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Alabama: Methodist bishop seeks forgiveness for priest’s 1921 murder

Catholic World News - May 23, 2012

In 1921, the rector of the cathedral in Birmingham, Alabama, was murdered by a Methodist minister who was outraged by the marriage of his daughter to a Puerto Rican. The minister, Edwin Stephenson, was defended by future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and acquitted.

Nearly a century later, Methodist Bishop William Willimon has sought forgiveness for the slaying of Father James Coyle.

“It was a sad day in our history--our judicial history and interreligious history,” he said. “I became not only disturbed by the event and the trial, which was a national scandal, but by the Methodist church's response, or lack of it.”

“I've been haunted by this story," he added. "We should repent because we can. We're not bound by the past.”

Father Alex Steinmiller, president of a Catholic school in Birmingham, offered forgiveness at a Methodist service. “There is no statute of limitations on forgiveness,” he said.

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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - May. 23, 2012 5:03 PM ET USA

    I think it is no coincidence that the greatest modern evangelism apostolate operates out of the Diocese of Birmingham. I had no idea that this great work was seeded by the blood of a martyr, but I guess I should have known.

  • Posted by: williiam ronner - May. 23, 2012 12:26 PM ET USA

    A side note is that Hugo Black was an ardent anti-Catholic bigot.

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