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Tennessee execution: Billy Ray Irick tortured to death, expert says in new filing

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Editor's note: Reporter Dave Boucher was one of seven state-required media witnesses at Irick's execution. 
Billy Ray Irick felt searing pain akin to torture before he died in a Tennessee prison in August, but steps taken in carrying out his execution blocked signs of suffering, according to a doctor who reviewed information about the lethal injection.
In new court filings entered late Thursday amidst an ongoing legal challenge of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, Dr. David Lubarsky said statements from people who witnessed the execution indicated the controversial drug midazolam failed to ensure Irick could not feel pain during his death.
As a result, the death row inmate “experienced the feeling of choking, drowning in his own fluids, suffocating, being buried alive, and the burning sensation caused by the injection of the potassium chloride,” Lubarsky wrote in the filing.
The document also says the state did not follow its own lethal injection protocol, raising questio…

75 Catholic priests and scholars ask Francis to backtrack on death penalty

Vatican City
The pope’s revision to the Catechism calls capital punishment “inadmissible.”

A group of 75 Catholic clergy members and scholars have urged Pope Francis to backtrack on his decision to declare the death penalty “inadmissible” in Catholic teaching.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis authorized a change in the Catholic Catechism, the official teaching document of the church, to intensify the language pertaining to the defensibility of the death penalty.

Since the catechism was first published in 1992, the church has said the death penalty should be used only in very rare situations. Francis’s change, though, denied that the death penalty could ever be compatible with Catholic teaching, on the grounds that “the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.”

While the move drew praise from anti-capital-punishment advocates, such as Sister Helen Prejean, who called it a “great day for human rights,” some of Pope Francis’s more conservative critics remained wary. An open letter was published Wednesday morning in First Things, a conservative-leaning Catholic journal, and was signed by several prominent Catholics, including Fr. George Rutler and Fr. Gerald Murray of the Archdiocese of New York.

RELATEDPope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

The letter argues that, by refining Church teaching on the death penalty, Pope Francis casts doubt on the authority of the church’s teaching body, known as the magisterium. “To contradict Scripture and tradition on this point would cast doubt on the credibility of the magisterium in general,” the letter reads, calling Pope Francis’s decision a “gravely scandalous situation.” The signatories call upon the College of Cardinals “to advise His Holiness that it is his duty to put an end to this scandal, to withdraw this paragraph from the Catechism, and to teach the word of God unadulterated.”

The Vatican has not replied nor is it likely to do so. Another critical open letter, known as the dubia, or “doubts,” authored by senior Catholic figures, including four Cardinals, protested Francis’s perceived openness to giving communion to divorced-and-remarried couples. It remains unanswered after almost two years.

The presence of the open letter speaks to wider divisions within the church over Francis’s papacy, and, in particular, conservative concern that Francis is overstepping the traditional boundaries and protocol of his office.

However, the Vatican hierarchy may have more pressing concerns at the moment. This week, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a catastrophic report implicating at least 300 priests in the state of child sexual abuse against more than 1,000 minors.

Source: VOX, Tara Isabella Burton, August 15, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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