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Thousands gather in L.A. archdiocese to celebrate St. Oscar Romero

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 15, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Thousands of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gathered in the cathedral on Sunday to celebrate as Oscar Romero was canonized in Rome.

St. Oscar Romero was canonized by Pope Francis Oct. 14, together with six other new saints. That same day, an estimated 3,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles for a Mass and celebrations.

Romero, who was the archbishop of San Salvador in the late 1970s, had been a major voice in defense of human rights for the Salvadorian people, especially during the early stages of the country’s civil war.

Before the liturgy Sunday, Salvadorians performed traditional dancing, while clips of Romero’s recorded homilies and speeches could be heard over the loudspeakers.

The inside the Cathedral was decorated with images and photographs of the newly minted saint, including a picture of Romero during one of his famous radio broadcasts and an image of the 250,000 mourners who attended his funeral at San Salvador’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

The Mass was celebrated, in Spanish, by Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar. The homily was given by Deacon Ricardo Villacorta, a Salvadorian immigrant who left the country during its civil war.

Saint Oscar Romero was shot while celebrating Mass in March, 1980, during the country’s escalating civil war. Romero was an outspoken critic of political injustice in the country and of the violence affecting the lives of ordinary Salvadorians. 

In a homily the day before he was martyred, Romero admonished soldiers to follow God’s law over the orders of their superiors.

“This was a very brave act: He told soldiers they have to act from their morals, and not just follow directions from their superiors,” said Rich Villacorta, son of Deacon Villacorta and an archdiocesan employee, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Doris Benavides, associate director of media relations for the archdiocese, told CNA that a

majority of the attendees were Salvadorian. She said that after Mass many participants reflected about the difficult years of violence in their home country and spoke of their closeness to the new saint.

“Very touching,” she said. “I think it was one of the most joyous, happy Masses I’ve seen…even when they were reminiscing and talking about the past they were really happy, happy now that they have a saint that…many of them knew, many of them touched.”

The Archdiocese has a large community of Salvadorians, about 200,000 people, said Benavides, noting that some of these people sought refuge in United States during the civil war, had worked with Romero during his time of ministry, and had even received the sacraments from the new saint.

“These are people who were the poor,” she said. “At that time, even when the Church was going through many phases and difficult times [of the war], they felt the presence of their Archbishop.”

Benavides said that Catholic Charities of Los Angeles continued to welcome refugees from El Salvador, and several other countries experiencing political turmoil. She said that although their reasons for seeking asylum may be different, these people had access to legal, housing, and financial help through the help of the archdiocese.

“The war today is hunger, poverty, and organized crime. So people are running away from the country still. They are seeking asylum again, for other reasons.”

Washington archdiocese releases the names of 28 accused clergy

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as Archbishop of Washington, the D.C. archdiocese has released the names of 28 former clergy of the archdiocese who had been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1948.

Three priests of religious orders who had previously served in archdiocesan parishes or schools were also included in the release.

The posting of the names on the archdiocesan website Oct. 15 marks the first significant act by Cardinal Wuerl as interim administrator of the archdiocese which he led until Friday, and is the culmination of an internal review of archdiocesan files first ordered by Wuerl in 2017.

“This list is a painful reminder of the grave sins committed by clergy, the pain inflicted on innocent young people, and the harm done to the Church’s faithful, for which we continue to seek forgiveness,” said Cardinal Wuerl. He also noted that there had not been a credible allegation of abuse of minors against a Washington priest in nearly twenty years.

“Our strong commitment to accompany survivors of abuse on their path toward healing is unwavering, but it is also important to note that to our knowledge there has not been an incident of abuse of a minor by a priest of the archdiocese in almost two decades. There is also no archdiocesan priest in active ministry who has ever been the subject of a credible allegation of abuse of a minor.”

A press release by the archdiocese underscored the existing safeguarding policies in place in Washington, which include an annual, independently audited report on its child protection work posted on the archdiocesan website and in the Catholic Standard newspaper.  

Kim Viti Fiorentino, Chancellor and General Counsel for the archdiocese, said that while survivors of abuse should remain the first concern of everyone, it was also important that Catholics in the capital’s archdiocese understood the efforts being made to ensure that “there is no safer place for a young person than in an Archdiocese of Washington parish or school.”

The Archdiocese of Washington adopted its first a written child protection policy in 1986, with a Case Review Board operating since 1993. Following the adoption of the Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, the archdiocese has also had a Child Protection Advisory Board with a majority of lay experts as members since 2002.

While the release of the names of credibly accused clergy comes at the end of a year-long process of review, it is final authorization by Cardinal Wuerl as archdiocesan administrator instead of archbishop makes for a conclusion few would have foreseen only months ago.

Ordinarily when a diocese is between bishops and under the care of an administrator the principle of nihil innovator  - nothing new - applies, though in this case Cardinal Wuerl was not so much innovating as bringing to a close work he had already begun.

 

This article has been udated to reflect a clarification by the Archdiocese of Washington made after publication.

Pittsburgh Diocese begins years-long parish consolidation process

Pittsburgh, Pa., Oct 15, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An interim Mass and confession schedule went into effect Oct. 15 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh as the six-county diocese moves to condense its parishes into groups, with the eventual goal of creating new multi-site parishes.

Bishop David Zubik announced in May that the 188 parishes of the Pittsburgh Diocese would be combined into 57 multi-parish groups. After parishioners from each former parish build relationships with each other, each group will become a new parish between 2020 and 2023. Parish groups have been assigned a designation of A, B, or C, with the goal of forming a new parish within two, three, or five years respectively.

A team of clergy, led by a pastor and including parochial vicars, parish chaplains, and deacons, will serve the needs of each parish group during the transition, with retired priests assisting as they are able. The number of Masses available each weekend will depend on the number of priests assigned to each group, since no one priest may celebrate more than three Masses per Sunday according to canon law.

Though Bishop Zubik has not yet specified which church buildings will remain open and which will close, the parish groupings include recommendations for the total number of buildings and priests the group should share. Each new parish could eventually consist of multiple church buildings, but the clergy leaders of each individual group will be ones to make that recommendation to the diocese.

The Pittsburgh Diocese last went through a major restructuring during 1989-98, when the diocese shrank from 310 parishes using 333 buildings to 218 parishes using 288 buildings, according to Trib Live.

The current consolidation plan is a response to declining Mass attendance overall and the financial struggles of some parishes. Materials provided by the diocese show Mass attendance down nearly 40 percent across the board since 2000.

In addition, the diocese had 338 parish priests in active ministry in 2000, compared with 211 in 2016 and 178 today. The diocese estimates that with priestly retirements and an average of four ordinations per year, the diocese will have just 112 priests by 2025.

The purpose of this restructuring, spokesman Father Nicholas Vaskov said in a statement, is “transitioning from maintenance into ministry and mission”: a shift from pouring resources into church buildings that may not be having success and putting those resources toward ministry and evangelization.

A five-year diocesan planning initiative called “On Mission for the Church Alive!” began in April 2015 with a year of prayer for the whole diocese. Since the second year of the program, over 300 parish consolidation meetings have been held and more than 30,000 religious, clergy and laity have participated and offered input.

The diocese used a list of 21 criteria developed after the meetings to create the parish groups. The criteria specified, among other things, that the parish groups should not exceed one priest per 2,400 Sunday Mass attendees, and that the groupings must allow enough space for new Sunday Mass attendees, and anticipate sustainable growth for the next 20 years. In addition, parishes in dire financial need would not be grouped with other struggling parishes, and nor would affluent parishes be grouped together, unless a sound alternative financial plan is put forward.

The current plan to consolidate was conceived prior to the Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report that uncovered sexual abuse allegations against 300 Pennsylvania priests - including 99 from Pittsburgh - dating back to 1947.

Bishop Zubik told CNA in May that he hopes that this consolidation of communities will be an effective tool for evangelization, generating excitement within the Church and strengthening resources to be used for outreach programs.

“By consolidating the resources of parishes in a grouping, what we’ll do is make sure every parish has all of the programs that it needs to be a parish so every parish will have a religious education program, every parish will have some association with a Catholic school, every parish will have an organized program for reaching out to the poor,” Bishop Zubik said.

 

Trump set to pick Catholic lawyer as next White House counsel

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump has reportedly chosen a Catholic lawyer, Pat Cipollone, to replace White House counsel Donald McGhan. In addition to his professional work, Cipollone serves on the board of directors for the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and co-founded the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2004.

According to a Washington Post report published Oct. 13, Cipollone has been informally advising President Trump’s personal lawyers on Robert Müller’s special counsel probe into alleged Russian interference in the last election since June.

While Cipollone’s name has been connected with the position since August, Axios first reported the president’s pick Oct. 13, citing four unnamed government sources familiar with the decision. A White House spokesperson would not confirm the appointment.

When asked to confirm the selection on Saturday, President Trump told reporters that “Pat’s a great guy. I don’t want to say [who has been selected], but he’s a great guy. He’s very talented and he’s a very good man, but I don’t want to say.”

Cipollone is currently a litigation partner at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, a Washington-based law firm. He specializes in commercial litigation, antitrust and trade regulation, and healthcare fraud.

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Cipollone served in the Department of Justice as a counsel to then Attorney-General William P. Barr. Prior to joining his current firm, he worked at the well-known D.C. law firm Kirkland and Ellis.

Following a security clearance review, Cipollone could begin his new job within a week, according to the Washington Post. As White House counsel, Cipollone would advise the president, the Executive Office of the President, and the White House staff on legal issues involving the executive branch.

Donald McGhan announced in August that he would leave the White House’s top legal post after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Cipollone attended Fordham University before earning his J.D. at the University of Chicago School of Law in 1991. Cipollone previously served on the Board of Visitors for the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, serving as a counselor to the Dean of the law school. 

Fox News television host Laura Ingraham wrote in a 2007 book that conversations with Cipollone had led her to consider a conversion to the Catholic faith. She also wrote that Cipollone eventually became her godfather.

If his appointment is confirmed, Cipollone will join the list of Catholics in prominent U.S. legal positions. Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court earlier this month, six of the nine current Supreme Court Justices are Catholic.

Bridgeport bishop says lifelong 'path of beauty' began with his parents

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- “Other than faith,” Bishop Frank Caggiano reminisced, “the gifts of how I was raised and who I was raised by are the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life.”

“The most inspiring people in my life were my two parents, without a doubt,” Caggiano added. “Without a doubt.”

Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a delegate to the 2018 Synod of Bishops, discussing young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. He told CNA that his own youth was shaped by the lessons of his parents.

“My father was a longshoreman. My father unloaded ships. My father had a third-grade education. He did not speak English very well. And yet at a time when in the docks of Brooklyn it was common to steal, my father never came home with a blessed thing.”

“The two things my father spoke about always were integrity and respect,” the bishop said.

“A warrior, a courageous witness, ‘you got to stand by your guns, even if it costs you your life’- That was my father.”

While he praised his father, Caggiano, 59, minced no words about his mother: “My mother was a saint...Simple as that.”

He told CNA that while both parents taught him lessons he continues to carry, he brought especially his mother’s inspiration to Rome this month, where his short synod speech emphasized beauty.

“All of this animation in my mind about beauty began with my mother,” he said.

Beauty “was the engagement of the heart in faith. It was the piety. It was the gentility. It was-- the house itself-- you knew the seasons of the Church’s year in my house. It was the ritual. It was the traditions that we had. In my mind, all of that is wrapped up in beauty. The conveyance of meaning apart from that written word-- that’s beauty. And that was my mom.”

During his synod speech, Caggiano said bishops “must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel.”

He told CNA that beauty is an important way to evangelize contemporary young people who “wonder whether or not they are lovable or loved.”

“When you encounter beauty it reflects back who you are,” he said. “Beauty is the encounter with the insight that you are beautiful.”

“The most beautiful image of the Lord is the Lord crucified, because he looks back and says ‘in my physical ugliness and my suffering—that is what you are worth.’ That’s what we’re missing.”

Caggiano said that beauty-- in liturgy, art, music, poetry, and in new forms and mediums offered by digital technology-- captures hearts.

“Try to imagine the first time you fell in love. The two immediate responses to falling in love are ‘I want to know about this person,’ and ‘I want to spend time with this person.’”

“If we can have the moment of being captivated by Christ,” he said, “and then encounter the path of goodness and the path of truth- then you begin a lifelong journey.”

The bishop said that the ongoing Vatican synod cannot by itself prescribe the best ways to evangelize young people through beauty. His hope is that the synod will encourage dioceses and episcopal conferences to experiment with ways to evangelize with beauty.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which Caggiano has led since 2013, has focused on finding ways to reach young people through “the power of image” on social media, along with an online catechetical institute that aims to marry intellectual formation with images and video, and by offering pilgrimages for young people.

"Pilgrimages for young adults are a powerful way to engage with beauty," the bishop told CNA. He said that the diocese has received grants allowing young people to go to the Holy Land and on other pilgrimages even if they are unable to pay for the trip.

Caggiano said that donors support those trips because they see the fruit. He shared the story of a young woman who accompanied him to the Holy Land, and despite beginning the trip uncertain about faith, began going to Mass daily, and had a powerful conversion to deeper faith.

“Pilgrimage is an act of beauty.”

Beauty, Caggiano said, must also characterize Catholic liturgy. He said that after a diocesan synod three years ago, a small commission begin revising sacramental norms and liturgical policies in the diocese, with careful attention to the importance of beauty. A new policy document is set to be released later this year.

“It will cause a great stir,” he said, because it will call attention to ways in which greater reverence is needed in the diocese.

He told CNA that “how we conduct ourselves at the liturgy can reveal” something about what priests and other ministers believe about the importance of worship.

To foster a greater spirit of reverence among priests, Caggiano is planning to launch next month the “Confraternity of St. John Vianney,” an association of priests, including himself, who will commit to celebrating Mass daily, regular public and private participation in adoration of the Eucharist, and regular sacramental confession.

He said plans for the group are still developing, and that he hopes it will grow “organically.”

“We are going to sit before the Lord and let him be our teacher.”

“There is a natural stance that flows from a spirituality that is embedded in the belief in the real presence,” he said, adding that he aims to help priests develop deeper Eucharistic spiritualities.

Caggiano said the synod of bishops has helped him to develop other pastoral ideas he has been considering. His goal, he said, is to help young people to better know Jesus Christ.

“An encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can be truth, beauty, or goodness.”

“It’s the middle path, the way of beauty, that I think is the most interesting. It’s the glue between the two. So what’s going to capture a young person’s imagination? That’s the question in my mind.”

“The path of beauty,” he concluded, “can be a path of awakening.”

 

'Repairing God's House': Maryland parishes hold days of adoration

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Two churches in Maryland have held days Eucharistic adoration with prayers for healing from the recent scandals that have plagued the Church. St. Andrew Apostle Church in Silver Spring, along with Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, hosted a 24-hour “Day of Prayer: Repair My House” October 4-5.

About six weeks before the event, the pastors of the two parishes were discussing how to respond to the recent sexual abuse crisis and it effects both on them as priests and on their parishioners. According to Fr. Dan Leary, pastor at St. Andrew’s, “we both kind of came to this conclusion: repair my Church, repair my Church.”

Following that conversation, a program of events were held in the parishes centered around prayer, fasting, and adoration.

Since the outbreak of the recent scandals over the summer, many bishops, including Pope Francis, have called for the Church to collectively practice penance and fasting.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the pope issued his Letter to the People of God in which he said it was “essential” that the whole Church acknowledge and respond to the wounds inflicted by the abuse crisis.

“May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled,” the Pope wrote. “A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth.”

Fr. Leary explained to CNA that many pastors have struggled in responding to the pain and confusion the recent scandals have caused their flocks.

“People are wounded, they don’t know who to turn to,” he told CNA.

“The answer is, of course, to turn to the Lord. The Church has the best medicines for spiritual injuries - in the sacraments and in the disciplines of prayer; these have power, real healing power.”

Leary told CNA that when the news of the scandals first broke, he held a listening session shortly afterwards with his parishioners, which he described as “very positive.” But, he said, many priests were asking themselves and each other how to move past simple listening.

“As shepherds, we have to lead, always lead, towards Christ. Many of us in the Washington archdiocese have had listening sessions, and that is such an important part - hearing the needs of the parish. But there comes a time where people want answers, not just listening, and what answer can we give?”

The answer, Leary said, lies in leading by example.

“There is so much power in prayer, and in acts of penance and reparation. These unify us with Christ in his love for the suffering Church. But we have to be the first ones, as priests, to show the way and to ask for our parishioners help, their prayers for us, so that we can serve them as they deserve to be served.”

Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint’s feast day, Oct. 4.

The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as “poles of prayer” for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.

The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics  “will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church.”

Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.

Leary called the litany “very powerful” and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.

He told CNA that these prayers have “borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests,” and have been “so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood.”

Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Otherwise, it’s just a man sitting there listening to their sins,” he said.

“But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate.”

Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.

U.S. bishops hope Wuerl’s resignation is a step toward healing

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Several U.S. bishops responding to the official resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. expressed hope Friday that the decision would bring healing for survivors of clerical abuse.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Wuerl Oct. 12, while asking the cardinal to continue leading the Archdiocese of Washington on an interim basis until a permanent successor is appointed.

The Pope received a personal request from Wuerl to accept his resignation on Sept. 21, and officially accepted it during the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

Cardinal Wuerl has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, raised questions about what Wuerl knew about McCarrick, and how he responded to that knowledge.

Though Wuerl has denied wrongdoing, he said in September that he would ask Francis to accept his resignation “so that this archdiocesan Church we all love can move forward.”

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh issued a statement expressing hope that the Cardinal’s resignation would bring healing to victims of abuse.

“For as long as I have known Cardinal Wuerl, he has advocated for those within the church [sic] and beyond who need the opportunity for a better life,” Bishop Zubik wrote. “I pray that the acceptance of his resignation today by Pope Francis will continue to bring about healing in the hearts and lives of victims of abuse and all those in the Church.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington thanked Wuerl for his nearly 52 years of service as a priest and offered prayers for the Archdiocese of Washington.

“I convey my prayerful support to His Eminence and to all the clergy, consecrated religious and lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Burbidge wrote in a statement.

“At this time in the life of our Church, all bishops are called, as Cardinal Wuerl has done, to acknowledge any failure to protect God’s children, to express deepest apologies to victims of sexual abuse and to renew our commitment to assist them in their healing process in any way possible,” he added.

Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles was asked about Wuerl’s resignation at an Oct. 12 Vatican press conference.

“I know Cardinal Wuerl; I think he discerned something in good conscience...I'm sure he did what he felt was right for the good of the Church, and I'm sure that the Pope saw it from that perspective too,” Barron said. “So that is all I can really say at the moment.”

The Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report detailing decades of abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses put Wuerl’s record as Bishop of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1988 to 2006, under close scrutiny.

Some cases in the report raised concerns that Wuerl had allowed priests accused of abuse to remain in ministry after allegations had been made against them.

Wuerl, 77, originally submitted his resignation on Nov. 12, 2015, when he turned 75 years old, as required by canon law.

 

Supreme Court rejects appeal in Tennessee death row case

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A previously delayed execution in Tennessee will likely go ahead after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a convicted murderer currently on death row. The decision was made Oct. 11.

The appeal argued that Tennessee’s lethal injection program was inhumane and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Writing in opposition to the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the failure to take the case amounted to “complicity in state-sponsored brutality.”

The appeal by Edmund Zagorski followed an unsuccessful application for executive clemency which he presented to Gov. Bill Haslam in September. In that application, he requested that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole, expressing regret for his crimes and sorrow to the victim’s families. That application was denied.

Edmund Zagorski, 63, was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of two men who had met him to buy drugs.

The Catholic bishops of Tennessee had previously spoken out against Zagoski’s planned execution.

“We recognize that the pain, suffering, and loss of life caused by Mr. Zagorski more than thirty years ago has negatively impacted many people, and we agree that the state has a right to expect punishment for those crimes,” Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville and Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville wrote in an Oct. 10 statement, released before the Supreme Court’s decision.

“However,” the bishops underscored, “we remain firmly opposed to the use of the death penalty in all cases.”

The bishops cited the teaching of the Church and the statements of several popes, particularly Pope Francis’ August change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which now teaches that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that the death penalty is simply not necessary when society has other means to protect itself and provide a just punishment for those who break civil laws. Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life,” the two Tennessee bishops wrote.

Zagorski’s clemency application included sworn statements from six of the jurors from his trial in 1984, who said that had the option been available to them, they would have given Zagorski life in prison without parole.

Today, all 30 states that impose the death penalty give jurors the option of life without parole; in Tennessee life without parole can now be imposed at the request of just one juror. Zagorski’s attorneys argue that he would have been given that sentence rather than death if it had been an option in 1984.

At that time, the only sentencing options available to the jury were life in prison with the possibility of parole, or death, according to the Nashville Scene.

The wife of one of Zagorski’s victims has stated that she did not oppose clemency being granted. In addition, his application included a statement from a prison correctional officer detailing Zagorski’s apparent improvement of character while in prison. The counselor described a notable occasion when Zagorski helped to break up a fight between other inmates.

Governor Haslam said in a statement denying the clemency petition that Zagorski’s good behavior in prison did not excuse the murder of the two victims.

Zagorski was originally scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Oct. 11. Just three hours before the execution was scheduled to take place, Governor Haslam issued a ten-day delay for the state to consider his request to die by electric chair rather than lethal injection.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had granted a stay of his execution the day before, Oct. 10, after the Zagorski’s lawyers argued that he had been given ineffective legal counsel during his trial.

Later in the evening of Oct. 11, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and declined to hear Zagorski’s case, which would have considered the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol.

Justices Sotomayor and Breyer disagreed with the court’s opinion, citing evidence that the drugs used in lethal injections caused severe pain and led to “inhumane” executions.

“Capital prisoners are not entitled to pleasant deaths under the Eighth Amendment, but they are entitled to humane deaths,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The longer we stand silent amid growing evidence of inhumanity in execution methods like Tennessee’s, the longer we extend our own complicity in state-sponsored brutality.”

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Zagorski’s execution is likely to go ahead at the end of the ten-day delay imposed by Gov. Haslam, during which the state will consider the inmate’s request to be put to death by electrocution. Once that decision is made, the state Supreme Court will then issue a new execution date for Zagorski.

Tennessee last carried out a three-drug lethal injection execution in August, the state’s first since 2009, after Governor Haslam denied a clemency request from Billy Ray Irick. The drug used in that execution, midazolam, has widely been reported to cause extreme pain during execution.

In July, ahead of Irick’s execution, Bishop Spalding and Bishop Stika were joined by Bishop Martin Holley of Memphis and wrote a joint letter to Gov. Haslam asking him to put an end to the death penalty in the state.

Wash. Supreme Court strikes down death penalty as arbitrary, racially biased

Olympia, Wash., Oct 12, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The use of the death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased and unconstitutional, the Washington state Supreme Court has said in a unanimous decision barring its use.

The ruling was issued Oct. 11 and makes the state one of twenty to halt the use of death penalty. The result was welcomed by Washington’s Catholic bishops.

“We applaud the unanimous state Supreme Court decision issued today finding the death penalty unconstitutional,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle said in a statement Thursday.

“The Catholic Church’s consistent belief is that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death – it is this principle that has energized our efforts for decades to abolish the death penalty.”

The court ruling commutes the sentences of eight men currently on death row to life in prison, the Associated Press reports.

A five-judge majority on the Supreme Court said the evidence presented showed that death penalty sentences had been “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” though the justices did not rule that execution is an inherently wrong penalty.

“We are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance,” said the decision, authored by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst. “Our capital punishment law lacks ‘fundamental fairness.’"

Besides the race of the defendant, other arbitrary criteria in the application of the death penalty included factors such as location of the crime, county of residence, and even available budgetary resources.

The decision came in response to the appeal of Allen Eugene Gregory, an African-American man convicted of the 1996 rape, robbery and murder of waitress Geneine Harshfield. Gregory, now 46, was sentenced to death in 2001.

Earlier this year, working through the Washington State Catholic Conference, the bishops provided testimony backing legislation to repeal the death penalty. The bishops cited flaws in the sentencing process across the U.S., including 161 exonerations for people sentenced to death since 1973 and instances where innocent people have been executed.

 

Pope Francis has approved stronger Catholic opposition to the death penalty. On Aug. 2 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a papally-approved revision of a section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

 

Quoting Pope Francis’ words in a speech of Oct. 11, 2017, the section now states, in part, that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

 

Reasons for the change, the paragraph says, include the increasing effectiveness of detention systems; growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person; and leaving open the possibility of the prisoner’s conversion.

Defense lawyers have argued that Washington state’s worst mass murderers and serial killers had received life sentences instead of the death penalty, highlighting this as proof of arbitrary application of capital punishment.

Other death penalty critics drew on University of Washington sociologists’ findings, the Associated Press reported. While prosecutors are not more likely to seek the death penalty when the defendant is African-American, juries were about four times more likely to favor imposing the death penalty on black defendants.

Four other justices on the court concurred with the majority conclusion in a separate decision saying that other state constitutional factors “compel this result.”

Republican State Sen. Mike Padden had previously voted against death penalty repeal and was critical of the Supreme Court decision. While capital punishment should be rarely used, he said, “I do think it should be an option in the most heinous cases.”

Hannah Cox, national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, was among the supporters of the decision.

“This decision will save Washington state taxpayers millions of dollars that would otherwise be wasted,” Cox said. “Conservatives in Washington state and across the country increasingly realize the death penalty is a failed government program that does not value life, threatens innocent people, and wastes money.”

The court’s majority decision left open the option for the legislature to enact a “carefully drafted statute” allowing the death penalty but said it cannot create “a system that offends constitutional rights.”

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would propose legislation to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“We should act quickly to remove the death penalty from state law once and for all,” he said in a statement.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, told the Associated Press the use of the death penalty is becoming “increasingly geographically isolated” in  southern and southwestern states.

Texas has executed 108 prisoners since 2010, the most of any state. Florida has executed 28 over the same period, followed by Georgia and Oklahoma as the next most common users of capital punishment.

While court decisions, legislative actions or moratoria have halted the death penalty in many states, New Hampshire and Nebraska voters have overturned such decisions by veto or referendum.

 

Editorial Note: This story has been updated with additional content.

Cardinal O’Malley expands sex abuse investigation to include all Boston seminaries

Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2018 / 11:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Boston announced Thursday that it is expanding its sex abuse investigation to include all three of its seminaries.

The investigation will now include Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary, along with St. John’s Seminary, which has been under investigation since August after two of its seminarians filed abuse claims.

In his announcement of the expansion, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the decision to include the other two seminaries came about in consultations about the investigation into St. John’s.

“While the initial review was specific to St. John's, I have concluded that to meet the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability, it is best to expand the review to include all three seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“I want to reassure the seminary communities and the wider public that these are institutions committed to the highest standards of integrity, respect and safety for our seminarians, faculty and staff,” he added.

It is not known if there were additional accusations brought forward involving the additional seminaries. CNA asked the Archdiocese of Boston whether additional allegations have been made; the archdiocese referred CNA back to its statement issued Oct. 10.

An updated version of the statement includes a Frequently Asked Questions section, which poses the question: “Why include all three seminaries if the initial issue involved only Saint John’s Seminary?”

The answer to that question provided by the Archdiocese states: “While the issues pertained to St. John’s Seminary, the Cardinal wants to reassure the Catholic community and wider public that we owe it to future generations of seminarians that all three of our seminaries meet the highest level of exceptionalism and holiness for priestly formation.”

On August 10 of this year, O’Malley announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, following allegations made by two former seminarians on social media. The cardinal also announced that the rector of the seminary, Monsignor James Moroney, had been placed on immediate leave to allow for a “fully independent inquiry.”

At that time, O’Malley said the two men who had brought the accusations forward had “witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” and that they would be taken seriously.

O’Malley, who also serves as the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also announced in his Oct. 11 statement a change in the committee that will be conducting the investigation.

He said that the scope of the new investigation would be too broad for the original committee, and added the members of the original committee all had ties to St. John’s which might have compromised their objectivity.

“For these several reasons I have decided to engage (the lawfirm of) Yurko, Salvesen and Remz to conduct the review of the Archdiocesan seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm. Yurko, Salvesen and Remz has significant experience with the process of review that we seek and does not have an existing relationship with any of the seminaries or the Archdiocese of Boston.”

O'Malley encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the investigating firm directly.

An independent report highlighting concerns, and steps to address them, will be issued once the investigation has been completed, O’Malley noted.

He added that the investigation will be done in such a way as to allow for “as little disruption as possible to the academic year now underway at the seminaries.”

He said that the Archdiocese is “blessed” to have its three seminaries, and that he looked forward to ordaining the largest number of new priests in more than two decades for the Archdiocese in the upcoming ordinations for the class of 2019.

He also noted that while he encourages everyone to pray for religious vocations, the role of the laity is also vital in the Church.

“In times such as we are experiencing it is of ever greater importance that we embrace the dedication, commitment and experience of the laity if we are to provide the path for our future priests to serve as witnesses of the love and mercy of Jesus.”