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Our View: Catholic giant is awakened

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 6, 2012
  • Longboat Key
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Rare is the occasion when the Sunday bulletins at Catholic Churches forfeit their normally pastoral cover pages for a message like the one on the front of St. Martha’s bulletin this past Sunday (see below).

But the Catholic giant is fuming at Barack Obama and his abortion-contraceptive mandate, and this powerful giant is going to keep raging until it crushes the mandate and those in government who are leading the coercion.

For the second time since this controversy erupted in March, Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank J. Dewane issued a letter to his Gulf Coast flock, castigating the mandate and exhorting Catholics “to be doers and defenders of the Faith.”

We are reprinting Bishop’s Dewane letter below. We hope you read it. More important, heed it. He frames the issue mastefully. This is a test of our religious rights and freedom. It must be stopped. As he states:

“If we do not act, this intrusion into our basic rights and freedoms will go unchecked, and who knows what might be next.” Indeed.

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I come to you, once again, regarding the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate.

As you recall, despite religious and moral objections, the mandate still requires all employers to provide, through their health insurance plans, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives.

Unfortunately, the government has continued to defend this egregious violation of religious liberty, despite the outrage of Catholics, Protestants, Jews and other people of good will.

Most recently, 12 lawsuits were filed by 43 Catholic institutions from around the country stating that this radical, unprecedented infringement on religious liberty will not be accepted. After all, this great nation was founded upon religious liberty and freedom of conscience, not government intrusion.

The government has overstepped its role by forcing upon the Church a strangling definition of what makes an institution “religious” enough. Members of the Catholic Church are being treated like second-class citizens with second-class rights. Nobody should be forced to violate his deepest moral or religious convictions!

First and foremost, as your Bishop, I ask that you continue to pray and fast so that policymakers who have influence over the mandate will have a change of heart.

These prayers must also be turned to action. This past Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, reminds us that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and strengthened them in Christ. As Scripture states, many of those Apostles were later martyred. While possibly not called to be martyrs, we are called to be doers and defenders of the Faith. Let us send the message, loud and clear, that the Church will neither tolerate government intrusion nor will it be coerced into a political agenda!

Now is the time for action!

Two rallies for religious freedom, as part of a nationwide effort, will be held in the Diocese of Venice, both on Friday, June 8, at noon. One is being held in Sarasota at the corner of U.S. 41 and the John Ringling Causeway, and the other in Naples at the corner of Pine Ridge Road and Highway 4.

Having spoken at the March Rally in Sarasota, I will be speaking at the Naples Rally. It would be good to see you there. If Naples is too far, go to Sarasota, where a priest will speak on my behalf.

It was inspiring to hear of the positive response from the reading of my first letter to you on the issue of religious freedom. Your presence is needed now! And your voice must be heard! IT IS TIME FOR ACTION!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be united. If we do not act, this intrusion into our basic rights and freedoms will go unchecked, and who knows what might be next.

This opportunity is taken to extend to all of you my continued consideration and prayers.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Frank J. Dewane,
Bishop of the Diocese of Venice

+ New tone in LBK’s budget
On completing the first, quick reading of Longboat Key Town Manager David Bullock’s 2012-2013 budget, you almost want to give the guy a raise.

What a departure from history.

Instead of the tone of “woe unto us, we need to raise taxes because the property-tax sky is falling,” Bullock’s budget conveyed the tone of a town manager who calmly faced reality, figured out how to make his town government operations more efficient and is getting the job accomplished.

Mind you, we recognize the conditions Bullock faces now are not as challenging as they were a year ago, when the town’s property-tax revenues were expected to contract 4.5%.

Still, in Bullock’s proposed budget, even with property-tax revenues contracting another 1.5%, he delivered a budget with no need even to talk about increasing tax rates or millage rates. Contrast that with recent years when the Town Commission and town manager frequently partnered up for the annual do-si-do over whether to raise the millage rate.

Bullock instead proposed a $13,939,177 operating budget that cuts $27,607 from the previous year’s total. What’s more, he has proposed that in the face of a $192,384 drop in total operating revenues.

In years past, it often seemed like a dental drilling to read through the town’s bad-news budgets, often peppered with the figures of falling tax revenues and rising pension and health-care costs. Those three things are still expected to occur, but Bullock obviously took measures to ameliorate their effects. Check out some of these entries in his proposed budget book:

• Town Commission — (-$3,850, -11.3%) — “The reduction in the Town Commission budget is primarily due to the iPhones that were purchased in the previous fiscal year.”

• Town Attorney — (-$37,800, -9.8%) — “The town attorney … anticipates that based on the town manager’s efforts to keep legal costs to a minimum, there will be a significant reduction next year.”

• Police — (-$131,551, -5.7%) — “The town manager and police chief have decided to leave the unfilled police officer position vacant for the next year. The crime statistics and other factors will be reviewed to determine if the position should be filled for the following year.”

• Emergency Management — (-$11,050, -56.5%) — “The weather subscription service was eliminated as it was deemed to be redundant since there are many ways to get the same information at no cost. The Ready Alert system was also not being used enough to justify its cost and there are other ways to communicate this information at a lower cost.”

On this latter expense cut, when was the last time you actually heard of a government agency eliminating an expense becasue it was “redundant” or “not being used enough to justify its cost”? We just about fell out of our chair.

All of this positive direction is not to overlook a few trail crumbs that Bullock dropped in his budget message. He noted, for instance:

“There are no cost-of-living adjustments or merit increases for employees … I would like to revisit employee pay and total compensation during the upcoming year.”

In a similar vein, he indicated there likely is to be a new beach tax in the coming fiscal year to cover the debt service for the issuance of up to $16 million in beach bonds. And conspicuously absent was any discussion of more taxes to cover those unfunded pension liabilities.

For now, though, we’ll just enjoy the new budget tone.

Diocese of Venice Bishop Frank J. Dewane last Sunday urged Catholics to take action and participate in the national rally for religious freedom, protesting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services health-plan mandate for abortion drugs and contraceptives.
Time: Noon
Date: Friday, June 8
Place: U.S. 41 and John Ringling Causeway intersection


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