Pro-Life Workers Arrested at St. Petersburg, FL Cathedral
On Sunday evening two Pro-life workers were arrested at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg, Florida while putting flyers on windshields.
After explaining what they were doing to Cathedral staff, they were instructed to leave. When they attempted to finish a few more vehicles, they were arrested, hand-cuffed, and transported to the Pinellas County Jail on the charge of misdemeanor trespass.
Andrea is the wife of Randall Terry, a veteran pro-life activist and founder of Operation Rescue. Joseph Landry, a graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, is an intern with the Society for Truth and Justice, an organization founded by Terry to continue the fight for life from conception through natural death.
Members of the organization had been at the Cathedral all day, placing their flyers and holding pro-life signs on a public sidewalk.
“We were simply doing what the Church teaches us to do,” Landry said. “I’m still in shock that they would have us arrested.”
Terry added, “I was really surprised that the cathedral took this action. We were not just distributing flyers, but also talking to the people individually, explaining what we were doing. For the most part, we were well-received.”
Both Terry and Landry indicated they had wanted to settle the dispute in-house when confronted and not involve the police. According to Landry they attempted to enter into a discussion with the staff prior to their arrest.
Frank Murphy, Communications Director for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, told Catholic Online News that the two were arrested Sunday evening after several warnings had been given to the group during the day, telling them to leave the property.
Murphy indicated that the flyer they were distributing was part of the concern on the part of the cathedral. The content, at first glance, appeared to be racist in nature.
“The piece was intended to be incendiary and basically a satire,” Randall Terry stated. It featured a fictitious candidate named Smith who espouses owning blacks. Halfway through the six-page flyer the reader learns racist slant of the flier was a joke. It intended to establish that, as a Christian, a person can't support a candidate who supports abortion any more than one who supports slavery.
Terry, his wife and staff members of the Society of Truth and Justice are currently touring the major cities in Florida intent on reminding voters not to support candidates who endorse abortion.
Their primary target is the Republican candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, since the GOP has been historically pro-life. Giuliani, a Catholic, has stated that he is publicly pro-choice, a position not consistent with the teachings of his Church.
“I was shocked,” Terry told Catholic Online, “to see so many cars in the Cathedral parking lot with bumper stickers endorsing pro-abortion candidates. How can faithful Catholics vote against one of their Church’s more important values?”
Terry recently wrote and self-published a book entitled, “A Humble Plea” calling the Catholic Church and her bishops to be more assertive in the pro-life cause.
On Tuesday afternoon, he and the other members of his organization held a news conference near the Cathedral to discuss the confrontation.
Steve Pokorny, one of the members who assisted in the distribution on Sunday, said "Why would a Catholic priest stop pro-lifers from handing out pro-life material before an election? That's our question."
"They've [Terry and Landry] been told they can never come back to that church," Pokorny said. "That means they can never go to Mass; they can never go to confession. It's ridiculous."
When asked by Catholic Online whether the bishop and the diocese intended on following through and pressing charges, Murphy said that they would let the police continue to handle it.
Andrea Terry, along with her husband, have asked that the bishop, The Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, to drop the charges. She said, “I am the mother of four children who is doing everything I can to uphold the Church's teachings."
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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