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Inside NCR

A serious problem in need of a better solution

While a majority of college kids go to the beach or other forms of partying in their spare time, one busload from Notre Dame was on a more somber journey recently -- to an execution.

Tara Dix’s story, (A night spent waiting for death to come), is no bleeding heart exposé. While the dead man is walking to the dread gurney inside the Michigan City, Ind., prison, the students outside are bothered by the cold. Everything is relative.

The dead man walking was, it seems, one mean dude. After reading of the murder he committed, some might think he deserved anything he got. Then the dead man’s own story is told -- a life without much happiness. And now here he is walking to the gurney.

The thing is, most of us probably didn’t give him much thought that night, probably never heard of him. Those who went to be there for the execution have earned a better right to speak out. Even they are not in accord. In that particular case, there was only one pro-execution activist working the Bible, but there is often a bigger pro-death rooting section.

It’s complicated. And relative. The subject cries out for further consideration, for more light. This story is an effort to throw some light. Surely, at the end of the day, we will realize, as most of the rest of the world has, that this is no way to solve this admittedly serious problem.

I have nothing more to say about the Unsworths than you will find on page 16 [not posted on this site]. Anyone who has been reading Tim’s column these many years -- ever since he sent us out of the blue a welcoming letter, sort of, written to the newly appointed Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago -- must feel they know Tim. The gleam in his eye is on each of his pages.

Jean Unsworth is not as well known to NCR readers. We hope that’s remedied in this issue.

The only reason I mention them here is because it allows me to use the photo, for which, by a quaint NCR custom, I will get $5, never mind that the camera was the Unsworths’.

Last week we brought you the disturbing tale of Aaron Milavec(NCR April 24), the former longtime theology professor at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati who lost his job after a religiously conservative student, who describes himself as a theological novice, raised questions about the content of Milavec’s course.

The disturbing news did not end there. On page 5 of this week’s issue [not posted on this site], Pamela Schaeffer follows her original story with an eerily similar tale. Sr. Barbara Fiand has taught at the school for 17 years. Although she is highly regarded by her peers and, according to past evaluations, by her students and superiors, she was dropped from the seminary division of the Athenaeum after two conservative students complained about her course.

One can only wonder who is calling the shots at the Athenaeum and why.

National Catholic Reporter, May 1, 1998