How Many of Our Priests Are Leading Secret Lives?

January 2004

Perhaps you remember Fr. Ron Ashmore. We had a New Oxford Note on him in our July-August 2001 issue. Fr. Ron, a Catholic priest, had what he called a “dialogue of prayer” with Jesus — a kind of private revelation — where Jesus told him that Timothy McVeigh and all the 168 people he murdered in the Oklahoma City bombing went straight to Heaven.

Now, there were conflicting reports about whether McVeigh was (sort of) repentant or not. McVeigh, a lapsed Catholic, did receive the Last Rites, but it was not clear if it included sacramental Confession. His final written statement consisted solely of a poem, “Invictus” (meaning Unconquered), by William Earnest Henley, which reads in part: “I thank whatever gods may be/For my unconquerable soul…./Beyond this place of wrath and tears/Looms but the Horror of the shade…./It matters not how strait the gate,/How charged with punishments the scroll,/I am the master of my fate:/I am the captain of my soul.”

McVeigh made no final verbal statement, and the San Francisco Chronicle (June 12, 2001) carried the front-page headline: “Death of a Terrorist: McVeigh Offers No Last Words, Only a Steely Stare, for His Victims.” The New York Times (June 12, 2001) reported that he “died unrepentant, without offering a word of regret.” After the execution, McVeigh’s attorney said he “could not successfully help Tim to express words of reconciliation that he did not perceive to be dishonest.”

Of course, only God knows for sure whether McVeigh repented or not, and, if so, whether he was truly repentant. We must hope that he was, even though it didn’t look promising.

Right after the execution, Fr. Ron, who was in contact with McVeigh, made what to us are contradictory statements (though probably not to Fr. Ron): “Tim made himself right with God…. He’s absolutely in Heaven” and “Tim unfortunately did not ever say that what he did was wrong….” We’re not clear how you can make yourself right with God without admitting that killing the innocent, that mass murder, is wrong.

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New Oxford Notes: January 2004

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