(OSV News) -- A confrontation May 26 outside the doors of a downtown Baltimore Planned Parenthood center left witnesses at a neighboring pro-life pregnancy center disturbed by the level of violence and praying for the recovery of the injured, both of whom were Catholic.
According to a police report, a 73-year-old man and an 80-year-old man were assaulted, one severely, outside of the Planned Parenthood in a building that shares a wall with Options@328, a pro-life pregnancy resource center operated by the Center for Pregnancy Concerns that opened in 2020 with support from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Several witnesses saw the attack, police said.
Preceding the attack, the suspect and one of the victims had a conversation concerning "pro-life" and "pro-choice" viewpoints, according to police.,
Gina Ruppert, executive director of the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, said her staff heard the commotion and medical personnel from the center assisted the injured men. Ruppert told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan newspaper, that the men who were assaulted are part of a regular group who assemble for peaceful prayer outside the centers that are on the opposite ends of the abortion debate.
"It was very upsetting," said Ruppert, a parishioner of Sacred Heart, Glyndon. "We often see confrontations but nothing at this level. Our ministry starts once people walk in our doors. We can't control the sidewalks."
"We are praying for the men who were assaulted and hope we have peace," Ruppert said.
The victims were identified as Dick Schafer and Mark Crosby, parishioners of Christ the King Catholic Church in Towson, Maryland, by their pastor, Father Ed Meeks, right before his Sunday homily May 28 for the 11 a.m. Mass. The parish is part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a Roman Catholic diocese with Anglican traditions for the U.S. and Canada established by Pope Benedict XVI.
Father Meeks said both parishioners go there regularly.
"Dick is there virtually every day of the week in prayer, passing out what he calls blessing bags, which are little goodie bags that he gives to the women entering the abortion bill to kind of connect with them on a positive level," the priest said. "Mark was there on Friday morning handing out rosaries."
The priest stated that both men were attacked "viciously" in an "unprovoked manner."
"The first thing he (the attacker) did was blindside Dick. He rammed into him from the rear, driving him into a large planter that sits down in front of the main entrance of Planned Parenthood," Father Meeks said. "Mark came to his aid, and the man took Mark and threw him to the ground and kicked him in the face, shattering the orbital bone around his eye and causing enough damage to his eye that Mark now has no vision in that eye."
The priest mentioned that Schafer had recovered enough to join the 9 a.m. Mass at Christ the King that Sunday, but Crosby's injuries are "much more serious."
"He's at shock trauma and is facing a number of surgeries to try to repair the damage to his orbital bone and to the eye itself, and trying, of course, to restore vision to that eye," he said.
The priest asked his flock to "storm heaven on his behalf."
"These two men were there doing God's work, and they paid the price for it. That's the world that we live in," Father Meeks said, adding that he spoke with Crosby a couple of times since the attack and "he's in very good spirit."
"Those of you who know Mark know that he would be. He's actually rejoicing that he's undergone this for the cause of Christ," the priest said. "But please do keep our brother in your prayers in the coming days."
Baltimore City Police public information officer Chakia Fennoy said in a May 30 email to the Catholic Review there were no updates on a search for a suspect.
Video footage showed the suspect shoving one of the men to the ground with both hands, punching him and then kicking him "with extreme force" directly in the face. The suspect then walked away.
Personnel from the Center for Pregnancy Center provided first aid to the two victims and the more seriously injured victim (reported by Father Meeks to be Crosby) was transported to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at University of Maryland Medical Center. According to the police report, the victim taken to the medical center was "diagnosed with a large hematoma, hyphema, and head and neck pain."
A GoFundMe page for Crosby has been set up by Dr. Jay Walton, president of Baltimore County Right to Life, who identified him as a volunteer for the organization. As of midday May 31, more than $37,000 had been raised, well over the $10,000 goal.