Diocese of Charleston releases statement regarding wine at jail

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Diocese of Charleston released a statement on Friday regarding wine being used during Mass at the Charleston County Jail.

Church officials stated they are "pleased that this matter has been amicably resolved" and it was "unfortunate that this matter was not resolved privately."

Last week, Monsignor Ed Lofton was booted from the jail after he was denied permission to take wine into the jail for Mass.

Sheriff Al Cannon said jail officials had no choice after Lofton apparently threatened legal action. Chaplains will continue to be allowed to use wine during Mass at the Charleston County Jail as long as it is not given to inmates, Sheriff Al Cannon said Thursday.

"My impression was [Lofton] was overly sensitive and misunderstood, and I think there was a disconnect on what the word wine meant in terms of quantity and who would be getting it," Cannon said at an afternoon press conference.

The priest reportedly told jail officials that his religious rights were being violated. Cannon said Lofton told him a different chaplain will say Mass at the jail from now on.

On Friday, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office released a statement clarifying the "long standing" policy of the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center and Catholic Services.

The sheriff's office release stated:

"Sheriff Al Cannon in concurrence with the Charleston Diocese has issued a clarification to the Detention Center Policy which will continue to allow the use of sacramental wine by Catholic chaplains as part of the celebration of Catholic Mass at the detention Center.

Sheriff Cannon reiterated that the intent from the start was to work together with the Diocese to address the concern in a way that is amicable to all parties involved and maintains the operational integrity of the Detention Center. This clarification accomplishes that objective.

The Sheriff also expresses his appreciation to Bishop Gugliemone of the Charleston Diocese, for his assistance in achieving an understanding that balances the needs of the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center while respecting the religious obligations of inmates. "

The Diocese of Charleston also released the following statement on Friday:

"Officials with the Diocese of Charleston have been in timely and regular contact with Sheriff Al Cannon over the recent issue of bringing communion wine into the Al Cannon Detention Center. It is unfortunate that this matter was not resolved privately.

The Diocese of Charleston has always enjoyed a positive relationship with federal, state and local correctional and detention facilities in its prison ministry which includes the celebration of Mass for inmates. In that celebration, the presence of wine is essential.

Monsignor Edward Lofton had conveyed to Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone that he and the Sheriff had discussed that a new chaplain should be appointed to serve at the detention center. Bishop Guglielmone agreed with that decision.

The Sheriff has shared with Diocesan officials the implementation of a permanent policy for priests and bishops to celebrate Catholic Mass that includes bringing sacramental wine into the detention facility. The Diocese is satisfied this policy addresses the issue of the presence of communion wine into the detention center and is pleased this matter has been amicably resolved."

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