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National Catholic Reporter

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Texas

Vatican newspaper blasts Muhammad cartoons as pouring 'gasoline on the fire'

The Vatican's semiofficial newspaper blasted a series of cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad as "blasphemous" but also condemned the "mad and bloodthirsty" extremists who opened fire at a Texas exhibit of the cartoons.

The front-page article in L'Osservatore Romano likened the exhibit in Garland, Texas, to pouring "gasoline on the fire" of religious sensitivities and was critical of its sponsors, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and professional provocateur Pamela Geller.

Breakaway Episcopalians win Texas church property fight

For the second time in as many months, a state court has sided with a group of breakaway Episcopalians, ruling that they can keep their property after leaving the national church in 2008 over sharp differences on homosexuality and the authority of Scripture.

Judge John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court in Tarrant County, Texas, ruled Monday that more than 60 parishes in greater Fort Worth can retain their property and remain independent of the Episcopal Church.

Executions are down and abolition may not be far behind

It looks like the death penalty may be on life support.

January was set to be the deadliest month for U.S. executions in 2015, but nine of the 15 executions were stopped. In an unprecedented wave, three of the deadliest states -- Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri -- stopped executions planned for last month. February has just begun, but nine of its 12 scheduled executions have been halted.

Last year was not a good year for the death penalty, either, as death sentences hit a 40-year low and executions were at a 20-year low.

Austin's vicar general named auxiliary bishop of the Texas diocese

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Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Daniel Garcia, the vicar general of the diocese of Austin, Texas, as an auxiliary bishop of the diocese.

Garcia, 54, is an Austin diocesan priest and also is moderator of the curia.

The appointment was announced Wednesday in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The newly named auxiliary bishop will assist Bishop Joe Vasquez, who has headed the Austin diocese since 2010.

His episcopal ordination is scheduled for March 3.

Executions drop to lowest level in two decades

Driven in part by continuing legal disputes related to lethal injection drugs and state moratoriums on the death penalty, the 35 people executed in the U.S. this year marks the fewest in two decades, according to a year-end report by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The center, which opposes capital punishment, also found that the 72 death sentences issued in 2014 represents the fewest in 40 years.

Supreme Court to decide if vanity license plates are government speech

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The Supreme Court already has heard a case this fall about a busted brake light. Why not vanity license plates?

The justices agreed to decide whether Texas was right to deny a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate flag, or whether it infringed on free speech.

In doing so, the court held in abeyance another case in which North Carolina approved a "Choose Life" license plate but denied one defending a woman's right to choose.

El Paso project helps farmworkers recover 'dignity of their lives'

Carlos Marentes was warned he would have only seconds, not even a minute, to greet Pope Francis.

"They said, 'Someone will be there to take your photo. And in the time it takes to take that picture, say what you have to say.' I said so much, they took eight pictures!" Marentes chuckled.

Ebola prompts hands-off Mass in Fort Worth, Texas

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The Blood of Christ will not be offered during Mass. The host will be placed in the hands, not on the tongue. And the faithful should not hold hands while reciting the "Our Father."

These are but a few of the guidelines the diocese of Fort Worth -- not far from the Dallas hospital where three Ebola cases have been diagnosed -- has sent to its parishes to calm fears about the deadly disease and to prevent the spread of flu.

Court blocks law that had closed most Texas abortion clinics

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a Texas law that had meant all but seven of the state's abortion clinics were closed because they failed to meet new standards.

The block will remain in effect while the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers a legal challenge to the law itself. It will allow at least 12 clinics that were closed to reopen.

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