Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Terri Schiavo Is Scheduled to Begin Dying Tomorrow

And, if her husband and the courts have their way, she'll do so without the benefit of pastoral care.

That's right. Her husband, the man who is eager to collect Terri's settlement fund and move on with marrying his live-in girlfriend, thinks that Msgr. Thaddeus Malanowski isn't "the kind of person" he wants visiting Terri. He's worried about Msgr. Malanowski's "integrity".

It would seem as though there is a singular lack of humanity in the Florida judicial bench. I have never heard of a patient being denied pastoral care before. I can't even imagine the kind of hardness of heart required to take such a position. Never have I witnessed such a concatenation of unjust judges: First there is Judge George "Persistently Vegetative" Greer, who seems almost as eager for Terri to die as her husband. Then there is U.S. District Judge Richard A. "I Wash My Hands" Lazzara, who refused to intervene to even delay Terri's death. And now Judge George "Without Benefit of Clergy" Greer has decided that Terri is so sub-human that she is to be denied even spiritual comfort and consolation.

The monstrosity of the injustice here is underscored by this refusal to allow Msgr. Malanowski's priestly ministrations. Even condemned criminals are given access to clergy. Think of that! Terri Schiavo, who is guilty of no crime, is being denied something we commonly provide to the most heinous of criminals. I cannot think of reprobation severe enough for Judge Greer and his cronies.

Judge Greer has repeatedly demonstrated his bias and unwillingness to entertain new evidence in the Schivo case. He has demonstrated wilfull intellectual dishonesty in continuing to describe Terri as in a "Persistent Vegetative State", when the principal evidence for that is simply the assertions of the husband and his lawyer. And Judge Greer's deprivation of pastoral care can only be described as a despicable abuse of judicial power. Judge Greer is manifestly unfit for judicial office. He is morally unfit for any position fo public trust.

What does it take to remove a judge in Florida? Floridians, remember this come election time! Make the removal of Judge Greer a campaign issue!

As a priest, I cannot imagine being in Msgr. Malanowski's position. I simply could not stand for such interference with my ministry. I would be inclined to seek every means possible to disobey the order and visit Terri. An unjust law is no law at all. Similarly, a capricious, inhuman, unjust and gratuitous judge's order is no order at all.

There is a long standing tradition in the Church of defying Caesar when he trespasses beyond his rightful authority. There is a well-established tradition of resisting Caesar when he attempts to deprive the Church of her legitimate prerogatives. And so, I reiterate the suggestion I made a couple of weeks ago: It is time to consider civil disobedience.
Perhaps it is time for persistent efforts at public pressure. Perhaps organizing sit-ins or human chains in Judge Greer's courtroom?...Maybe public outrage will get through the judge's leathern conscience and atrophied sense of justice.

And finally, if all else fails, do you think that the Schindlers might find, maybe, 500 to 1,000 people to surround the nursing home with a human chain, and prevent the authorities from dispatching Terri? Maybe to fill Terri's room with people on a 24-hour watch, so as to deny access to those who would end Terri's life?

The Florida Bishops have spoken out to slow down the rush to kill Terri. While I could wish their statement was written more forcefully, it nontheless is a good beginning. But the time for beginnings is past. The time for action is here. Several bishops and priests have made headlines by being arrested at abortion clinics. Are there any in Florida willing to risk arrest by picketing or otherwise interfering with the efforts to kill Terri?

Maybe, if nothing else, a determined effort to get a priest in to visit Terri? She deserves at least the same consideration we would give a condemned criminal.