Bringing roses to abortion clinic lands woman in jail

Mary Wagner, shown at her parents' home in B. C., is in jail because of her abortion protests.

BC CATHOLIC PHOTO | AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI

Mary Wagner, shown at her parents' home in B. C., is in jail because of her abortion protests.

January 26, 2015
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Mary Wagner is back behind bars after illegally entering a Toronto abortion facility armed with roses and pregnancy-help information cards.

Within half an hour of her arrival on Dec. 23, police spilled out of three cars and arrested the 40-year-old British Columbia woman, charging her with breach of probation, and mischief for interfering with a business.

Wagner has been in and out of prison in Ontario over the past four years. She spent two years locked up while her lawyer Charles Lugosi defended her in the Ontario Court of Justice on charges of mischief for interfering with a business and other minor charges.

She was convicted last June and he is seeking leave to appeal. Lugosi said the judge and the prosecution wanted to release Wagner on bail but she refused to sign an undertaking promising she would not return to the facility.

While Wagner is little known in Canada, she is well known in Poland where demonstrations have been taking place protesting against her arrest.

Hundreds gathered before the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw on Jan. 8 and more than 35,000 have signed a petition demanding her release.

Father Paul Nicholson, a priest with the London Diocese who has known Wagner for five years, drove with her to the abortion facility Dec. 23. They recited the morning office together on the way.

"I took her breviary from her and she went into the clinic," Nicholson said. "She went with her roses.

"She goes there to pray for a miracle: those are her own words, that the women will change their minds and the abortionist himself will be converted, and the abortion workers, also," the priest said.

"She willingly accepts the results of her interventions and she sees it as identification with the unborn child."

COMPLETE SOLIDARITY

"It's an act of complete solidarity with the victims of abortion," he continued. "She is the unwelcome intruder, just as the unborn child is seen as the unwelcome intruder. Mary becomes a visible unwelcome intruder into the debate."

The third of 12 children, Wagner grew up in a pro-life, Catholic family in a Vancouver suburb. Her mother said Mary did "rescue work" in British Columbia when she was in her mid-twenties and spent some time in the women's prison in Burnaby.

In 2011, she traveled to Ontario to "be in solidarity with Linda Gibbons," a grandmother who has spent years in prison for praying outside abortion facilities.

"I'm proud of her, but it's hard," said her mother. "Initially when she was young I found it very difficult."

At one point, Wagner entered a convent with the Sisters of St. John, a contemplative order. She was sent to the motherhouse in France.

Having a driver's licence, Mary often found herself driving the nuns to doctor's appointments, her mother said. "She was constantly confronted with signs for abortion in doctor's offices." Her daughter began to think, "Clearly God wants me to do something else."

JESUS AT CALVARY

Nicholson said "We have to love Jesus where he is not loved. In those abortion mills, he is being torn to pieces and nobody is at Calvary with him there.

"We already know there's a law there, that forbids us from going into private property but there is a far greater evil going on that trumps the privacy laws," he said.

Wagner visited Poland in October 2014, speaking in packed churches and halls. She also met with Czestochowa Archbishop Waclaw Depo and Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who gave her a first degree relic of St. John Paul II, her mother said.

In 2013, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and one of Pope Francis' eight advisors, visited Wagner in prison and celebrated Mass there. He remains a friend and has advised her to accept the invitation to go to Poland, her mother said.