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Fetuses from clinic won’t be released for burial by outside groups

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Dr. Kermit Barron Gosnell is pictured in an undated mug shot from the Philadelphia Police Department. Gosnell is on trial in Philadelphia and has been charged with murder and other offenses related to illegal, late-term abortions.(CNS photo/handout Philadelphia Police Department)

Dr. Kermit Barron Gosnell is pictured in an undated mug shot from the Philadelphia Police Department. (CNS photo/handout Philadelphia Police Department)

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Despite requests by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone to bury 47 fetuses killed at the Women’s Medical Society led by abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office says the remains “will not be released to any unrelated third party,” said spokesman Jeff Moran in a statement.

The fetuses were held as evidence during the trial of Gosnell and since his conviction May 13 for the murder of three babies born alive in his clinic. He is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Even before the trial began, Archbishop Chaput offered to bury the remains of the aborted babies in an archdiocesan cemetery at the trial’s conclusion. The city of Philadelphia did not respond to the request at that time or since, according to Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Priests for Life also offered to bury the remains, and was also rebuffed by the Medical Examiner’s Office. Father Pavone led a protest July 19 in front of the office to pressure it to release the remains to his group, but was unsuccessful.

“The remains will be given a proper and respectful disposition by the city in accordance with our standard practices,” Moran said in a statement issued late the same day as the protest. “The Medical Examiner’s Office is in the process of making these arrangements.”

Moran reportedly has indicated the remains would be cremated, but he did not say when cremation would take place nor how the cremated remains would be disposed.

Catholic practice requires cremated remains to be treated with respect due to the human body, and accordingly they should be buried in an appropriate vessel in the ground or in a columbarium facility.

Before his appearance at the Medical Examiner’s Office, Father Pavone issued a statement that said his group and many other pro-life people in the United States “intend to have a public funeral for these babies, and thousands of people have likewise expressed to the medical examiner their desire to see this happen.”

Alliance Defending Freedom, a group aligned with Priests for Life on this issue, said in a statement that “proper burial is the right thing to do, for the human dignity of the babies themselves, for the healing of post-abortive women, and for the future and conscience of Philadelphia and the nation. This is what a civilized society does with its dead.”

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By Matthew Gambino, director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com and PhaithMagazine.com, the news and magazine websites of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

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