Thursday, October 16, 2003

Update From Florida

Canonist Pete Vere was at the prayer vigil for Terri Schiavo last night, and is providing updates at the Envoy Encore blog.

In spite of the "gut-wrenching" atmosphere there yesterday, there was some good news, namely that the lawyers for the husband and Terri's family have reached an accomodation that at least restores Terri's pastoral visitation "privileges". I would quibble with the word "privilege", as I think it is a fundamental right that no one has the authority to deny. But the fact is that Msgr. Malanowski, who had been regularly visiting Terri, has been allowed to resume his visits. So Terri will at least not die without spiritual comfort and assistance.

Bishop Lynch has made a statement, as his Communications director indicated he would. The statement reads as follows:

With the news that the feeding tube has now been removed from Terri Schiavo, my own prayers and those of thousands of other people go out for Terri and for her family. May the author of all life look kindly on Terri and provide consolation and hope for those who love her.

I continue to believe that such decisions should not be made in the court system but must be made on a case-by-case basis by families and/or other responsible parties at the clear direction of each one of us well in advance of a crisis.

Let us pray that Bishop Lynch will take an even more active stance in opposing the injustice being done to Terri.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

And So It's Begun...

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, in accord with the order of Judge George Greer, was removed at 2:00 this afternoon. Unless nutrition and hydration are restored, Terri will die within 10 days to 2 weeks. And she will die not of any disease, but because a judge has ordered her to die. She will die in spite of ample evidence that her condition is treatable and improvable.

Note that the story I link above persists in describing Terri's condition as a "Persistent Vegetative State", in spite of the fact that dispute over that description, and the substantial evidence against it, are the very essence of the controversy over her case. The Press and Media have been scandalously, shockingly lazy and/or prejudiced in their coverage of this matter.

Terri's parents released a videotape of Terri yesterday that clearly indicates that Terri is in nothing like a PVS. I wonder if that tape will make the major networks' evening news shows?

I called the Diocese of St. Petersburg this afternoon, and I spoke to a woman in the Communications department. I told her that I wanted to express my dismay at the injustice being perpetrated on Terri, and urge Bishop Lynch to take definitive, bold action in assisting the Schindlers in their efforts to save Terri. I said that the bishop needed to be the one leading the protest against this outrage. She indicated that she would relay my remarks to the bishop. She also told me that the Bishop was "very concerned" about the situation as well. She then went on to say that Bishop Lynch had met with Governor Bush today to discuss Terri's plight, and that he would be making another public statement later today. I also spoke to the Bishop's secretary, and repeated my statement. I also asked her whether or not Bishop Lynch had met with the Schindlers and spoken to them personally. She told me that she "wasn't at liberty" to discuss such matters, which didn't surprise me as most "pastoral" conversations are considered confidential. I also told her that I was especially outraged that the husband was denying pastoral care to Terri. She took my name and information and said that she would ask the Chancellor of the diocese to contact me.

It's my hope that Bishop Lynch will take a strong stand in this matter, and take charge in protesting the inhuman treatment of Terri. We must pray for Terri; for the husband, that his heart's hardness will be softened; and for Bishop Lynch, that he would have the courage and fortitude to stand up for human dignity.

By the way, I've seen some of your offers (thanks Rod, Cathy, Jim, Mark, et al.) to help pay my way down there to try to intervene, especially in the area of pastoral care. I'm certainly open to doing so. I'll have more to say on that matter as things develop.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Supreme Court to Take On Pledge of Allegiance Case

The Supreme Court has decided it will rule on the (in)famous California case in which "atheist activist" Michael Newdow sought to have the words "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.

Justice Antonin Scalia has recused himself from the case, in response to Newdow's petition citing Scalia's words at a Knights of Columbus conference as evidence of bias. This, of course, makes it all the more likely that the SCOTUS will rule against the Pledge.

I am genuinely of two minds on this matter: On the one hand, I am opposed to anything that will further strip religion from the public life of the nation. I think that Madison's dictum that our form of government is suitable for only a "godly people" is true, and that the Naked Public Square will lead to further breakdown of the social fabric, and so, inevitably, to tyrrany.

On the other hand, I wonder if removing the phrase "under God" from the Pledge wouldn't be a sort of "truth in advertising." After all, I think it is scarcely credible to claim that we are still, in any meaningful sense, a nation "under God". Wouldn't removing those words from the Pledge simply be a recognition of reality?

That phrase, "under God", has, for many Americans, become an empty shibboleth. To utter it is to simply "observe the pieties". In it's original meaning, it implied that the Nation saw itself as subject to God: that we as a people sought to place ourselves under the guidance and authority of God. I'd be surprised if one in ten Americans actually thought anything like that today. I think that when many Americans think of God, they think of a cosmic sugar-daddy who is "on our side", and not of how we mock Him with our embrace of the Culture of Death.

While I would be sorry to see those two words go, I think that truthfulness always has a salutary, and sometimes even a bracing effect. Losing that phrase might shake some Americans out of the fantasy that America has some sort of manifest-destiny Sacred Mandate, and that we have a divine mission to spread the Sapientia, Lux & Pax Americana to all the world.

The only message destined to go "to all the world" is the Good News and Truth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We'd do well to start living up to it better here at home, and the first step to so doing is acknowledging that we're doing a pretty poor job of it right now.

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.