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Catholic giant is awakened

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 7, 2012
  • Sarasota
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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

+ City manager search: ugh
“What you really need,” says Terrell Blodgett, an eminent public administration scholar and an adviser to El Paso, “is a strong mayor, a strong council and a strong city manager. But that’s easier said than done.”
Alan Ehrenhalt
Governing magazine, October 2004

On paper, the list of candidates for Sarasota city manager is down to five. But the truth is it’s down to two — James Chisholm, city manager of Daytona Beach, and Ed Mitchell, city administrator of West Palm Beach.
Of the five finalists, Chisholm and Mitchell and Barbara Lipscomb, former city manager of Casselberry, each received unanimous support from the five city commissioners to move into the top five.

But when you look over the resumes and experience of all of the finalists, it’s clear Chisholm and Mitchell are the front-runners. We’ll call Lipscomb a longshot, largely because her most recent bosses fired her this year because, as one of them said, they didn’t think she was the right person to take Casselberry, a city of 26,000 population, to the next level. No need to say any more.

The other two finalists are out-outsiders — from Texas and Illinois. While Sarasota’s commissioners are less than visionary, they at least understand that, all things equal, it would make more sense to bring in another outsider who at least is familiar with Florida and Florida municipal government.

Make no mistake, Chisholm and Mitchell are competent and experienced. Mitchell, nearing the 50-year age mark, has 25 years as a city administrator, all in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. Chisholm has 38 years as an assistant administrator and top administrator in Leon County, St. Cloud, St. Lucie County, South Padre Iland, Tex., Islamorada and Daytona Beach.

And therein lies the problem with Chisholm and Mitchell. With all due respect to their competence, they are professional government guys. So it is in their selfish interests, if they win the job, to perform in a way that pleases the five, don’t-do-anything-too-risky city commissioners. They’ll do what all government administrators do: Operate within a framework that won’t get them fired, but will be progressive enough to keep the elected commissioners happy.

Carry that thought a step further: Commissioners don’t want to go too far out on a limb either. They, of course, want to be re-elected and liked — tough, bold decisions be damned.

Whether it’s Mitchell or Chisholm, it doesn’t matter. They are not hired to be visionaries to set an agenda and vision for Sarasota; they’re just supposed to keep the water flowing, trash picked up and crime at acceptable levels.

And that is exactly why we urged the commissioners to consider seriously the candidacy of Sarasota banker Jody Hudgins for the job. With his banking experience, having loaned money to businesses his 30-plus-year career, Hudgins knows when an organization needs to be sent to the trauma center for radical treatment. He recognizes what the city of Sarasota needs and was prepared to work toward putting himself out of a job to do what city commissioners don’t have the courage to do.

To no surprise whatsoever, however, Sarasota’s commissioners made little to no effort to step outside of standard city-manager-search protocol and consider a private-sector individual, much less a respected local businessman.

We know how this story is going to play out. And once again, the commission is squandering the opportunity to put Sarasota on a course that has a vision.

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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