CHICAGO (LifeSiteNews) — Pro-life leaders thanked a long-time Catholic pro-life activist who died recently.
Richard Freeman was active in pro-life efforts with Joe Scheidler’s Pro-Life Action League in the Chicagoland area.
He also attended my Institute of Christ the King mission church in Hammond, Indiana. Prior to that, he sang in choirs for the Latin Mass at a Carmelite monastery in Indiana and at St. John Cantius in Chicago. Great church music is what brought him to the Catholic Church and Latin Mass, he shared in a conversation a year ago at my house, when interviewed about changes in the Catholic Church post-Vatican II. He was a LifeSiteNews reader as well.
“I feel a certain sense of sadness as I fondly remember this great champion for the unborn,” Monica Miller, president of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society told me via email.
“Many years ago we stood together [sidewalk counseling] outside the Michigan Avenue Medical Center in downtown Chicago,” Miller said. She said that “undoubtedly there are human beings walking the earth today due to Richard’s pro-life efforts.”
Miller remembered the late pro-life activist’s “good baritone voice” and remembered Christmas caroling inside Planned Parenthood’s Chicago headquarters in the early 1980s. “We sung Coventry Carol— the song about the slaughter of the Innocents. There was a young woman sitting in the office wearing blue jeans — and she wept.”
Ann Scheidler, president of Pro-Life Action League, remembers how Richard and her husband Joe “would go around the Loop in Chicago plastering the light poles with pro-life signs. They used a sticky paste, climbed up on the little ledge at the base of the pole and put the sign so high up that it was difficult for anyone to reach it to take it off.” Because both were tall, they could hang pro-life signs higher than most people could reach.
“They would spend a couple of hours doing this, laying low if any police came by. They recruited other tall guys to help them,” she told me. “It was relatively messy work, so they began to call themselves the ‘Dirty Dozen.’ When we started having Pro-Life Action League fundraising brunches, we presented ‘Dirty Dozen’ awards to pro-lifers who were particularly courageous in on-the-street activism–sidewalk counseling, picketing, demonstrations, etc.”
It was at this time that the Chicago pro-life activists pioneered a method, familiar to many pro-lifers today, called the Chicago Method. Using this approach, pro-lifers would approach women entering abortion facilities and tell them about the lawsuits and other controversies surrounding it, with the ultimate goal of redirecting them to a pregnancy help center or somewhere else for further conversation.
The pro-life pioneers also pulled off a feat that would seem quite impossible in today’s environment where the official Democratic Party stance is in favor of abortion through all nine months of pregnancy – they convinced a leading Democrat in the area to stop abortions at Cook County Hospital, the taxpayer-funded hospital.
Cook County Board President George Dunne shut down almost all abortions for 12 years at the county hospital, saving thousands of lives.
“Joe and Rich and several other pro-lifers testified at a board meeting that they objected to tax payers’ money going for abortions,” Ann Scheidler shared with me. “Dunne was able to convince the board to end abortions at County Hospital. Dunne reasoned that if it was illegal for the state of Illinois to pay for abortions, then it was also illegal for the County to cover those costs.”
Freeman also advised Catholics who wanted to prevent the Archdiocese of Chicago from closing their churches. One of those churches was San Rocco Oratory, in Chicago Heights, where my grandparents attended Mass.
Originally demolished by Cardinal Bernadin, Italian-Americans in the south suburb rallied and appealed to the Vatican and eventually won the right to establish an oratory.
Richard Freeman will surely be missed.