“Should he be allowed to meet his creator, having the support of a pastor? I say yes,” Gregory stated.
While noting he did not know all the details of the case, the cardinal added that “if this man wants to pray with his minister, and his minister pray with him, it might very well be a sign that there is some reconciliation, conversion, going on within him.”
He went on to comment on the broader issue of the death penalty, saying it “has also been proven flawed.”
“There’s too many cases where people have been sentenced and, unfortunately, I think, put to death. And then with the development of scientific research, it’s been proven – or least raised to a serious doubt – that maybe the trial itself was flawed,” Gregory said.
He then explained the “consistent life ethic” of his mentor, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. Gregory served as auxiliary bishop of Chicago from 1983-1994.
“Life issues are linked,” he said. “They’re not at the same level. There are life issues that are predominant.”
“The conception of a child is the first life concern,” he said, adding that “those life issues have to extend to all the other moments of human existence as well,” such as to prisoners, immigrants, the elderly, and people with handicaps.
“Is he [Bernardin] saying that a prisoner that has been found guilty of multiple criminal behavior – is he to be equated with an infant in the womb who is just trying to live or to be born, literally? Oh no, he’s not saying that,” Gregory noted. “He’s saying they are linked, not because they are the same, but they are linked because they are all human.
As archbishop of Washington, Gregory has been at the center of discussion in recent months over whether pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be admitted to Communion. He told a reporter last year that he would not deny Communion in such cases.
In January, the president of the U.S. bishops' conference issued a lengthy statement on the day of Biden's inauguration as president, noting some of his positive policies but also warning that some of his proposed policies would "advance moral evils." Gregory thought the statement “ill-timed,” according to NBC’s Al Roker, who reported in February that Gregory had emphasized “dialogue” with the new administration.
During the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in June, Gregory cautioned against drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist that would include language on worthiness to receive Communion, especially among Catholic public figures. Some bishops critical of the motion warned that it would be interpreted as a partisan denunciation of pro-abortion Catholic politicians, especially President Biden.
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Gregory pointed to the “unusual” circumstances of bishops meeting remotely and not in-person, due to the pandemic. He warned that drafting the document at the time could “well further damage” unity.