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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic attorney and pro-life activist is reacting to "establishment persecution" from fellow pro-lifers.
Shawn Sullivan, founder of the Apostolate of Divine Mercy (DM) in South Bend, is defending against claims from Women's Care Center (WCC), a pro-life center, that his apostolate protests in front of abortion mills while mothers are going inside.
Before the March 2016 closing of Women's Pavilion, an abortion mill, WCC objected to Sullivan's group, claiming it "protested" both there and at the Planned Parenthood facility in Mishawaka.
Sullivan told Church Militant that his apostolate "advocate[s] from the sidewalk. We do not protest."
He insisted the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and adoration in the chapel keeps "things very calm, and we rarely had protesters. If we are protesting abortion, it is not during a clinic's hours when they will be receiving clients with crisis pregnancies."
"We get a lot of friction from other pro-lifers," he told Church Militant. "And we're the most ... orthodox ... of the groups because we don't compromise, and we're not willing to fake anything."
This comes as the South Bend Common Council was unable to override a veto
on Monday for the rezoning request for a WCC near a proposed abortion mill, Whole Women's Health Alliance (WWHA), in the Indiana city.
All nine members stuck to their 5–4 vote cast April 23, which followed Mayor Pete Buttigieg's veto on April 27, rejecting
the pro-life clinic's proposal to rezone its property from residential to "office buffer" at 3527 Lincoln Way West.
But WWHA's license was denied
in January by the Indiana State Department of Health because it "concealed or omitted information" from state medical officials.
WCC's attorney, Richard Nussbaum, said Buttigieg's veto was based on the rationale that incidents of violence could arise from the placing of a pro-life center next to an abortuary.
But Jenny Hunsberger, vice president of WCC, told Church Militant
at WCC, "there has never been an instance of violence."
Mike Hamann, St. Joseph County Auditor, said
WCC paid $130,000 for the Lincoln Way West property in order to "block another group that has a more confrontational way of doing things."
DM and "the Sullivan situation," as Hamann described it in the South Bend Tribune, was going to lead to confrontation and protests.
DM had a purchase agreement in hand to buy the property next to the proposed abortion mill. Sullivan gave the purchase agreement and the price of $130,000 to the WCC because "that was what the Bishop wanted me to do."
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of South Bend-Fort Wayne wanted the property to go to WCC, which Sullivan agreed to
, "hand[ing] the deal off to the Women's Care Center and hav[ing] ... nothing to do with it since then."
However, Sullivan told Church Militant that Hamann "tried to scare [the] council people into not letting the zoning fail because we might then get the property."
Obviously, that is what he was trying to accomplish. But you wouldn't be able to get any traction at all if these rumors weren't spread beforehand. This was kind of how we were perceived. And Women's Care Center, as Hamann demonstrated, is a source of that kind of rumor-like behavior. Everyone should be doing things their way. We shouldn't be out in the streets; we shouldn't use religious symbols in the streets. We have gotten a lot of flak over that over time.
Hamann argued that WCC and Women's Pavilion "co-existed peacefully" for years before Sullivan opened DM, which Hamann alleged "kind of morphed from that into protests."
"He's just going to have people come there and stand and protest," Hamann told council members prior to Monday's vote. "That doesn't help anyone."
Sullivan emphasized to Church Militant that "we do not appreciate the attacks that we received from them." He also denied Hamann's claim that DM engaged in a bidding war for the property, calling it "fake news."
"Our concern would come from the fact that it really makes it more difficult for us to get volunteers," he continued. "It hurts our standing with the presbyters and the prelates."
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