President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr. CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters

Catholic award for attorney general ‘shocking’

By  Julie Asher, Catholic News Service
  • September 16, 2020

WASHINGTON -- The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and the Catholic Mobilizing Network said they strongly object to an award the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast organizers plan to present to U.S. Attorney General William Barr during the annual breakfast, which is to be livestreamed Sept. 23 from Washington.

In separate statements, the organizations said Barr, a Catholic, should not be honoured because as attorney general he directed the federal government in July 2019 to resume the execution of prisoners on federal death row.

Barr is scheduled to receive the Christifideles Laici award, which is named for St. John Paul II’s post-synodal exhortation. The award is given “in honour and gratitude for fidelity to the Church, exemplary selfless and steadfast service in the Lord’s vineyard.”

It was instituted last year to help highlight good works and “those who serve the Church so well.” The first recipient was Gerry Giblin, a Knight of Malta and a National Catholic Prayer Breakfast board member.

The priests’ association called the decision to choose Barr for the 2020 honour “shocking, incomprehensible and scandalous.”

“We consider Mr. Barr’s recent decisions and actions to be abhorrent in the context of Catholic faith,” the organization said in a Sept. 9 statement. “We consider especially scandalous his decision to begin again federal executions after 17 years of (a) moratorium.

“Executions are clearly not pro-life. Pope St. John Paul II judged such actions as ‘unnecessary,’ ” the statement said. “Pope Francis defined them as ‘inadmissible.’ That position of the magisterium is now affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

The Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works to end use of the death penalty and promotes criminal justice reform and restorative justice, has re-launched its petition against federal executions because Barr is being honoured “despite promoting actions contrary to Catholic teaching.”

“It is our hope to make clear that A.G. Barr’s lead role in reinstating the practice of federal executions should preclude him from receiving any award which aims to honour ‘those who serve the Church so well,’ ” the network said. “We are also urging A.G. Barr to reverse course on federal executions, two of which are scheduled to take place in the days immediately before and after the breakfast.”

In an e-mail sent early Sept. 15 to Catholic News Service, a spokeswoman for the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast said the organization’s officials declined to comment.

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