[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
Spanish
Brasil
Caribbean
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Church sued for 'hell prediction'
A coffin
The priest allegedly said Martinez was "living in sin"
A New Mexico family is suing its local Catholic church over a funeral Mass at which the priest allegedly said their relative was going straight to hell.

The family of Ben Martinez, 80, allege that Reverend Scott Mansfield said he was "living in sin," "lukewarm in his faith" and that "the Lord vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell".

Around 200 people attended the funeral of Mr Martinez - a local town councillor - at St Patrick's Parish in Chama, north of Santa Fe, last month.

Nine members of the Martinez family are seeking punitive and compensatory damages for severe emotional and physical suffering.

If you are Catholic and a representative of your church says your father is going to hell, that's perhaps the most devastating thing someone can say to you
Kathleen Kentish-Lucero
Family's lawyer
They say Mr Martinez had been a practising Catholic all his life, but was too ill to attend church in his last year.

"These people are profoundly hurt," said lawyer Kathleen Kentish-Lucero, representing the Martinez family.

"If you are Catholic and a representative of your church says your father is going to hell, that's perhaps the most devastating thing someone can say to you."

One of the plaintiffs allegedly said people in the town "are staring at her, thinking her father is in hell."

The complaint also said that as Father Mansfield walked to the grave, he laced his comments about Mr Martinez with profanities.

Church denial

Lawyers did not say how much the family was seeking in damages.

But church officials have denied the family's claims.

"We deny the allegations and Father Mansfield denies the plaintiff's allegations," said Celine Baca Radigan, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

She said that Father Mansfield has been moved to another parish on a routine transfer.

Lawyers for the Martinez family said they had filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe and one of its priests.




SEE ALSO:
Catholics asked to vote for faith
16 Apr 03  |  Scotland
US Catholic bishop quits
18 Jun 03  |  Americas
Court rejects Church sex suits plea
20 Feb 03  |  Americas



PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific