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story.lead_photo.caption Special to the Democrat-Gazette/KAREN SCHWARTZ Waving an aspergillum, Bishop Anthony Taylor blesses the grounds of St. Scholastica during the ground-breaking celebration.

LITTLE ROCK — A Roman Catholic bishop who has led prayers at Arkansas anti-abortion rallies says he will not take part this year because its featured speaker is a public official who actively pushed for the state's aggressive execution schedule last year.

Bishop Anthony Taylor wrote an open letter to the state's 125,000 Catholics inviting them to special Masses instead of attending the event featuring Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

"Arkansas Right to Life has chosen as the keynote speaker for the Rally a person who has good anti-abortion credentials but otherwise is decidedly not an appropriate pro-life speaker," Taylor wrote. He said Rutledge "worked tirelessly to secure the execution of 4 criminals who posed no further threat to society."

Arkansas executed four men in eight days last April after Gov. Asa Hutchinson initially scheduled eight executions in 11 days — adopting a quick turnaround so the men could be put to death before one of the state's three lethal injection drugs expired. Rutledge's office fought in court to preserve the schedule.

"The Diocese of Little Rock was very vocal in appealing for clemency for these four men, but we were opposed at every turn by Attorney General Rutledge," Taylor wrote to his flock.

Three of the eight condemned inmates won stays, and Hutchinson granted clemency to a fourth condemned prisoner. Four were put to death.

Rutledge did not comment specifically on Taylor's criticism.

"I look forward to being the keynote at this year's March for Life and encourage anyone interested in protecting the sanctity of life for the unborn to participate," she said in a statement emailed from her office.

Sunday's rally is the 40th annual protest. One of Taylor's predecessors, Bishop Andrew J. McDonald, was among its early supporters. Taylor gave the opening prayer at last year's rally and has offered prayers at others. The march is typically held on a Sunday nearest the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

"The Church teaches a consistent ethic of life in which human life and human dignity must be protected from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between," Taylor wrote Wednesday. "Even people who have been sentenced to death deserve this dignity, which is why capital punishment must be abolished."

The march's organizer, Arkansas Right to Life, said it was a "single-issue organization" dedicated to stopping abortion.

"We hope that everyone who shares our views, that innocent unborn children should be protected, will support and attend the March, regardless of their views on other issues in which Arkansas Right to Life does not take a stand," its executive director, Rose Mimms, said in an emailed statement.

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  • wildblueyonder
    January 18, 2018 at 12:49 p.m.

    They were criminals convicted by due process, hypocrite!

  • Ericedwlawcom
    January 18, 2018 at 1:19 p.m.

    How is he a hypocrite for standing up for the Church's position? Life is sacred no matter whose life it is. Just because these men were convicted does not mean their life is worth any less than yours or mine. While I believe he should attend, he is not a hypocrite in any sense of the word for this position. A hypocrite in this situation says they are pro-life in terms of abortion but pro-death penalty in a criminal situation. All life is sacred, even the criminal next to Christ on the cross.

  • hah406
    January 18, 2018 at 1:32 p.m.

    The bishop is correct, and he is being completely consistent with church doctrine. All life is sacred. You cannot be pro-life in the abortion debate and pro-death penalty at the same time. It is morally, ethically, and intellectually incongruent.

  • TimberTopper
    January 18, 2018 at 2:29 p.m.

    hah, you just described the Arkansas AG. hoggy it's ok that you don't understand. After all it's above your pay level.

  • honesthap
    January 18, 2018 at 2:33 p.m.

    Our AG is supposed to uphold the law. To heck with the Bishop.....!

  • Packman
    January 18, 2018 at 2:56 p.m.

    Bishop Taylor seems to be standing up for his beliefs. Good for him.
    Hey hah - Not to be too picky, but there is a notable distinction between a wholly innocent unborn child and a guy that's raped and murdered teenage girls.

  • Slak
    January 18, 2018 at 3:41 p.m.

    LOL, pearls before swine, Pack.

  • LRDawg
    January 18, 2018 at 4:08 p.m.

    If she'll kill men.....she'll kill babies. Our AG is Satan himself. Stay far away from her Bishop

  • BibleBeltFreeThinker
    January 18, 2018 at 4:45 p.m.

    This article highlights the laughable hypocrisy in today's conservatives considering themselves the crusading defenders of the christian faith.

  • drs01
    January 19, 2018 at 10:57 a.m.

    Bishop Taylor came to Arkansas from Oklahoma. He promptly issues a 15 page document extolling Arkansas Catholics to hire, feed, educate, and shield illegal immigrants from the government laws they were breaking. He followed that document with an op-ed in this paper stating that he consider it a "sin" not to take care of these lawbreakers. Despite how many Catholics feel about our immigration laws and those who abuse them, this Bishop still expects the churches to be filled and the collection baskets overrun with money. What did Jesus say about give unto..... Bishop Taylor has his own laws. Now he expects Catholics to stay home from this annual pro-life rally and attend special Masses instead. I hope his church is filled with the hollow sounds of his hypocrisy.