayers for the babies in her apartment where the little ones were being kept in the refrigerator,” he said. “She said that would be good.”
Kuchinsky said he first met Bukovinac, an atheist, at the D.C. apartment where the funeral Mass was held on March 28. But he has known Handy from pro-life work for roughly seven years.
“I was deeply honored that she trusted me in the apostolate of the funeral and burial,” he said.
Kuchinsky said he suggested holding a funeral Mass when he arrived at the apartment. Eight pro-life advocates attended, including Handy and Bukovinac, he said. Four of the eight were Catholic.
“There was a great sense of reverence throughout our time together,” he said. “It was almost palpable.”
Kuchinsky said he saw the babies inside the refrigerator at the apartment.
“The door was opened for me to view them, but I did not take a close look to examine their mortal remains,” he recalled. “I saw the bigger containers with the five older babies and very many small denture cups holding the remains of the unborn terminated in the first trimester. They were stacked up neatly alongside the larger remains and in the refrigerator door.”
“At that time,” he added, “I really did not have a desire to take a closer look at these poor children” because he was preparing himself for Mass.
Kuchinsky said it was the first funeral Mass he can recall celebrating outside of a church. He slightly adapted the prayers, he said, because there were 115 children, instead of one.
“Lauren, Terissa, and maybe others, had named the babies and asked if the names could be read at Mass,” he said.
“I offered that perhaps we could make the prayers of the faithful especially for them. So, as usual, I directed the prayer to Our Heavenly Father and then the names were read in a respectful manner by them, like a slow cadence which gave time to briefly reflect on that name,” he added.
Following the prayer, Kuchinsky said he told those present that they could sing a song.
“What they chose was a beautiful song, not unsuitable to the liturgy, expressing a desire for a world without abortion and, if I remember correctly, for peace,” he said.
He remembered seeing “many tears” that day.
“These babies were loved by those present,” the priest said. The burial, he said, took place a few days later, on April 1.
In a joint statement to CNA, Handy and Bukovinac praised Kuchinsky for the support he has given them.
“We are impressed and inspired by Fr. Bill’s continuous courage on behalf of the unborn. In our greatest time of need, he was there," they said. "We will forever be grateful for all he has done to support us and to ensure we were able to keep our promise to the Curtis Bay whistleblower: to give a proper funeral and burial for these children.”
'I felt an obligation to them'
The priest said that, in this circumstance, there was no time to seek “special permission” from his diocese.
“I do believe that, as a priest, those permissions — the faculties — were mine to use for the benefit of souls and the faithful,” he told CNA.
Kuchinsky said he did have some concerns about the legal implications of the private interment but went ahead with the burial because his "overriding concern" was that their remains be treated with dignity.
“I remembered that these were babies who were murdered and being carted off to burn, possibly for energy, as ‘medical waste,'" he wrote in an email. "I felt an obligation to them, to God, and to humanity, to make sure they had a proper burial."
PAAU previously said that the driver of a medical waste disposal truck for Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services gave Bukovinac and Handy a cardboard box, which they later found to contain the 115 babies’ remains. Kuchinsky said he considers the driver a “hero as well,” adding, “I hope, if he is in need, he will turn to the pro-life community for help, for another job.”
In a statement, Curtis Bay, which operates a medical waste incinerator in Baltimore, denied its driver gave away any boxes from the clinic. The company also said its policy does not allow for the disposal of fetal remains. PAAU later released time-stamped images of boxes reading “Curtis Bay Energy” by the street curb outside of the abortion clinic. The group's members also have speculated that the building's security cameras may have captured video footage of the exchange.
Exposing the 'reality' of abortion
Kuchinsky said he wants people to know first and foremost that these babies “are loved by God” and that “Jesus desires to forgive, to save, and to heal, those who have chosen to kill their babies.”
“I pray that this opening of the veil into the abortion industry … and the reality of what abortion does: takes the life in a most gruesome way of a fellow human being — a truth we can see with our own eyes — in what the Church has called an ‘unspeakable crime,’” he wrote in an email to CNA.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which summarizes Church teaching, recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of the unborn human person and considers abortion a “crime against human life.”
Kuchinsky said he prays that the babies, and the photos of them, “may help to wake people up to the atrocities being committed thousands of times a day, that we might choose life.”
Kuchinsky went on to cite Pope St. John Paul II’s remarks from a 1987 address in Detroit: “This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival — yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn.”
'I have been changed'
Kuchinsky shared that he is still processing how this experience has affected him.
“It may sound strange, but I have been in a ‘mission mode’ to help the heroes of this story, to be with them as they mourn, to make sure everything I could do was taken care of … setting my emotions to the side to be there for the babies and their adopted family,” he wrote in an email. “But, it is safe to say, I have been changed.”
There is “trauma to be dealt with” from what he witnessed, he acknowledged. “May Jesus and Mary help me.”
Kuchinsky said he has been in sporadic contact with Handy and Bukovinac in the weeks since the funeral and burial.
“I am proud of the work they are doing,” he said. “PAAU seems to be responding appropriately,” he said, adding that the group is “providing a needed witness” by sharing images of the babies and calling for autopsies of the five later-term babies.
He added, “I can’t help but think how much more [we] as Christians, as Catholics with the sacraments and the fullness of faith could, and should, be doing.”
“How should the Christian community react to the mass murder happening around us thousands of times each day? Peacefully of course!” he stressed in an email, referring to abortion. “But, there is much more we SHOULD be doing given the reality of abortion and the grave harm it causes: dead babies, wounded mothers, and the culture of death.”
A pending investigation
Since the discovery of the five babies’ remains, lawmakers have sent multiple letters and pro-life groups have held rallies calling for a full investigation and autopsies of the babies’ bodies. Kuchinsky said he attended rallies outside D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower’s office and the D.C. medical examiner’s office, where pro-life groups believe the five babies are located.
The mayor has given no indication that the city intends to autopsy the remains. Instead of addressing concerns about the abortionist, she suggested Handy may have violated federal law. Handy, along with eight others, was indicted on March 30 for an incident unrelated to the discovery of the babies. The Justice Department charged her and eight others with conspiracy against rights and Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) offense after a protest they staged at the Washington Surgi-Clinic in 2020. Handy has pleaded not guilty.
While D.C. police previously said that the five babies were aborted in accordance with D.C. law, pro-life leaders are concerned that the abortions could have violated federal law prohibiting the killing of babies outside the womb.
Washington Surgi-Clinic, where PAAU says the babies’ remains came from, is operated by Dr. Cesare Santangelo, an OBGYN and well-known D.C. abortionist. In 2013, pro-life group Live Action released a video it secretly recorded in which Santangelo says that he would allow a child who survived an abortion attempt to die if the child was born during the procedure.
The Metropolitan Police Department told CNA that there were no updates to provide regarding its investigation as of Monday. CNA has contacted the Washington Surgi-Clinic multiple times for comment and has received no response. The D.C. medical examiner’s office is directing all questions to the mayor’s office, which has not responded to CNA’s multiple requests for comment.