Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Prayer vigils oppose executions

By E.K. Meister
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — Tonight in Terre Haute, Ind., Timothy McVeigh will ride out the night that would have been his execution eve if it were not for a stay until June 11.

        At the same time, some members of the Covington Diocese will be praying that the death penalty law under which he was sentenced would come to an end.

        Tonight, in southern Ohio, barring any further legal stays today in the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Jay D. Scott, a diagnosed schizophrenic convicted in the 1983 murder of a Cleveland delicatessen owner, will be put to death by lethal injection.

        Some members of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will travel to the site of Mr. Scott's scheduled execution to pray.

        The Covington prayer vigil, from 7 to 8 p.m. today outside Mother of God Church at 119 W. Sixth St., serves two purposes, said Sister Ruth Kettman, CSJ, director of the Office of Justice and Peace for the Diocese.

        First, it's a time to express sorrow for the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, for which Mr. McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to die, the nun said.

        And it's a time to pray for all victims of violence, including the injured, their families and “yes, for Timothy McVeigh himself.”

        The second intent, Sister Kettman said, is to work for a change in policy, “As we search for answers to this unspeakable crime and the pain it caused, we must all look for ways to bring greater peace and understanding to our world. The death penalty is not the way,” she wrote in a flier announcing the vigil.

        “Doing an act of violence to show violence is wrong doesn't work,” she said.

        The Rev. Daniel M. Buechlein, the archbishop of the Indianapolis Diocese, which serves the area where Mr. McVeigh awaits his death, has spoken out against the execution as well, writing articles in Catholic journals against it.

        “The death penalty does more harm than good because it feeds a frenzy for revenge, while there is no demonstrable proof that (it) deters violence. ... Only forgiveness liberates,” the archbishop wrote in an April article.

        Those who attended the prayer vigil are in the minority in the United States, polls show.

        A February Gallup poll found 67 percent of Americans favor the death penalty.

        The effect of Mr. McVeigh's case, according to the leading pollster's random sample, was that while 8 percent strengthened their opposition to the death penalty, 22 percent more firmly support it.

        And according to an April Gallup poll, 81 percent of Americans think Mr. McVeigh should be executed.

        For more information about the prayer vigil, call (859) 283-6282.


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