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Mary Wagner stands with supporters outside the courthouse after her release June 12, 2014. Tony Gosgnach / LifeSiteNews.com
Tony Gosgnach

Pro-life prisoner Mary Wagner found guilty, but released

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach
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Mary Wagner stands outside the courthouse June 12, 2014 right after her release. Tony Gosgnach / LifeSiteNews.com

TORONTO – After almost two years, Mary Wagner’s marathon trial on charges of mischief and failure to comply with probation orders finally came to an end in a north Toronto courtroom Thursday afternoon, with her stepping out to freedom amid hugs and congratulations from about three dozen supporters. But the case is far from over.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell found her guilty on all counts and sentenced her to five months in jail on the mischief charge and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders. He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because the time spent in jail exceeded the sentence, she was freed immediately.

The charges related to her entry of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 12, 2012 and an attempt to speak to abortion-bound women there. She was arrested, charged and has spent the duration of the following time in jail, the majority of it due to her refusal, for reasons of conscience, to agree to bail conditions that stipulated she stay away from abortion sites pending conclusion of the trial.

“I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many contributions you’ve made spiritually, financially, through letters, through word of mouth. Thank you.” 

Stepping out into the sunshine on a warm and windy day, Wagner remarked that the wind was something she noticed right away.

“The wind is something we don’t experience much in jail … because there’s a high wall around us,” she told LifeSiteNews. “The first thing that struck me was the wind. I feel free, inside and out, and it’s beautiful to see the people again – the good friends on the outside we’ve been separated from for a long time. So thanks be to God.”

She said although there were some difficult times in jail, it was nonetheless “fruitful in many ways, because a lot of people there are hungry for God and are looking to reach out to Him. I was constantly meeting women wounded by abortion and encouraging them to seek the mercy of God.”

She said she saw the time as “an opportunity for the Holy Spirit really to be at work in hearts that are broken, seeking and are open to God. So quite easily, prayer groups formed and people asked why I was there, why I was in jail. Immediately, I had the chance to share the truth about the wound of abortion.”

She estimated some 80 percent of the women she met in the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton had undergone an abortion and of those, 90 percent said they regretted it. “I would love to see more of a connection between the outside world and the inside world for women who are hurting,” she said. “Maybe just by penpals or visits and that, because a lot of them don’t have connections with somebody in their lives anymore.”

Wagner confirmed that she and her defence team will appeal the verdict. “Ultimately, the victory is not so much in the courts,” she said. “Of course, we’re going to seek justice for the children through the courts, but regardless, the call to love our neighbor who is in distress, who is in imminent danger remains. So I hope, God willing, to continue to reach out to the mothers and children who are in danger.”

She paid tribute to her lawyer, Dr. Charles Lugosi, who was joined by a co-counsel for the last several hearings thanks to monies raised for her defence fund by pro-life supporters. Lugosi continued “to persevere, continuing his research without funding. … This case was not widely known for the longest time,” she said. “But he continued to work very hard. … He’s put forth tremendous effort with great integrity in continuity with true justice and with our faith as well.”

“I’m very grateful for Charles’s work and for the support of all who have contributed through their prayers and financial contributions, large or small,” she said. “I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the many contributions you’ve made spiritually, financially, through letters, through word of mouth. Thank you.”

As a devout Catholic, her immediate plans were to attend Mass that evening and then head to the west coast of Canada to see her family. “The last time I saw my family … for the most part, was over two years ago. I hope, after a few days here, to go back to the coast and spend some time with them and then take some time to pray in solitude … and be open to God’s will.”

Prior to the verdict, Lugosi made final submissions before O’Donnell, arguing that the constitutionality of Section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states a human being begins only when he or she has emerged in a breathing state from the birth canal, has not been considered in any of the previous abortion-related cases before the Supreme Court, including the pivotal 1988 Morgentaler one.

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He had previously argued unsuccessfully that expert witnesses should have been allowed to testify at the trial as to the humanity of the pre-born. As well, he pointed out there were inconsistencies between the Supreme Court’s findings in the Morgentaler case and those in the euthanasia-related Rodriguez and Carter cases, where the court enunciated certain value-of-life statements.

“In both Carter and Rodriguez, the courts affirmed the unconstitutionality of involuntary euthanasia – involuntary death through deliberate medical intervention,” he said. “Why not be consistent and decide that involuntary abortion of the unborn child is also unconstitutional?”

“It is beyond the competence of Parliament to define whether a child is or is not a human being,” Lugosi continued. “The expert evidence is conclusive that a new human being begins at conception and-or fertilization and that abortion kills a human being, as a matter of reality.”

“It is a violation of natural law, the rule of law, the supremacy of God, the unwritten Canadian Constitution and the Constitution Act, 1982, for the judicial branch of government to abdicate to members of the legislative branch or executive branch of government, the absolute, untrammeled right to use legal definitions to exclude any class or individual human beings from the legal protections shielding all innocent human beings from a fatal assault intended to cause death,” he added.

Wagner’s defence rested on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which allowed for actions in the defence of other human beings. It was the defence’s intention to demonstrate that the unborn at the Women’s Care Clinic on August 12, 2012 were, in fact, human beings under Wagner’s care and protection.

“As a matter of reason, a child is the same human being one second before birth and one second after being born alive. Location of the child, in or out of the womb, is irrelevant. What matters is scientific truth, free from corrupt and biased thought that seeks reasons to justify the death of an innocent child.”

Lugosi also appealed to Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, “not just to believe, but also to act, in the free exercise of these rights. Without the free exercise of these rights, these rights are meaningless. The rule of law has a moral component consistent with natural law and to deny the defendant’s defence is to subvert the rule of law and the superiority of natural law.”

Wagner saw her actions, concluded Lugosi, as legal, consistent with the entire constitution of Canada, the common law, the rule of law, and the supremacy of God.

In a rebuttal, Crown attorney Tracey Vogel argued the medical evidence intended to be put forth by the defence was “irrelevant” and that the two expert witnesses slated to testify, and whose will-say statements were put before the court, were not impartial. “This does not assist a live issue before the court,” she said. “The evidence is not true.”

The bottom line, Vogel continued, was that Wagner admitted the elements of both sets of offences she was charged with, interfered with the operation of a “private medical clinic,” had no reason to be there and caused “great upset” to patients, their families, and friends.

In his verdict, O’Donnell acknowledged abortion is a subject of great controversy and one over which there has been much previous litigation. He decided, however, there was no possibility of the success of Wagner’s argument, as the defence of necessity was not valid on account of her failure to use other avenues at her disposal for opposing abortion.

On sentencing, O’Donnell noted there was nothing he could say that would modify Wagner’s behavior. He acknowledged it was not his place to judge her strongly held beliefs; however, he observed her approach was not necessarily respectful. He encouraged her to think about whether her 22 months spent in prison might have been better used advancing her cause in a more effective manner.

He cited Wagner’s “very stubborn streak” and said it was his role as a judge to emphasize rehabilitation, deterrence, and denunciation so that the sentence resonated with her and others. Although he said abortion is a very polarizing issue, he added the Canadian way is one of compromise. Allowing either side of a controversial issue to break the law only encourages others to feel they can do so. The kind of “havoc” Wagner caused in August 2012 had to be circumscribed with further probation orders, he said.

The defence has 30 days to file a notice of appeal in the case. Reasons for a number of O’Donnell’s judgements during the trial, including disallowing public funding of Wagner`s defence and the testimony of expert witnesses, are still forthcoming.

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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