Editor’s Note: This column was written before the author was jailed for refusing to acknowledge the validity of the Morgentaler injunction.
Today is August 2nd, and the papers are full of front-page news about the Chantal Daigle case. So much has been written and spoken recently about the Dodd and Daigle sad cases that I decided enough is enough and I would write on something else.
On the morning of July 26 about 250 rescuers and supporters met in the Primrose Hotel, Toronto. We had not expected so many owing to the holiday. But people came from as far away as North Bay and Thunder Bay and Sudbury. Rev. Steve Hill gave us our final instructions regarding procedure and behaviour. He and others stressed the importance of not retaliating, either physically or verbally, no matter what methods the other side employed. We prayed and sang a few hymns and then sallied forth towards the Scott abortuary.
Of course, word had leaked that we were coming so there were perhaps 40 pro-abortionists there to “welcome” us. They had formed a barrier in front of the building and so were unwittingly assisting us in our effort to keep the abortuary closed. That is the sole purpose of Operation Rescue.
I suppose we priests are somewhat spoiled. We are not usually the objects of vituperation. (I have just looked up the exact meaning of the word in the dictionary since I wrote it. It means to revile, to abuse, to berate.) That pretty well describes the verbal barrage which was directed at me from within about two feet. I was standing on the footpath and a young man – about 30 – and two younger women apparently singled me out as a special target. Perhaps it was my clerical collar. I rather hope it was. The “vituperation” was a choice mixture of blasphemy, crudity, vulgarity and hate. One of the young women pierced me with her eyes and shouted, “Why don’t you go to Newfoundland and join your buddies in jail there?” How low can you go!
Strange to say, perhaps because of the warnings we had received from Steve and the prayers we had said, I didn’t feel the slightest bit angry or offended. I just felt sympathy for these unfortunate young people who have been so misled in their values. I remember a lawyer friend of mine telling me that once after a case, the judge, who was a friend of his, said to him, “When you began to pound the podium I knew you were not convinced of your arguments.”
Just then – it was only 8:30 a.m. – a paddy wagon pulled up right beside me. A young police officer said to me, “Father, you are breaking the law. Please move.” I replied, “No, officer, I won’t move.” He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You are under arrest. Please enter the wagon.” I’m not good at going limp and I don’t like being thrown into a van head first, so I’ve joined the ranks of those who “go quietly.” I entered the wagon and sat down. I was followed by the Interim’s roving reporter Frank Kennedy and a few others. We seemed to be in the first-class section. There was a larger section at the rear of the wagon apparently for the more hardened criminals like Rev. Ken Campbell. He and about 15 others were herded in and we took off for 51 Division. Having gone through the usual preliminaries of having our names listed and superficial search, we were locked in a long cell with bare walls on one side and bars (not the Irish kind) on the other. There were 12 toilets with no doors. In other words, there is no privacy of any kind. I think it is part of the therapy.
At first there were about 15 of us and every now and then more were added as they were arrested until we numbered 45. Then the ladies began to arrive. Their cell was around the corner and they had to pass ours to reach it. Needless to say, we gave them a rousing welcome and even the police officers were enjoying the fun.
Religion-wise we were quite a mixture. I think the Baptists and Evangelicals were in the majority and quite a number were born-again Christians. There were two Catholic priests – Father Tom Lynch of Peterborough and myself – and a number of lay Catholics. I have to grudgingly admit that the Baptists and Evangelicals are much better at impromtu praying than the Catholics and they seem to know numberless hymns by heart. I believe that Ken Campbell has a secret loud speaker fitted somewhere behind his Adam’s Apple. He can be heard on the other side of the mountain! Ken led the prayer and the singing and the ladies joined in from the other side of the wall.
When we felt that heaven couldn’t take any more, we sat down and relaxed for a while. Then somebody began to tell funny stories – mostly against the Irish – and the prison rafters rang with laugher. In fact anyone passing would have guessed that it was an Irish party on St. Patrick’s Day rather than a pack of jailbirds receiving their just desserts.
Somebody looked at his watch and said, “Hey, it’s three o’clock and we haven’t been fed yet. They are supposed to feed us at mid-day.” We all felt suddenly hungry. One of us shook the bars like an angry gorilla and a policeman appeared. He assured us that they had just sent out for some food. After about half an hour it arrived. It consisted of hamburgers and tins of Coca Cola. The hamburgers tasted like cardboard. By this time the ladies had been released “foodless.” I think the police felt that they couldn’t ask women to eat such junk. But “hunger is a good sauce” and we men left nothing but the tins.
At about 4:30 p.m., we had finished eating. A police officer appeared at the gate, keys in hand, and told us to be ready to leave. Somebody – a Baptist no doubt – quoted from Acts 5, the text about the angel opening the gate of the prison and releasing Peter. The police officer didn’t look exactly angelic but he did the same job as the angel. He opened the gate. We were released in small groups as we had to sign something. Outside we were greeted by a large crowd of pro-lifers who had come to support us. We were hugged and kissed and clapped on the back and made to feel that we were really heroes – and it’s a great feeling!
What are we?
We pro-lifers have been called “fools” and “fanatics” and other even less savoury names. As the world sees us, so we are. But the view of the world is extremely short-sighted and the world sees events through a materialistic mist. The Christian horizon lies beyond the rim of this world.
A quote from Vaughan, the Auxiliary Bishop of New York, who has been arrested and jailed several times for taking part in rescue operations, is relevant. Speaking to a gathering recently, he said, “Is there a problem getting arrested? Morally and philosophically, no,” he answered. “Getting arrested didn’t come naturally to me. By nature I am not an exhibitionist and I shared the immigrant values of my family, and we just didn’t get arrested. And then I looked at my bishop’s ring, with three figures on it, Jesus, Peter and Paul. Each was arrested, tried and executed by the legal authorities of the time. Yet, each was innocent of the charges brought against him.” Quoting Matthew 25, the Bishop concluded, “We shall be judged on what we did for the least of our brethren.”
FROM PRISON – Fr. Ted says he can’t answer his mail now. He will pray for all his correspondents.