May 24, 2012

Religious Freedom Alert – South Carolina Jailer Declares No Mass For Catholic Prisoners

You may think I’m over-stating the case, but that is the practical effect of this policy decision.

For a quarter century, Monsignor Ed Lofton has served as one of 86 volunteer chaplains at the Charleston County jail. Bringing calm to inmates and jailers alike is considered essential to his mission.

That endeavor includes Communion, and for Catholics, wine is a necessary component.

But carrying wine into a facility where alcohol is labeled as contraband hasn’t come without controversy. He has fought and won that battle before.

For 15 years, he has consumed 1 ounce of sacramental wine during Mass
without incident. Inmates partake only in the bread.

But this week he lost a fight.

Chief Deputy Mitch Lucas, the jail’s administrator, has told Lofton to replace the wine — brought to the jail in a TSA-approved container designed for holy water — with grape juice.

He booted the chaplain Tuesday after he refused to do so.

It is clear from this article that Lucas is not Catholic. While many Protestant denominations have no trouble with the use of grape juice for communion, Catholic sacramental theology and church law REQUIRES the use of wine.

Can. 924 §1. The most holy eucharistic sacrifice must be offered with bread and with wine in which a little water must be mixed.

§2. The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of spoiling.

§3. The wine must be natural from the fruit of the vine and not spoiled.

Monsignor Lofton may can no more comply with Lynch’s demand than he could with a demand that he use saltines instead of communion wafers. Doing so would be outside the boundaries of what may be used to celebrate a valid mass – and would be considered sacrilegious as well.

Interestingly enough, Lynch could follow the practices of his own state’s Department of Corrections and avoid the entire problem.

Eucharist or Mass: The celebration of Mass is the central act of worship for Catholics. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is truly present, body and soul, in the bread and wine received in the Holy Communion. This sacrament requires wine (required by church law) and bread (hosts).

A priest/bishop (the only ones to celebrate Mass) will be allowed to bring in bread and wine for Mass. Since wine is otherwise considered contraband in the SCDC, the priest/bishop will bring in only the amount necessary to meet the needs of the celebrant(s). (NOTE: This is usually about an ounce or two, since communicants will receive only the host at Communion.)

When this service is scheduled, the chaplain will notify security to ensure that the priest has necessary clearance.

Other items allowed for this service include vestments, altar and linen cloths, chalice, paten, pyx (host container), crucifix, and other items. A quiet room with adequate space for the service will be provided. If requested and available, a piano and hymn books will be provided.

But it sounds like Lynch has another agenda – evident in the fact that he lies about the monsignor’s previous practice – and chose not to follow what is a standard guideline in correctional facilities in his state and around the country. Hopefully he will come to his senses – or be replaced – before this becomes a major civil liberties case that costs the taxpayers a great deal of money.

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Comments on Religious Freedom Alert – South Carolina Jailer Declares No Mass For Catholic Prisoners

the constitution guarantees rights to individuals not institutions. We have religious freedom that is not the same thing as saying that a church has rights. WE have rights and WE belong to a church (or not) but the rights were not given to institutions. In jail we still have the right of freedom of religion but not the right to tell a prison how to run the place. Surely anyone can have the freedom of their religion without creating some kind of a responsibility for the prison to provide them something outside of normal prison life. Let them practice their religion and beliefs in their cells.

|| Posted by GoneWithTheWind, May 26, 2012 09:27 AM ||

Eucharist is a celebration of the Catholic community, wherever and however situated. One can not "celebrate" Eucharist alone in one's cell.

Mass is celebrated in other jails and prisons through out the United States, even in maximum security facilities, without any disturbance to the "normal prison life." This Deputy has some other agenda in mind, as RWR mentioned.

|| Posted by Fox2!, May 26, 2012 10:23 AM ||

Setting aside the excellent comment by Fox2!, there is another issue here. The courts have regularly ruled that the First Amendment requires that prisoners have access to those things needful to practice their religion unless it creates a security concern. Given that the federal government, all 50 states, and virtually every other jail in the United States has found it possible to accommodate this essential religious practice, the jail official who has determined that the Eucharist cannot be validly celebrated in the Charleston Jail has a high burden of proof in order to have his decision sustained.

Moreover, federal law (Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act) requires that a jail or prison demonstrate that it is using "the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest" before it burdens or bans “any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central, to a system of religious belief." I don't see how this guy can meet that standard, given that his decision may well make his jail the only such facility in the country to ban the Catholic Mass.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, May 26, 2012 02:32 PM ||

1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1324), citing Lumen Gentium, teaches rightly that the "Eucharist is the 'source and summit of the Christian life.'" It is the quintessential act of Catholic (and Orthodox, and Anglican) worship. AS RWR notes, every other confinement facility in the country allows the VALID celebration of the Eucharist.
2. A prayer service with distribution of previously consecrated Hosts does not substitute for the celebration of the Eucharist.
3. Perhaps the proper consequence of this action is for the local ordinary to take the extraordinary act of imposing an interdict on the County. Since an individual corrective would not be effective, and the Chief Deputy is the servant of the County, the County as a whole would be the appropriate subject of the penalty.(Canon 1374). Of course, South Carolina is probably the least Catholic state in the country. But I would not want to be the county commissioner who has to explain to his Catholic constituents why their churches are closed. Preferably with a big placard on the Cathedral that the media and tourists could not miss.
4. A civil action in Federal Court is also indicated, and should be pursued with the greatest force possible, on the grounds mentioned by RWR.
5. And of course, my personal favorite, a Klan Act motion against the Chief Deputy, for deprivation of civil rights under color of authority, which pierces the veil of immunity and imposes personal liability.

|| Posted by Fox2!, May 26, 2012 03:22 PM ||

Would this jailer insist on violating the "Seal of the Confessional," as well?

|| Posted by Fox2!, May 26, 2012 03:57 PM ||

"The courts have regularly ruled that the First Amendment requires that prisoners have access to those things needful to practice their religion unless it creates a security concern." And the courts are wrong. Should Rustafarians be given pot? Should certain Indian religious believers be given peyote? Should Muslims be given 10 year old girls? The first amendment ONLY guarantees that citizens are free of government interference to choose and practice their religion. A more accurate interpretation by the courts on this issue would be that the prisons CANNOT provide anything or any accomodations what so ever for religious beliefs. THAT would be more in line with the constitution.

|| Posted by GoneWithTheWind, May 31, 2012 09:27 AM ||

Regarding the "Seal of the Confessional"; that is a religious artifact and has nothing at all to do with the constitution or U.S. law. The law does accomodate it ONLY because a special interest group was able to lobby for and get special privilage but in fact there is no constitutional basis for any special "protection" for that particular religious belief. In theory the courts could force a priest to testify under threat of comtempt of court.

|| Posted by GoneWithTheWind, May 31, 2012 09:31 AM ||

1) Notice my use of the word "needful" -- Muslims don't need a ten-year-old to practice their religion. And the illegal drugs do create a security concern that a single ounce of wine not consumed by the prisoners does not create.

2) If government does not provide accommodation of people's religious beliefs and practices, there is no freedom of religion.

3) Actually, the Constitution mandates accommodation of the Seal of the Confessional because failure to do so makes the practice of the Catholic faith impossible -- indeed, it would criminalize it. But you are right -- in theory the courts could seek to compel a confessor's testimony about the content of a confession. The government would then be in the position of jailing clergy for following the dictates of their faith -- and American patriots would be obliged to follow the direction provided to alter or abolish the government that is violating their fundamental liberties, most likely by force.

4) You do realize that the only faults with your entire argument about the First Amendment is that it is contradicted by the words of the Founders on the extent of religious freedom and the deeds of the Founders when they implemented the protections of the First Amendment. Other than that, the position shared by you and others who would render the First Amendment a dead letter are completely right!

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, May 31, 2012 06:52 PM ||

1. Interesting that you intuitively "know" what muslims need or don't need.

2. Nothing about the 1st ammendment is about "accomodations" it is about freedom.

3. Show me! Prove that the 1st amendment even had catholics or the seal of the confessional in mind. Also it's worth understanding that in medieval Europe the purpose of confession was so that priests could feed this information back to the church leaders so they could apply political power. It was never about religion or forgiveness and it certainly wasn't secret.

4 There is no doubt the founders were religious protestants who wanted the freedom to practice their religion in the new world. How does that change the very clear wording of the 1st amendment. If the founders had believed in witchcract but the 1st amendment was still the same does that mean we interpret it as requiring accomodation for witchcraft?

|| Posted by GoneWithTheWind, June 1, 2012 08:13 AM ||

1) There is nthing in the Muslim faith that REQUIRES a ten-year-old -- and that you would attempt to assert there is constitutes a rather bizarre position.

2) For folks to exercise their religion freely, the government must accommodate it by not imposing restrictions that prevent the free exercise of religion.

3) Judicial recognition of the priest-penitent privilege in US courts dates back to at least 1813. And contrary to your "it was never about religion" slur, it most certainly was. But hey -- if you want to let your anti-Catholic bigotry hang out, that's fine.

4) The words "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" are mighty clear. If laws are passed that ban essential religious practices, then they are presumptively void -- whether the religion impacted is Catholicism, Islam, Wicca, or any other faith.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, June 1, 2012 07:41 PM ||

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