Issue of Communion wine in detention center resolved

CHARLESTON A controversy over bringing Communion wine into the Charleston County jail has been settled, according to a statement released Friday afternoon by officials from the Diocese of Charleston.

Earlier in the week, Msgr. Edward D. Lofton spoke to the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper claiming his religious freedom was violated because he was denied the right to bring about an ounce of wine into the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in order to celebrate Mass for inmates. The wine, used only for the priest’s consumption, had previously been allowed during many years of his visits to the jail, he told the Post and Courier.

Msgr. Lofton is pastor of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville.

In Friday’s statement, diocesan officials said they have been in “regular contact with Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon over the issue of sacramental wine, and he has agreed to a policy that will allow Catholic chaplains to continue to use wine during celebration of Mass at the jail. Wine is not given to inmates.

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,” the statement said. “In that celebration, the presence of wine is essential.”

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 in the detention center and is pleased this matter has been amicably resolved.”

Sheriff Cannon in a statement on Thursday described the Communion wine as a “non-issue.”

In their statement, diocesan officials said Msgr. Lofton had spoken with Sheriff Cannon and agreed that a replacement Catholic chaplain should be appointed to serve at the county jail, and Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone subsequently agreed with that decision.