ORLANDO, Fla. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic parish called the police on parishioners for holding pro-life voter education signs while on public property.
Concerned that the pro-life message isn't being preached from the pulpit, four parishioners took to the sidewalks after Sunday's Masses at Holy Family parish in Orlando to educate parishioners on the importance of voting for pro-life candidates. They held signs noting which candidates are pro-life and reminding Catholics that voting for pro-abortion candidates instead of a pro-life candidate is a mortal sin.
Church Militant spoke with Julie Dumois and Flora Moore, two of the parishioners holding signs on the sidewalk in front of the church. Moore said shortly after the first Mass let out, one of the parishioners stopped and told her, "Do you know Fr. John is in there texting the cops?" Moore told him she didn't care and the parishioner corrected her saying, "No, No. He's calling the cops in support of you, to make sure no one is harming you."
Approximately 10 minutes later, a sheriff drove up, looked at where they were standing and gave them the thumbs up sign. Dumois said the sheriff called her over and told her, "You girls are fine. You have a perfect legal right to be where you are. Carry on."
Dumois said the sheriff told her, "You know, your church called us on you." Clarifying, she explained, "The church called us out, because of you, because you're standing here."
Another source told Church Militant the "Holy Family vicar general" called the police because he was afraid Holy Family would lose their non-profit status because their voting pro-choice is a mortal sin sign was illegal.
Dumois said there was no way that the pastor, Fr. John Giel, who is also the vicar general for the diocese of Orlando, did not know who they were as they are daily communicants and quite active in the parish. Both Dumois and Moore confirmed that no one from the parish came out and spoke to them.
Dumois said she expected someone to approach them but never imagined their own parish would call the police on them.
Holy Family is one of the largest and wealthiest parishes in the area, Dumois explained. She said their previous pastor had been holding baby bottle collections for the local pregnancy centers that would raise thousands of dollars. He would regularly give pro-life homilies and held memorial ceremonies for the victims of abortion during the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children.
Three years ago, after he retired, Fr. Giel was assigned to the parish. He stopped allowing the fundraisers for the pregnancy center, stopped the abortion victim memorials and has prevented the pro-life groups from having their voter education materials in the church.
Dumois said a number of families have left the parish and are traveling to a parish 40 minutes away in search of the fullness of the Faith. Moore explained their small group has opted to stay and fight to keep their parish. The ladies explained they were given a lot of positive feedback from the parishioners leaving Mass.
Dumois said this may be the first year that the parish didn't meet the bishop's appeal goal. She said after Fr. Giel stopped allowing the collection for the pregnancy center, she stopped giving to the diocesan appeals and is instead giving it to the pregnancy center to ensure they can continue to help the 350 to 400 woman they see each month.
Sex trafficking and abortion in Florida are big problems, Dumois explained. Orlando has four abortion mills including a "mega Planned Parenthood with 27 surgical abortion rooms," she said.
In 2016, Florida had over 1,900 cases of human trafficking, a 54 percent increase over the previous year. As many of the victims are forced into prostitution, research has shown they are also forced into abortion. Fifty-five percent of women being sex trafficked have had at least one abortion and more than 30 percent had multiple abortions.
Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, recently blessed the pregnancy center Holy Family used to support. He live-streamed a tour of the facility to show the number of women they help and the ultrasound machines.
In 2016, Bp. John Noonan essentially banned Priests for Life from the Orlando diocese. In response to the Priests for Life national office's move to Florida, Bp. Noonan emailed all of the priests of the diocese advising them that they would not be allowed on any diocesan property or event.
Bishop Noonan wrote, "Before involving this group or any of those associated with it in any Church-related activities you are directed to consult with me personally. Please ensure there are no exceptions to this directive either by you, your staff or parishioners."
Sources have claimed Fr. Giel is close to Bp. Noonan.
Dumois said that Florida's mid-term elections are critical this year and the lack of information on pro-life issues from the Church is why their group decided to stand out in front of the parish. Dumois said she thinks about half the parish is not voting in accordance with Catholic teachings and they had been prevented from passing out leaflets to help educate voters.
Florida is an important swing state in the mid-term elections. In 2016, Trump won Florida by less than 2 percent and Republican Governor Rick Scott was re-elected with a margin less than 1 percent.
Their governor's race this November is pitting Democrat Andrew Gillum against Republican Ron DeSantis. Gillum is pro-abortion, and he is backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and population control advocate George Soros. CNN reported in the primary election, "Gillum got a late boost when liberal megadonors Tom Steyer and George Soros led a group that donated $650,000 to his affiliated political action committee."
Hillary Clinton just announced that she is planning to campaign with Gillium.
DeSantis is a self-identified pro-life "authentic conservative" Republican. He is backed by Trump and voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks.
Moore explained since they were banned from passing out their "501(c)(3) approved" voter guide pamphlets at any parish event, their signs were a small step to educate voters on the importance of voting for pro-life candidates this election. Priests for Life and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have a number of educational resources for voters.
Church Militant left multiple messages for Fr. Giel but have not heard back by press time.