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The News You May Have Missed

April 2013



Lethal Literalism

Five snakes were confiscated by Tennessee wildlife officials from Pastor Jamie Coots as he drove the reptiles through Tennessee to his church in Kentucky. Coots handles snakes as part of worship services at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church, and he’s fighting for the return of the three rattlesnakes and two copperheads he bought in Alabama for $800 (Associated Press, Feb. 13). He faces charges of transporting illegal reptiles, but Coots meant no harm: He thought he “had 24 hours to transport through or in and out of Tennessee.” He says his need for the snakes is biblical. Mark 16:17-18 states, “And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents,” and Coots takes that at face value. “We literally believe they want us to take up snakes,” he says. “We’ve been serpent handling for the past 20 or 21 years.”

The Alligators Are Alright

Responding to the concerns of a conscientious parishioner, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond assured him that it is permissible to eat alligators on Fridays in Lent, and his approval has been backed by the U.S. bishops’ conference. Archbishop Aymond agreed with the parishioner that the alligator is a “magnificent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana” and is also “considered seafood.” The bishops’ conference website on “Lent and Lenten Practices” explains the rationale behind Archbishop Aymond’s declaration: “Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat…. Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles (cold-blooded animals), and shellfish are permitted.” Since alligators are reptiles and therefore cold-blooded, their flesh does not count as “meat.” Other reptiles that could presumably be consumed on Lenten Fridays include turtles, snakes, and tortoises (Catholic News Agency, Feb. 15).

Holy Autographs

Joanne Murphy, an amateur book restorer and volunteer for the Sacramento Public Library, saw an old Bible in a pile of donated books but let it sit awaiting restoration. After finally getting around to looking through it, she noticed that the inscription page read “Pirates” and “1953,” followed by a long list of signatures. Checking the signatures, she recognized a name: Joe Garagiola. Her husband recognized several others. The Bible, it turned out, had belonged to baseball legend Branch Rickey, the executive who hired Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1953 Rickey was president of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was also a devout Methodist who allegedly never played in, managed, or attended a game on a Sunday. Murphy tracked down one of Rickey’s grandsons, who didn’t know how the Bible might have ended up in the library warehouse. The newly repaired book will be put on display (nbcnews.com, Jan. 28).

Five Boys in Two Years

In mid-February Tressa Montalvo, a 36-year-old Texas mother, gave birth to two sets of identical twin boys, delivered at 31 weeks (Yahoo News, Feb. 19). She says that she and her husband, Manuel, weren’t using any fertility drugs; they had just hoped for a sibling for their two-year-old son, Memphis. The Montalvo babies technically aren’t quadruplets. They’re two sets of twins: two boys shared one placenta and the other two shared another. The odds of such an arrangement naturally occurring are around one in 70 million. Ace, Blaine, Cash, and Dylan were born within minutes of one another and weighed in at three to four pounds each. “We tried to stick to the A-B-C-D theme when naming them,” Mrs. Montalvo said. Mr. Montalvo told the press that they’re not done yet: He still wants a girl.


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