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DeSantis criticized for running ‘God made a fighter ad’ 

November 8, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appoints judges to Miami’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, March 27, 2019. / Hunter Crenian/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 8, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

An ad released by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign is being mocked for its religious content, which some have criticized as “blasphemous.” 

The black-and-white ad, tweeted out by DeSantis’ wife, Casey DeSantis, shows a series of images from the governor’s public and private life narrated by a man who invokes God 10 times in the minute-and-a-half-long video. 

“On the eighth day,” the narrator opens, “God looked down on his planned paradise and said: ‘I need a protector.’ So God made a fighter.”

Critics mocked the ad for being the “gospel of the Ron DeSantis re-election campaign.”

A day before the election, DeSantis is enjoying a comfortable lead over his opponent, Democrat Charlie Crist. RealClearPolitics shows him with a12% lead, based on the average of recent polls. 

The new ad, some speculate, may be intended for a possible run for the White House in 2024. 

Former President Donald Trump, too, seemed to see DeSantis as a potential rival. At a rally in Pennsylvania Saturday, Trump named him as a possible candidate for president. 

Declaring himself the front-runner, Trump said: “There it is, Trump at 71 [percent], Ron DeSanctimonious at 10 percent.”

Former RNC chairman Michael Steele issued a scathing condemnation of the ad on MSNBC’s Morning Show, calling it “ass-backwards blasphemy.” 

“I don’t need Ron DeSantis to be Christ. I just need him to be governor, and that’s the problem,” Steele said.

Steele, who in 2020 joined the The Lincoln Project PAC, a group of Republicans who sought to defeat Trump, also endorsed Joe Biden for president the same year. 

An MSNBC op-ed slamming the ad said: “Even if it is just a tease, like many far-right and authoritarian ‘jokes,’ DeSantis is not kidding around. The ad is dangerous and anti-democratic, and was meant that way.”

A spinoff ‘So God Made a Farmer’

As Axios first reported, the ad is a spinoff from the popular and beloved “So God Made a Farmer” speech delivered in 1978 by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey to Future Farmers of America in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Harvey’s ad began: “God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board. So God made a farmer.’” 

By contrast, DeSantis’ ad says: “God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, kiss his family goodbye, travel thousands of miles for no other reason than to serve the people. To save their jobs, their livelihoods, their liberty, their happiness. So God made a fighter.” 

In addition to mentioning God 10 times, the ad describes DeSantis as someone who will “advocate truth in the midst of hysteria” and “isn’t afraid to defend what he knows to be right and just.” 

“God said: I need somebody who will take the arrows, stand firm in the face of unrelenting attacks, look a mother in the eyes and tell her that her child will be in school,” the ad continues — referring to the governor’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic when most state lockdown restrictions sent children home from school for the long term. 

The ad continues to focus on the anonymous mother living during the pandemic. 

“She can keep her job, go to church, eat dinner with friends, and hold the hand of an aging parent taking their breath for the last time,” the narrator says, referring to hospital rules that prevented families from being near their loved ones’ sides while they died. 


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Florida bishop calls for prayers ahead of Hurricane Ian

September 27, 2022 Catholic News Agency 0
United States Naval Research Laboratory’s infrared-gray satellite image of Hurricane Ian. / Public Domain

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 27, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

As Hurricane Ian bears down on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg asked for prayers for “protection during the storm.”

In a message emailed to each parish in his diocese, and posted on the diocese’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, Parkes offered a prayer of his own.

“Loving God, maker of heaven and earth, protect us in your love and mercy. Send the spirit of Jesus to be with us to still our fears and to give us confidence in the stormy waters. Jesus reassured his disciples by his presence, calmed the storm, and strengthened their faith,” he said.

“Guard us from harm during the storm and renew our faith to serve you faithfully. Give us the courage to face all difficulties and the wisdom to see the ways your Spirit binds us together in mutual assistance,” Parkes prayed. “With confidence, we make our prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

On Tuesday afternoon the Category 3 storm struck western Cuba and headed into the Gulf of Mexico. While the exact path of the hurricane is not yet known, forecasters have issued warnings for the entire Gulf Coast. Current projections are for the storm to hit between Tampa and Ft. Meyers on Wednesday.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is, for now, to the north of the hurricane’s expected path, but dangerous flooding and damaging winds are expected for all of Florida’s west coast. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for coastal and low-lying areas.

Tampa officials warned residents on Tuesday to take the hurricane seriously, as first responders are not sent out if winds are higher than 40 mph.

With sustained winds expected to reach 115 mph, and gusts up to 145 mph, the National Hurricane Center warned that “locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

National Hurricane Center's track of Hurricane Ian, expected to make landfall onWednesday. Public Domain
National Hurricane Center’s track of Hurricane Ian, expected to make landfall onWednesday. Public Domain


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Pontifical Academy for Life honors lay Florida death row chaplain

September 30, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Dale Recinella (C) accepts the Pontifical Academy for Life’s Guardian of Life Award from Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (L) and Cardinal Wim Eijk (R), Sept. 28, 2021. / PAL screenshot

Denver Newsroom, Sep 30, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Dale Recinella, a Florida lawyer who has ministered to death row inmates for decades, was given an award honoring his service on Tuesday at the Vatican.

The Pontifical Academy for Life bestowed on Recinella its first Guardian of Life Award Sept. 28. In accepting the award, Recinella said he sees the honor as “a profound statement by our Church” about how important the lives of death row inmates are.

“When I have men [on death row] who want to become Catholic, I ask: why? And they say: because that’s the Church that wants me,” Recinella said.

In the mid-’80s, Recinella was working as a high-powered lawyer, first as a partner in a law firm in Miami and then as a supervising attorney at a “very significant law firm” in Tallahassee.

Though Recinella’s family life and career were stellar, by any measure, he began reassing how he had been using his gifts and his skills up to that point. A desire began to stir in both Recinella and his wife; a desire to give back.

So Recinella and his wife Susan got involved in a ministry to the homeless. At that time, one of the biggest problems facing the homeless people Recinella encountered was AIDS, and they ended up taking the state training, through the local AIDS service organization, to get certified to work with people with AIDS.

Eventually, the organizer of the ministry approached Recinella to see if he’d be willing to go even deeper.

“He asked if I would be willing to come to his prison and start seeing men that were terminal with cancer and AIDS,” Recinella recalled, speaking to CNA in May 2020.

“And what I didn’t have the courage to tell him was I’d never been in a prison, I had financed prisons on Wall Street all over the country, huge prisons, but I’d never been in one and had no desire to go in one.”

Recinella’s family helped to convince him that he should take the plunge in the early 1990s.

“It was Susan and the kids quoting Jesus from the Gospel in Matthew 25 that convinced me that if my faith was really guiding my life, that Jesus had said when we visited the least in prison, we visited him, but when we didn’t, we had refused to visit him. And so I figured I’d give it a shot,” he said.

It would be a couple of years before the idea of death row, specifically, really crossed Recinella’s mind, when he and his family ended up moving to the small town of Macclenny, Florida. That town just happened to be the home of the state’s death row prison.

Recinella was shocked at the harsh conditions he encountered when he first set foot in a death row prison.

“The very first thing that struck me, my first experience was, ‘I can’t believe we’re still doing this in the 20th century,’” he recalled, noting that despite the Florida heat, the inmates were not given air conditioning.

Ministering to condemned criminals has not proven easy. Recinella recalls being assigned to a serial killer who had killed young women of a similar age to Recinella’s daughter.

He found the strength to do it through conversations with a trusted priest and through the sacraments, he said.

“I was not ready to handle the spiritual challenges of dealing with the level of human suffering that we’ve experienced in street ministry, AIDS ministry, prison, ministry, and death row ministry,” Recinella said.

“And that’s what we’ve learned is: this is really meant to be done in ‘gangs’ if you will, by ‘gangs of Christians’ doing the gospel. And so we’ve had to make sure that we have a community of accountability that’s calling us to be honest with ourselves, and for me with death row, that is to make sure I’m dealing with the suffering in the way our Church provides for us to do it.”

Once Recinella realized he had a heart for prison ministry, he quickly realized that he could not continue to minister in death row prisons as a practicing lawyer. So, although he kept his law license active, he gave up the practice of law to minister to the death row inmates.

In addition to spending several days a week visiting inmates himself, he has also trained other people to do prison ministry, and has acted as a witness for nearly two dozen executions so far.

Florida, especially the northern part and the panhandle, falls squarely in the Bible belt— which consists mostly of southern states, with Baptist majorities.

Since 1976, nearly 90% of all the executions in the United States have taken place in this region. In fact, Recinella found during his research that just 2% of US counties account for over half of all the executions in the US since 1976. In recent years counties in Texas, Missouri, and Florida have routinely topped the list.

The fact that support for capital punishment remains so strong, especially in parts of the country where it seemed to Recinella that nearly everyone was Christian, troubled him.

So several years ago, Recinella wrote a book identifying 44 requirements of the death penalty when it was the law of the land in Israel— such as a ban on circumstantial evidence, treating all offenders equally, establishing unquestionable guilt, et cetera.

“I identified 44 absolute non-waivable requirements of the biblical death penalty that had to be met before it could even be considered,” Recinella said.

By contrast, he found that the death penalty, in Florida and the US, fulfilled none of those biblical requirements. Last year, Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine released a pastoral letter calling for an end to the death penalty, quoting extensively from Recinella’s work.

Recinella’s experience over the years has also shown him just how inequitable the death penalty can be— how it disproportionately affects people of minority races, and how those who are poor are less likely to be able to appeal their conviction.

For example, his research found that a prisoner is more than ten times more likely to be executed if it was a black defendant and a white victim, than if it were a white defendant and a black victim. In Florida, nearly 40% of the death row is black, out of a population that is 15% black.

“This is the real death penalty; it’s not the thing that the death penalty supporters think it is,” Recinella commented.

“The real death penalty is a monstrosity, it’s error prone, it’s full of mistakes and human failings, and yes, we get it wrong.”

Recinella says his years of death row ministry have led to many deep friendships, positive relationships with prisoners, and numerous conversions.

“Susan and I, since coming to death row, I think we’ve accumulated about 30 some either godchildren or confirmation godchildren, and those are long-term relationships,” he said.

“The Gospel brings us into long term relationships with the people who are suffering and who the world doesn’t want relationship with.”