Even his holiness Pope John Paul II got into the act by sending a message a few days ago to Governor Bush via the Apostolic Nuncio in which he appealed to the governor for clemency to "provide a culture more favorable to respect for life." It was not an unusual move for the Pope has submitted similar requests in a humanitarian gesture of promoting the culture of life to other officials regarding those who were about to be executed. The reason this case has received so much publicity is two-fold. One, Karla Faye Tucker will be or will have been only the second woman ever to be executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Secondly, the turnaround of this once "drug-head" 23 year-old former prostitute who now, at 37 had turned her back on sin and become a born-again Christian caused even more publicity. But it was what she had been doing since her conversion that prompts our response - working to share Christ with others in a manner truly reminiscent of Mary Magdalene.
As the hours, minutes and seconds counted down to her execution, Karla Faye Tucker was composed and accepting of whatever God so willed. She knew she would have to pay for a crime that drugs greatly contributed to, but she also realized that the penalty for sins against the Law of God are far greater than any punishment man can bestow. She violated the Fifth Commandment, not once, but twice hacking victims Jerry Lynnn Dean and Deborah Thompson to death in Houston in the early summer of 1983. She realized that she could not bring them back to life, that she could not make amends to the families of the victims; but she could make amends to God for this heinous deed of which she was truly repentant. Her actions over the last fourteen years have borne this out as she had become a model prisoner, ministering to many, even marrying the prison chaplain - though the last had nothing to do with her salvation and, in fact, hurt her credibility with many.
We could use this column to call for an end to the death penalty, but that is not our soapbox for the political ramifications, pros and cons are much more clearly cut than the abortion or euthanasia issues. Many point to the Old Testament of "an eye for an eye" mentality in reinstating the death penalty as a deterrant to stop crime. But crime can only be stopped by turning hearts. That is one of the things that Karla Faye Tucker eventually did; hearts that had been hardened by lives of crime and immoral prison life were softened to the Word of God through this diminutive prison colleague who sought to make amends to Whom it counted - her Creator. Now prayerfully her soul is freed from the prison of original sin and free to roam the regions of Heaven, if not for a possible short stint in Purgatory. Time limits we have no concept of for those are reserved for God alone. But time is what Karla Faye Tucker had on her side. Yes that's right. Though it may seem like a contradiction for many will say "time ran out on her," we say au contraire for she had time to make amends and to prepare for the time she knew she would die. How many of us would opt for this opportunity? Wait a minute you might be saying, has this editor totally lost his marbles? Not really when you read further. Think about it. What if you knew the exact time you were going to die? Wouldn't that give you the proper preparation time to prepare to meet God? How many of us have that "opportunity?" Very few for we do not know the time nor the hour! So rather than lament for Karla Faye Tucker, let us celebrate the opportunity God provided her to be ready. Remember the words of Simeon in Monday's Gospel of Luke (2: 29) for the Feast of the Presentation, "Now Thou canst dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen Thy salvation." Karla Faye Tucker claimed she had seen the light, focused on salvation and, like Simeon, was now ready to let God call her home where she would truly be free and forgiven. That is a gift that, despite the No-Mercy platitudes of the Texas Board, truly reveals His Tender Mercies to all of us, especially to one who was lost and now is found!