"You can interpret that as a desire to stand before God as his (McVeigh's) earthly life was ending," the priest told United Press International. "Totally honest, in all his goodness and in all his sinfulness, and humbly asking God through Jesus Christ's life and death and resurrection to ask God to forgive his sinfulness and pardon it, to save him and lead him to eternal life."
The Rev. Ron Ashmore of St. Margaret Mary Church, of Terre Haute, Ind., whose parish is located five minutes from the U.S. Penitentiary where McVeigh had been on death row, said he visited the Pendleton, N.Y., native for more than a year. He was asked to do outreach for the Catholic inmates when there was no prison chaplain and he often went there twice a week. Later, a full-time Catholic staff chaplain, the Rev. Frank Roof, was hired but Ashmore said he kept in touch with some of the inmates, including McVeigh.
"Tim asked to have the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Dying, if facing imminent death, at around 4 or 5 in the morning," Ashmore said. Ashmore said he was not there but that he was curious and found out what happened by speaking with McVeigh's attorney and the chaplain.
"This is what happened: the warden asked Tim's attorney whether Tim wanted 'the last anointing of his church?' and that the staff chaplain was available," Ashmore said. "The attorney then asked Tim and he said 'I do.'" The warden was amenable to having the execution by lethal injection delayed to accommodate the Last Rites, but it was not necessary.
"Tim was intelligent and he knows his faith and he knew what he was asking for," Ashmore said. "While he probably didn't practice his faith publicly since high school, he knows his faith--he's absolutely in heaven." Ashmore explained that the prison chaplain and McVeigh did not simply meet before his execution, but that as a Catholic McVeigh requested the last anointing and that he "had to request it."
Ashmore, who described McVeigh as "a good man who did an evil thing," was trying to make amends with everyone and that his attorney Robert Nigh helped him think through what he did--"it's a process that takes time." "Tim made himself right with God, and he did so even before the final anointing," Ashmore said. "But that's an ongoing process and we Catholics believe it takes a lifetime, and Nigh said he could not successfully help Tim express words of reconciliation in an honest way."
According to Ashmore, Catholics are against the death penalty because it doesn't allow a person the time to continue that process--it takes time--"a lifetime"--and Roman Catholics believe it's inappropriate to stop that process.
"Tim was in that process and I know that Tim was sensitive to the deaths and pain of all those people and it was a true expression of his heart and he tried to say that in his letters to The Buffalo News," Ashmore explained. "But the government chose to cut that process short under the title of justice."
"I am sorry these people had to lose their lives," McVeigh wrote in a series of letters to The Buffalo News, his hometown newspaper that was published Sunday. "But, that's the nature of the beast. It's understood going in what the human toll will be but that it was a legit tactic in a war."
McVeigh, a decorated Army veteran, returned from the Persian Gulf War to a hero's welcome but "broken and drained after he had seen death and caused it," according to family members. Unable to find work in western New York, he traveled to 40 states selling arms at gun shows, drifting and agitated about the federal government.
"If there would not have been a Waco, I would have put down roots somewhere and not been so unsettled with the fact that my government was a threat to me," McVeigh said. "Everything that Waco implies was on the forefront of my thoughts. That sort of guided my path for the next couple of years, Waco made me decide that you can't lay down roots because you're not even safe in your own room anymore."
He was the first American executed in a federal prison since 1963. "Anything he tried to do correct or any good thing he did was written off," Ashmore said. "He was demonized so much, when he tried to make a statement it was misinterpreted or ignored."
McVeigh's father, Bill McVeigh, 61, a retired auto worker who lives in Pendleton, N.Y., told The Buffalo News he was brokenhearted by the death of his only son but that it was better to have the execution sooner rather than later.
"I have nothing against them (the federal government), they basically did what they had to do," Bill McVeigh said. "If it was going to happen, I guess it's good that it's over with."
The elder McVeigh said he was glad to hear that his son had met with a priest to receive Last Rites before the execution. "I was happy to hear that. It's good," he said. "Timmy seemed to put religion on the back burner, but in the last few hours, maybe it hit him."