U.S. religious leaders have in recent weeks taken outspoken stands in two high-profile crime cases, condemning what they say is excessively vindictive punishment.

Daniel Buechlein, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Bishop Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church have criticized the planned execution of Timothy McVeigh, scheduled for May 16 in Indiana. McVeigh has been found guilty of the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in which 168 people were killed—one of the most highly publicized crimes in U.S. history. McVeigh will die by lethal injection.

In the state of Florida, a group of Episcopal bishops have publicly criticized a sentence for 14-year-old Lionel Tate, who was sentenced in March to life imprisonment without parole for beating a six-year-old girl to death.

The bishops have asked Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, to consider clemency in the case. Lionel Tate was 12 years old when he committed the crime, which drew wide attention to the problems of juvenile crime.

In both the McVeigh and Tate cases, the religious leaders have condemned the crimes, but have said the punishments reveal deep problems in the justice system.

"It's hard to believe this happens in the U.S." Bishop Leo Frade of the Episcopal Diocese of southeast Florida , told ENI, referring to Tate's sentence. "We have no credibility in the world when this happens."

Archbishop Buechlein's condemnation of the McVeigh sentence stems from the Catholic Church's long-standing opposition to the death penalty, which is legal in many US states and has been applied with increasing frequency in recent years. The McVeigh case is the first execution in almost ...

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