Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
June 24, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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June 24, 1990

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PAGE 9 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC JUNE 24, 1990 A letter from Louse Dold We hear a lot today about capital punishment. I have dealt with it for nearly 50 years. I was nine years old when my daddy was killed, so I have worked through it and have come to grips with capital punishment. I hate killing in every Way. I carrried unforgiveness, fear and hate for 40 I would meet my daddy's killer on the street I would just freeze. I worked in a restaurant When I was in high school, and one day I went to Work and there he was. I turned to the manager and said, "I cannot work with him," and walked out. I would dream of him chasing me. Then, about 12 years ago, I started going to Bible Study. I began to study the Word of God and look to Jesus to see the example He set for us to follow. As I studied, I started telling others that we have to forgive our enemies. One day, it hit me: How can I tell others to for- enemies if I cannot forgive the man that killed my daddy? I couldn't stand to think of it --- someone that Would kill the father of seven children, the oldest being 12 years old and the youngest being one old. I thought, "God, you can't expect me to forgive him." But I knew He did. So, I began to pray that He would help me. I couldn't pray long, because I just couldn't stand to think about it. I had hated the man for 40 years. I thought I was supposed to. As I read my Bible, I would hear Jesus say: "I died that all may be saved." I thought, "But Lord, I can't forgive him." I felt so justified in my unfor- giveness and hate. But I kept studying my Bible and praying, look- ing to Jesus as my example. Then, one day, I found myself praying for the man. I said, "Oh God, I have forgiven him." The power of God's Word and prayer gave me peace. I no longer carried unforgiveness in my heart, and the fear was gone. I continued to pray for the man. I talked to people who knew him, and they said he was going to church. He died about a year ago at about age 80. I hope he repented. I thank God for His peace and for taking away my fear and hate. When we find ourselves con- sumed by hatred, we should ask ourselves: What would Jesus do? (Louise Dold of Perry is a member of Sacred tleart parish, Morrilton. Reprinted from Arkansas Catholic, March 24, 1989.) J I)0 ,i L to R: Sr. Catherine Markey, an unidentified death penalty opponent, Rev. Warren Harvey of Little Rock and Msgr. John O'Donnell before a silent vigil spon- sored by Amnesty International on the capitol steps. Love your enemy and good. :,, Be compassi ate, as Father compassionate. Do not judge, you be j ed. Do not con- demn, and you not be ndemne ] Pardon, and you will be pardonedil... For the|measure i ,ou measure with will be measure back to it ! LtJke 7. 35a, 36-38 Deborah Hilllard The first word I heard, as I walked the press room at the Cummins the State epartment of Orrection, John Ed- Swindler scheduled to lie in a few was the le." fol- by a llst of ty parts to electrodes 0uld be attached. was grateful that I didn't have to people, anybody, about electrodes. voltage. Or other things that a has to ask about during an in which minutiae and the mun- become up-to-the-minute news. I was grateful to be the only media erson among more than 60 in the l ress room who was able to NOT take public relations fellow David took his place behind the light- to announce that John Swindler had just taken a (required before an execution), that the "shower went without David White is a nice guy. He's me out more than once when needed some information or guid- Ace concerning the prison system, es` back when Ronald "Gene" sent to Death Row at the Maximum Security unit. Sim- is to die Monday for a massacre two and a half years ago which left 16 people dead. The night of Swindler's execution, not only White but everyone involved with the prison and with the execution was helpful and friendly. The prison folks were excellently prepared for the press, and the state police did their job professionally and with great courte /, The media folks, too, behaved well. With a couple of exceptions, they were firm but not pushy, and respectful of the situation and the people involved. For my part, which was minimal I was proud of these spiri- tual companions. At that mo- ment, they were, for me, the Church. compared to others', I sat and read (obviously, I was the only journalist in the room carrying a Bible, not exactly standard equipment for a writer). I talked to other writers, gave a couple interviews as a Catholic journalist op- posed to capital punishment, and tried to stay away from the hundreds upon hundreds of pastries and po-boy sand' wiches the prison had made available for the press corps. Few people ate anything. Most of those who began eating stopped in mid- bite. Not too many folks were hungry. Even the journalists, known for being able to stomach just about anything, had no appetite. Radio talk show host Pat Lynch came by to talk. I had been a guest on his show that morning along with Rabbi Eugene Levy of Temple B%lai Israel in Little Rock to talk about the Eureka Springs Passion Play and anti-Semitism. What irony -- talking about the Holo- caust that morning and sitting in an ante-chamber of sorts just hours later, waiting for word that Swindler was dead. Msgr. John O'DonneU had been a guest on Lynch's show the hour before Rabbi and I had gone on the air. "Father John" had talked about the death penalty, about his opposition to it, about the insanity of it, about his long association (he would call it friend- ship) with Swindler, whom he calls John Edward. As I sat in the press room with Lynch that night, Father John was sitting across from Swindler, the two men just 20 paces from the execution chamber, shooting the breeze, sharing silence. Eventually Father John administered the Sacrament of the Sick, wearing the slender purple stole he had brought with him from church. Putting his hand on Swindler's head, he prayed over him. Two men named John on opposite sides of life. I told Lynch about my hang-up of the evening - the word "electrode." Words like that, he mused, give dis. tance. Technical words, scientific words, big long medical words distance us from the human reality (as opposed to the technical reality) of what we're doing. "If we didn't depersonalize it "all, if we didn't dehumanize the execution, we couldn't go through with it," he said. Even the journalists, known for being able to stomach just about anything, had no appetite. ' re have to take the humanness out of it." We pondered together the implica- tions of a legal, methodical "disrespect" for life, as he put it... Later, I drove the two miles back down the road to the first blockade, where I knew that at least a small contingent of Catholics would be stand- ing in vigil, in quiet protest to legal murder. On the way, I passed the black hearse making its appointed round. My friends were gathered under the trees while overhead an orange sun peeked out from a single doud, the only cloud left after a terrific thunderstorm an hour earlier. They were praying for John Edward Swindler, for his victims, for the families and for all people af- Two men named John on opposite sides of life. fected by anger and violence - which is all of us. The phrase "consistent life ethic" whispered in my head. These pro- lifers had gone all the way, even when "all the way" was a grassy spot marked for protesters two miles down the road from the execution chamber. Even when it was over a hundred degrees out- side. Even when across the yard young people were holding signs saying Burn, Baby, Burn, and having a raucous party. I was proud of these spiritual com- panions. At that moment, they were, for me, the Church. I returned to the press room, where I would learn that in the witness room were ten chairs, each equipped with a small white plastic bag, 'lust in case." Half an hour later, we learned that John Edward Swindler had died three min- utes after the electrodes had done their work. I watched the reporters grill the witnesses who had watched the man die. One reporter poised her pencil in front of a witness: %Vould you describe the agony on his face?" As I walked out of the press room, two reporters behind me were compar- ing notes. The word which echoed in the near-empty room, and which ech- oed in my head as I walked in the door of my dark and quiet house two hours later, was "electrode."