Friday, November 26, 2004

Giving Thanks

I hope all of you had a Happy Thanksgiving. I am away from the parish for a few days, enjoying Thanksgiving with family and friends. We had a fabulous feast yesterday, with great food and lots of great wine, including a ’94 Chateauneuf–du–Pape that was sublime. I truly have a lot to be thankful for.

But it was yesterday morning at Mass that I realized what I had to be most thankful for. I was able to concelebrate Mass at the local parish. The priest, Fr. Boniface, was most gracious and welcoming. Fr. Boniface is 86 years old, and still going strong. He’s a little stooped, and he doesn’t move very fast, but according to everyone here, he’s just as active as the other parish priests. In fact, he was out of action for about 6 months earlier this year because of broken hip (which is no joke for man his age), but now he’s back to his normal activity. In his own quiet way, he was inspiring to me. I realized that Fr. Boniface, and all the other priests like him who have been faithful to their vocations for decades, quietly doing the Lord’s work, are truly men to be thankful for.

And I’m profoundly thankful to God for allowing me to share the priesthood of Our Lord with men like Fr. Boniface. My priesthood is the thing I’m most thankful for.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Opening the Way for Infanticide Down Under?

A father in New Zealand was acquitted today of charges that he had murdered his brain-damaged daughter.

Although he admitted to smothering "her face with his hand until she stopped breathing", he was cleared of all charges. The jury deliberated for all of 47 minutes.

The incident occurred on the day the father and mother were told by doctors their baby had "the most survivable profound brain dysfunction possible".

The head of the Commissioner for Children's office recognized how the jury could have come to such a verdict: "The jury could only reach the verdict it did because it wasn't able to value the life of the baby."

"Wasn't able to value the life of the baby". The inevitable result of failing to value the life of the human being in the womb is to whittle away at any sense of the value of human life outside the womb.

God have mercy on us.

Specter Likely to Get Judiciary Chairmanship

Over the last week or so pro-lifers have been working to stop Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter from becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in the wake of his warnings to President Bush against appointing conservative or pro-life judges. Senator Specter has tried to wiggle and spin his way out of this, but Specter's track record and commitment to abortion-on-demand are well documented.

In spite of the outcry of pro-lifers and other conservatives, it now appears that Senate Republicans are preparing to give Specter the Judiciary chairmanship. In fact, one Republican senator, Robert Bennett of Utah, characterized pro-life opposition to Specter as a "tempest in a teapot." Remember that senator's name and his remark, people. We may need to remind that senator, and his Republican colleagues, who put them in office.

Before the election, a number of "Catholics for Kerry" derided pro-life Catholics for supporting President Bush and the Republicans, saying that the Republicans weren't really serious about opposing abortion. While their conclusion that it was therefore OK to vote for "the candidate of the abortion industry itself" was incorrect, the current behavior of the Senate Republicans leads one to believe they may have been right about a lack of seriousness regarding opposition to abortion.

Peggy Noonan, whom I ordinarily admire and respect, suggests in her column yesterday that pro-lifers and other conservatives need to just "shhhhhh!" about Sen. Specter and the judicial appointment issue. Apparently she thinks we need to just sit back quietly and trust the Republicans to do the right thing on pro-life issues.

Sorry, but I won't hush up, and neither will a lot of pro-life Catholics. I trust no earthly powers or authorities, even those with (R) after their name. The only thing I trust is results. The Republicans have been talking a good pro-life game now for over twenty years, and it is time they delivered. If they don't, it's very simple: The next election cycle, I'm done with them. I won't be played.

So, we need to prod these senators once more into remembering their commitment to defense of the unborn. If they want to retain the trust and support of pro-lifers and Catholics, putting a man implacably hostile to our cause in the judiciary committee chairmanship is not the way to do it.

If you haven't called or written Republican senators to express your opposition to Senator Specter, now is a good time to do so. If you have already, do it again! The only thing that will work is to keep up the pressure, to not let this "tempest in a teapot" fade away.

Call these Republican members of the judiciary committee:

Hatch (202) 224-5251
Grassley (202)224.3744
Kyl (202) 224-4521
DeWine (202) 224-2315
Sessions (202) 224-4124
Graham (202) 224-5972
Craig 202/224-2752
Chambliss (202) 224-3521
Cornyn 202-224-2934

You can get more info here, and look up your senator's contact info at www.senate.gov.

Thanks to Mark Shea and Dom Bettinelli for links and other info.

Article on Fight for Terri's Life Out This Month

In this month's issue of Catholic World Report, my article "The Struggle to Save Terri" is the cover story!

In this article, I relate some of the personal experiences of the Schindler family, and my own experiences in helping them, in their efforts to save Terri's life. I describe the circumstances of how I came to be involved in her case, and my reactions to the inhuman treatment to which she is subjected, such as her husband Michael's denial of a priest's visits:
I had 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. Even condemned criminals are given access to clergy! But Terri Schiavo, who was guilty of no crime, was denied something we commonly provide to the most heinous of criminals. It seemed to me that Judge Greer had decided that Terri was so sub-human that she is could be denied even spiritual comfort and consolation. I wrote at the time:

"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."

It seemed to me that this deprivation of Terri's right to spiritual care was the final indignity. If this wasn't sufficient motivation to condemn Terri's treatment and mobilize opposition, nothing would be.

The article isn't available on line yet, but if you don't get Catholic World Report, now would be a good time to start!

Hooray For Me!

Sometime in the last week, my blog turned over the 200,000 mark on my hit counter!

Thanks for your faithful readership and support!

Where Have I Been?

I've received several e-mails from concerned readers in the last week or so, wondering where I've been. Have no fear! I've just been really busy with parish reponsibilities, and have had to devote some time to dealing with a couple of personal issues (nothing to be worried about). But, obviously, I'm back to blogging. Thanks to those who expressed their concern.

The US Bishops: Leading Us Boldly Forward to 1978

Well, the Bishops had their meeting in Washington this week, and in their deliberations showed more of the bold thinking and outspoken witness to the Truth that has made the Church in the US the "Shining Light on a Hill" which we've known it to be in the last couple of decades.

Some have suggested that some of the decisions taken by the bishops at their meeting indicate that they are seriously beginning to re-think how the USCCB does business, and how the bishops can more effectively witness to the Gospel. I'd like to believe that, but the elections of Bishop William Skylstad as USCCB President and Bishop Donald Trautman as chair of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy make the suggestion of "rethinking" on the part of the bishops seem a bit counter-intuitive.

Bishop Skylstad is, perhaps, emblematic of the problem of the American bishops: he is mired chest-deep in the priest-abuse scandal, unable to account for his failure to heed warnings about a pedophile priest assigned to work under him as pastor, and about whose conduct he was also aware as a member of the diocese's personnel board. Furthermore, he is leading his diocese of Spokane, Washington, into bankruptcy, the result of mounting lawsuits against the diocese for sexual abuse by priests. Finally, in a meandering column earlier this year, Bishop Skylstad indicated that, in his concern for the common good, he would take no action to publicly hold accountable Catholic officials who support abortion.

So, the US Bishops elected as their president a man who was, at the very least, ineffective in dealing with sexual predators in the clergy, a bishop whose temporal stewardship of his diocese has led to bankruptcy, and a cleric who will not stand up to witness against those who advance the Culture of Death.

And why was Bishop Skylstad elected? Why, because it's his turn, don't you know? It's a strange way to signal that they're "re-thinking" anything.

The election of Bishop Trautman as chair of the liturgy committee is a signal that many bishops want to return us to the heady halcyon days of 1978, and the "flexible" liturgy that Bp. Trautman has championed. For Bishop Trautman is one of the principal architects of the trivialized, banalized, insipid liturgy which is the norm in most American parishes.

In a 2001 article published in America magazine, the Bishop dismissed concern for accurate liturgical translations as Vatican "micro-management", and chafed at Rome's insistence that it have oversight of liturgical translations. Bishop Trautman also seems to think the current ICEL translations we have are just fine, and sees no need for the ongoing work of Vox Clara for truly faithful translation. He asks rhetorically, "Are we to tell our people now that the bishops’ approval of these texts 30 years ago and Rome’s confirmation of that approval was flawed?" In a word, Your Excellency, "Yes". Honesty, a trait which has been in short supply in our episcopate, would demand as much. Anyone with a couple of years of high school Latin can see that the ICEL translation we currently use is flawed from beginning to end. And those with real expertise in Latin and familiarity with the Tradition find it shockingly bad. A whole generation of Catholics has been given watered-down liturgy and has been deprived of our Church's full liturgical patrimony thanks to ICEL. The whole ICEL structure, it's architects and apologists, needs to be jettisoned. Bishop Trautman will be an obstacle to true reform of the liturgy, and his election is lamentable.

There is one glimmer of light in this mess, though. Cardinal George was elected the vice-president of the USCCB, and thus will probably take over the presidency in three years. Perhaps he can resume the work of reform which will in all likelihood be stalled for the near future.

I have predicted that things would get worse before they got better. In this case, I'd rather have been proven wrong.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

St. Pete Times Cries a River For Michael Schiavo

Laments the "unjustifiable delay" in killing Terri.

In an editorial today, the St. Petersburg Times called the courts an "obstructionist force", since they have held back, this time, from handing Michael Schiavo the power to end his wife's life.

Liberals are funny: when judges legislate from the bench, they are "progressive" and "forward-thinking". When the courts don't give liberals what they want, they are "obstructionist". Watch now for a flurry of excoriation directed at Judge Greer from his former fan club in the MSM, since he has dared to slow the legal machinery of death.

I also predict that, if George Felos does drop out, there will be a great hue and cry for some attorney to come forward and take up the case. A source in St. Petersburg tells me that the real voice behind this editorial is none other than Felos himself. Given the similarity in some of the phraseology between his recent statements and this editorial, I wouldn't be surprised: it reads as if it could be a Felos press release.

Oh, and just a reminder: when you read the papers or hear ill-informed people speak of allowing Terri Schiavo "the peaceful end" awaiting her when her feeding tube is removed, remember the reality of that "peaceful" end.

Monday, November 01, 2004

George Felos Ready To Throw In The Towel?

Last week, the Schindlers received some good news in their efforts to save the life of their daughter Terri.

Firstly, the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay barring an order to remove Terri's feeding tube until November 30. This was done so as to give Florida Governor Jeb Bush and attorneys for the Schindlers time to take Terri's case to the Federal courts, particularly the US Supreme Court.

In a separate hearing on Thursday, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Greer heard arguments from George Felos, who asked the court to end his stay on the removal of Terri's feeding tube early, on Friday. Attorney for the Schindlers, David Gibbs, countered by asking Judge Greer to continue the stay indefinitely.

But in a surprise decision, on Friday Judge Greer issued the indefinite stay requested by Gibbs on behalf of the Schindlers.

The decision barring the removal of Terri's feeding tube indefinitely has prompted Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, to consider ending his efforts to kill Terri:
"I think we are coming very close, if we are not here already, where proceeding in the judicial system is futile," said George Felos, who represents Michael Schiavo in his quest for court permission to stop feeding his brain-damaged wife. "It would appear that pursuing any remedy through the judicial system is simply a waste of time," Felos said. "It is hard to see where there is any benefit in staying the course in this case."

Felos further complained of Judge Greer's ruling, "I think it's outrageous." The ruling, he said, "could delay this case months, even years."

It seems to me that Felos is starting to view the prospect of further uncompensated legal wrangling with dismay. Recall that Felos hasn't been paid anything by Schiavo since 2002. Terri's settlement fund is exhausted: Felos has been paid about $700,000 by Schiavo, but there won't be any going back to that well. Felos may be deciding that he isn't willing to expend his time and resources pursuing Terri's death ad infinitum.

Terri isn't safe yet, and the battle isn't over yet. Terri will only be safe when Michael Schiavo is stripped of or relinquishes his guardianship of Terri. But this is a very hopeful sign, and reason to be thankful. We need to pray that George Felos does give up his pursuit of Terri's death as a "bad job", and that Michael isn't able to find some other lawyer to aid him in his effort to end Terri's life.

“If They’re Pro-Choice and They’re Democrat,
They’re My Kind of Candidate."


Guess who said this?

Was it Kate Michelman, the President of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League)?

Was it Gloria Feldt, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America?

No, silly! It was Pamela Hayes, an attorney and a member of the US Bishops' Conference National Review Board for Protection of Children and Young People.

Apparently Ms. Hayes thinks we only need to worry about "protecting" children once they've survived the gauntlet of abortion, harvesting for embryonic stem-cells, fetal experimentation, and partial-birth abortion.

When questioned by the National Catholic Register about contributions to Emily’s List, whose purpose is to elect pro-abortion politicians, $2,000 in donations to the John Kerry for President campaign and two $250 gifts to pro-abortion Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Ms. Hayes responded:
“I’ve contributed to a lot of pro-choice candidates, and so what? So what?” Hayes told the Register. “What are they going to do about it? If they don’t like it, then don’t put me on the board. If they’ve got a problem with that, you tell them they’ve got a problem.”

Ms. Hayes then went on to boast of her efforts to further the Culture of Death:
“They haven’t a clue how much money I’ve given to her,” Hayes said of Clinton in an interview Oct. 21. “I’ve given her way more than that, and I mean a lot more. In addition, I was on her finance committee and raised substantial amounts of money for her.”

Over on Amy's blog (thanks, BTW, for the link), some are wondering on what basis people should be selected for positions such as the review board. I don't know what on what criteria the people on the Board were selected, but obviously, given the presence of Hayes, and others like Leon Panetta and Bob Bennett, fidelity to Catholic teaching didn't figure very high on the list.

It seems to me a pretty simple proposition: In any position where people are working for the Bishops, and can in some sense be said to represent the Church, and are given responsibility and trust in that position, such people should be thoroughly Catholic. They should give unqualified assent to the essential teachings of the Church, and be able to wholeheartedly witness the truth of the Catholic faith. They should certainly not dissent from Church teaching in key areas, nor should they give scandal by supporting those who do.

Is that really too much to ask? Given that some of the new appointees to the Review Board refused to comment on support for pro-abortion candidates, it would seem that, for the US Bishops, it may still be.

A Confused Young Man

I probably don't check my comment boxes often enough. This is especially true when I am away from the blog for an extended period, as I have been for almost 2 weeks (sorry about that - been busy).

So I am only just now responding to a confused young man named "Nathan", who left the following comment to my post about John Kerry "lying low" a while back:
Father, if I may ask, which parish in which diocese are you serving? I ask because I'd like to write to your diocesan bishop and talk to him about how you're risking the diocese's, or at least your parish's, tax exempt status on your weblog by openly campaigning against one candidate and endorsing the other.

I look forward to your response.

Of course, almost immediately after I wrote that blog, Senator Kerry, almost as though he were trying to prove me wrong, made several more confused utterances about being "guided by [his] faith", in matters of caring for the poor, the environment, etc. Strangely enough, Senator Kerry won't allow himself to be guided by his faith in the areas of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, or protecting marriage. Most recently, Kerry urged his followers to walk with him "in the footsteps of the Lord" (thanks to Amy for the link). I wonder which footsteps of the Lord those would be? Does the Senator imagine that the Lord walks in lockstep with NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and NOW, as he does?

But, getting back to Nathan's comment, a perusal of his blog reveals that his confusion about the Church's tax examption matches, and in all likelihood is of a piece with, his confusion about Church teaching and a Catholic's political responsibility. For Nathan is one of the "Catholics For Kerry" who has convinced himself that it is somehow consistent with Catholic teaching to vote for a candidate who has literally never heard of an abortion he couldn't justify, a candidate who, in the words of Greg Sisk, is the "candidate of the abortion industry itself."

I have been critical of Senator Kerry, and I have argued, here, here, and here, that it is simply inconsistent with Catholic teaching to vote for a pro-abortion candidate such as John Kerry. I have repeatedly pointed out Church teaching that abortion is the foremost issue confronting us today, and that nothing outweighs it in moral gravity. I have also argued, as have others, that Cardinal Ratzinger's statement about remote material cooperation and proportionate reasons does not give one license to vote for pro-abortion candidates.

My arguments and statements have always been based on Church teaching, and not on partisan political concerns. And I have never "endorsed" any candidate. As I have written before, if Church teaching on life issues seems to cut more against one candidate or party because of their fanatical devotion to abortion, that's the candidate's or party's fault, not mine or the Church's

But the fact is that even were I making "political" statements (which I haven't been), I have just as much right, as a private person and citizen, to express those opinions as any layman. My comments on this blog are mine. They are not represented as, and no one could reasonably construe them as, officially expressing the pronouncements of either my parish or my diocese, the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan. This weblog belongs to me, not to my parish or diocese. Its content is in no way vetted or "approved" by them. Insofar as I voice Church teaching and explain it's consequences for how we live, including exercising our political rights, my remarks are above any partisan political agenda.

So, Nathan, nice try. If, as some suspected, you were trying to intimidate me into silence, it didn't and couldn't work. Personally, I don't think that's what he was trying to do, at least explicitly. I think his comment reflects nothing more than confusion. The idea that my comments here endanger the Church's tax exemption is merely silly.

But Nathan, if you really want to write my bishop, go right ahead. Send him copies of my previous blogs that I linked above. Explain to him how you think that we can follow John Kerry "in the footsteps of the Lord."

Here's my bishop's name and address:

The Most Reverend James A. Murray
Diocese of Kalamazoo
215 N. Westnedge Ave.
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49007


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Giving A Platform To Your Enemies?

That, it seems to me, is what Ohio Dominican University is doing this Thursday night.

On October 21, Ohio Dominican University, in Columbus, Ohio, is hosting columnist Ellen Goodman as the premier event of it's 2004-2005 "Presidential Lecture Series".

I have criticized Goodman before, for an ignorant column she wrote denouncing a "Catholic" health plan that the Federal Government was making available to government employees on a voluntary basis. That column was merely the most recent example of a long-running series of screeds that Goodman has penned against the Church. She clearly has a problem with the Church and with the Catholic Faith.

In addition to her anti-Catholic diatribes, Ms. Goodman is a vehement and uncompromising pro-abort, as can be seen in this column, among others. Whenever the issue of abortion and the Catholic Church comes up, Goodman's "go-to" woman is none other than Culture of Death shill Frances Kissling, whom Goodman accords an authority close to that of Holy Writ.

It may seem extreme to label Goodman an "enemy" of the Church, but she has contempt for the faith of Catholics and contempt for the Church's institutions. She has even belittled the sacraments we hold most sacred, such as the Eucharist, by dismissing the controversy over pro-abort politicians receiving communion as the "wafer watch". Someone who hates what you believe in and mocks what you hold sacred is not your friend.

For these reasons, it seems blindingly obvious to me that Goodman should be disqualified from receiving a forum at any Catholic institution. For a Catholic college to invite someone like Ellen Goodman to speak would be akin to a black college such as Howard University to invite David Duke to speak. It makes no sense at all.

Ohio Dominican University says that its Presidential Lecture Series is intended to underscore the Ohio Dominican motto, "To contemplate truth and share with others the fruits of this contemplation."

What "fruits" of Goodman's "contemplation" does Ohio Dominican wish to share? Her dire warnings about "directives from Rome" and lamentations about authoritarian "edicts of bishops"? Or perhaps her ruminations that the prospect of having serious Christians in positions of power is "scary"? Perhaps she will treat her hearers to denunciations of the Church's "absolutist stand against abortion".

Ohio Dominican University wants us to receive the "fruits" of Goodman's writing. Well, someone else had something to say about fruits. Something about "by their fruits you will know them..."

If you have any thoughts about this event, and the suitability of someone like Ellen Goodman as a speaker at a Catholic college, you might e-mail the President of Ohio Dominican University, Dr. Jack P. Calareso, at calaresj@ohiodominican.edu. Share with him some of the fruits of your contemplation.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Australian Bishops Get It

At least when it comes to our duty to provide food and water to people with brain damage or PVS.

Last month, the Australian Bishops' Conference issued a "Briefing Note on the Obligation to Provide Nutrition and Hydration" to PVS patients. The document is clear and concise, and takes as its starting point the Pope's "Address To the International Congress on the Vegetative State" last March.

Some American Catholic bioethicists, such as Fr. John Tuohey, couldn't seem to recognize the Pope's teaching for what it was: the exercise of the ordinary magisterium. I took Fr. Tuohey to task for this, among other things, back in July.

I'm glad to see some clerics understand the teaching of the Church on this issue, even if we have to go halfway around the world to find them.

You can also download the Australian bishops statement here as a handy PDF document, which is formatted as a pamphlet.

Kudos to the Bishops of Oz!


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Michael Schiavo Reserves Right To Kill Terri "At Any Time"

In a little-noticed remark in this story (go to the picture of George Felos and click on the "watch video" link), George Felos is quoted as saying that the original judgment, that is the one giving Michael the right to remove Terri's feeding tube, is "still in place", and that Michael reserves the right to remove it "at any time". Felos also said that he didn't know when that date would be, and that Michael was "taking it day by day".

So what will Michael do? Will he announce his intention to do so and make a big splash of it, maybe with cameras present? Or will we awaken some morning to find that he has done so in the middle of the night, hoping to get away with it as a fait accompli?

It will be done when, and in the manner in which, he thinks he can get away with. My guess is that he'll opt for the middle-of-the-night approach. Everything about his case hinges on hiding facts from the light of truth. He won't be able to stand doing this in the light of day.

George Felos Shows Equal Contempt...

For people's religious beliefs as he does for the lives of disabled people who cannot speak for themselves.

Felos, the attorney aiding Michael Schiavo's efforts to kill his wife Terri, compared the Pope to Iranian mullahs (like the Ayatollah Khomeini) in court hearings last week.

The arguments in this case, as I explained below, hinge upon Terri's status as a practicing Catholic and the Pope's address last spring which, among other things, clarified the obligation to provide food and water to PVS patients.

Attorney for the Schindlers, David Gibbs, spoke concerning the Pope's statement and argued that it presents a change in circumstances which would render the removal of Terri's feeding tube a violation of Terri's religious rights.

George Felos responded by saying, "This is not Iran. The mullahs don't make pronouncements to validate, invalidate . . . a court's judgment."

That's right, Mr. Felos. The Pope, in insisting that human beings not be treated like disposable objects we can get rid of when no longer convenient, is like Muslim extremist mullahs hurling fatwahs of death against girls who don't wear headscarves.

Felos displays the contempt for religion and religious values that characterizes the majority of our society's elites. He is in good company with certain journalists and columnists who regularly warn their readers about oppressive "edicts from Rome", and agree with organizations like People For The American Way that having serious Christians in positions of power is "scary".

George Felos's statement about mullahs is indicative of the attitude of many occupying positions of power and influence, including our judiciary. That's why I'm not optimistic about the Schindlers' chances of success in their latest legal strategy.

Do Not Push Gently Into That Good Night

An outstanding article by Rosie DiManno in the Toronto Star:
We project our revulsion — which is essentially rooted in fear of our own mortality — and convince ourselves that somebody else would be better off dead because look, just look, at how wretched their existence has become or will become. And that says a great deal about the value that we subtract from a life when it is no longer vigorous and productive; when it just lies there, maybe thinking, maybe dreaming, maybe remembering.

Go and read the rest.

Apropos of Nothing In Particular...

Is it just me, or is John Kerry laying low on the whole "catholic thing" these days?

There haven't been any communion photo-ops or confused theological effluences from him of late.

I wonder if Kerry has been reading the articles about the "seismic shift" of Catholic voters away from Kerry? Perhaps he might be coming to a dim awareness that many Catholics, even those who don't exactly "toe the line" with Rome, don't appreciate his brazen disregard and misrepresesntation of Church teaching, and open whoring for NARAL?

"She's Just Going To Die Anyway"

A great article about Terri Schiavo's case, and the Pope's recent remarks about the care of PVS patients, recently appeared on Catholic Exchange.

It's titled "The Case of Terri Schiavo", and gives a concise but thorough discussion of what our moral duty is in such cases:
[S]ociety must not lose sight of the human dignity of the individual, even if diagnosed as being in a "persistent vegetative state." Such a person deserves the same care as anyone else. The pope affirmed the following principles, which uphold the dignity of the sick person: First, the sick person, even if diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, has a right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.). Second, he has a right to treatment to prevent complications related to his confinement in bed. Third, he has the right to appropriate care for rehabilitation, and to be monitored for signs of recovery; one must never give up hope of at least a partial recovery (no. 4).

The author, Fr. William Saunders, is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, a professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, and an all around smart guy. It's well worth reading anything he writes.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

You May Be Able to Help Terri

Mark Shea has posted on his blog today a request from Children of God for Life in Clearwater, Florida. They are looking for Catholics who have changed their advance directives or otherwise acted in response to the Holy Father's March 20th "Address to the Participants of the International Congress on Life Sustaining Treatments and the Vegetative State".

This is part of the legal strategy I described below, that Terri, as a devout Catholic, would want to follow the Pope's teaching on this matter, and would not have wanted to have her feeding tube removed.

The Schindlers' attorneys have a week to present any further case law on the point and evidence that Catholics have responded to the Holy Father's teaching. The judge said that he would then rule within 2 weeks whether he would hold a full blown evidentiary hearing to determine whether to vacate the previous orders entered in the case.

The most obviously helpful evidence would be affidavits from individuals who have in fact changed the text of their directives or who have executed directives specifically following the mandate of the Holy Father's statement.

Send an e-mail to lifetree@lifetree.org if you think you can help.

The Un-Circumcised Children's Mass

The music teacher at our elementary school organizes and prepares the children for our weekly all-school Masses. And she does a good job, too. In fact, she's been my "unindicted co-conspirator" in several of my more "Thrown Back" efforts at the school.

So yesterday, she comes to me with a look of deep concern on her face.

"Umm, Father," she says, "have you looked at the readings for Wednesday's Mass yet?"

"Well, no, not yet," I answered.

"I thought so," she continued. "Well, there's all that language in it about circumcision and uncircumcision, the circumcised and uncircumcised."

"Okay", I replied, unsure where this was going.

"The little kids don't know what circumcision is," she continued. "I was just concerned because they're not going to have a clue what that means."

"Of course not," I said, still not sure where we were headed.

"Well," she said, probably marvelling at my cluelessness, "you weren't going to talk about what that is, were you? I hope you weren't planning on explaining that or anything."

Obviously she was afraid I might carry my penchant for teaching the kids a little too far.

Images went through my head of my pastor taking dozens of outraged phone calls from irate parents, all to the effect of "get rid of that idiot Johansen", if I actually did something like that.

I answered her "No, oh no! I wouldn't preach about that! It's not like I'd make that the topic of my homily. You don't think I'd actually do that, do you?"

I'm glad I could set her at ease.

New Legal Strategy to Save Terri Schiavo

Attorneys for Bob & Mary Schindler have adopted a novel but interesting legal strategy in their efforts to save their daughter Terri.

They are arguing that removing Terri's feeding tube would be an infringement of her First Amendment right to free expression of religion.
New attorney David Gibbs filed a motion Thursday for an evidentiary hearing. Gibbs argued that a recent speech by Pope John Paul II changes Terri's case completely.

The pope clarified the Church's view on advanced directives. In the pope's opinion, people in a vegetative state -- like Terri Schiavo -- have a right to nutrition and health care.

I would quibble with the article's implication that the Pope's speech last March actually presents anything new. I think that the Pope didn't present anything new in his speech, in which he declared that food and water could not be considered "medical treatment" for PVS patients, but must be considered part of the ordinary care to which every patient is entitled. Rather, he elaborated on that point of Catholic moral teaching, previously enunciated in the CDF's 1980 "Declaration On Euthanasia", and applied it to cases such as Terri's. That is how the Ordinary Magisterium works: applying theological principles to the questions of the day.

The argument boils down to this:
Schiavo's parents on Thursday asked a circuit judge to hold a mini-trial to determine if the pope's recent statement should erase a court finding that Schiavo would not want to be kept alive by artificial means.

David Gibbs III, lead attorney for Schiavo's parents, said Catholics take the word of the pope as the supreme law of the church. And to ignore it imperils the soul.

"It would be disobedience to the church," Gibbs said. "It's a sin. It would be something one would be judged for. . . . It would be an act of disobedience to God."

In other words, since Terri is a Catholic, who practiced her faith and took it very seriously before her injury, she would want to follow the Pope's teaching on this matter, and would not have wanted to have her feeding tube removed.

As I said, it's an interesting argument, and one which I think reflects the truth of who Terri is, as opposed to Michael's cock-and-bull story that Terri "wouldn't want to go on living" in her condition.

Unfortunately, since it is, in essence, a religious argument, the legal establishment is going to be inclined to dismiss it. I hope I'm wrong, but the Florida judiciary hasn't given the defenders of life much cause to be optimistic.

John Kerry — Turning His Back On The Truth

Senator John Kerry is now charging President Bush with turning "his back on science" by opposing embryonic stem cell research, in a new campaign ad:
"It's time to lift the political barriers blocking the stem cell research that could treat or cure diseases like Parkinson's," the ad says. "I believe that science can bring hope to our families."

But it's Kerry who is in fact politicizing the issue, and misrepresenting the science on top of that.

Firstly, he makes no distinction between embryonic stem cell research, which destroys unborn human beings to harvest the stem cells, and stem-cell research using cells obtained from adult bone marrow and fetal umbilical cord blood, which do not destroy human beings and are therefore morally licit.

He also fails to mention that the only stem-cell research which has actually shown results in real research, and actual scientific promise, is that being done using bone marrow stem cells. Embryonic cells have an unfortunate tendency to turn into cancers, but that doesn't stop the pro-embryonic research mouthpieces from making promises of scientific marvels from curing baldness to Alzheimer's. The fact is that promises of breakthroughs from embryonic research have all the scientific quality of Dr. Feelgood's old-time medicine show.

It's not surprising that Kerry would obfuscate, distort, and rely on half-truths in dealing with this life issue, as he has done the same repeatedly regarding the issue of abortion.

But according to the scientists Kerry and his flacks in the MSM don't want to talk about, in a letter to the Chicago Tribune I published back in June, research has demonstrated that "a type of bone marrow stem cell called MAPC could generate every tissue in the body," rendering embryonic stem-cell research superfluous. The scientists concluded that there is "no justification for embryonic stem-cell research".

Kerry, along with the other advocates of saving our own lives at the expense of our children, justify themselves by saying "researchers would use embryos that are going to be discarded anyway." I'm sure that Dr. Mengele had a similar rationale: "Hey, those Jews would just be going to the gas chambers anyway. We might as well get some use out of them as human guinea pigs."

Kerry's ad says "Millions of lives are at stake."

That's true, but not in the way he means it. The only lives that are at stake in this issue are those of the millions of unborn children whom Kerry would sacrifice to a bogus "science".


Thanks to Amy Welborn for the link.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

"Fatally Flawed"

That's Walter Weber's opinion of the recent Florida Supreme Court decision striking down "Terri's Law" in his column in yesterday's National Review Online:
Observers have criticized the decision as a frustration of the will of the people, as an exercise in judicial arrogance, and most disturbingly as a green light for the adulterous Michael Schiavo to seek yet another court order terminating the tube-feeding of his brain-damaged wife.

All true. Yet the decision is something else as well: It is an embarrassingly bad decision legally.

I have argued in the past that the court cases concerning Terri's Law are really all about judges protecting their life-and-death power and keeping their ability to make arbitrary rulings of "fact" safe from review.

Weber shows that the Supreme Court's decision is bad law as well as bad morality:

The Supreme Court's contention that "Terri's Law" gives the Governor an unwarranted ability "to interfere with the final judicial determination"?

"Nonsense."

What about the idea that, in Terri's Law, the legislature gives the governor "too much" discretion in carrying out a program?

"Made-up."

It has become increasingly obvious to me and many others that the Florida judiciary consists of a singularly sub-par bunch of hacks, who don't even rise to the low standard demanded of ideologically motivated judicial activists.

Will the Federal courts step in and redress the wrongs committed against Terri Schiavo and her parents? We can only hope and pray.

Ellen Goodman Is A Bigot

And like most bigots, she isn't very bright.

She demonstrates the admixture of ignorance and prejudice which characterizes the Establishment LeftTM in her op-ed piece today (thanks to Mark Shea for the link), in which she takes umbrage at a "Catholic health plan" being offered to Federal employees.

Apart from her inability to grasp the concept that religiously-affiliated organizations have a right to govern themselves according to their faith, she also seems to miss the point that Catholics (or anyone else, for that matter) enroll in this plan voluntarily.

But, of course, this article isn't really about health care or access to services. This is about Ellen Goodman displaying her intellectual superiority to mono-browed religious fanatics. Witness the remarks about "end-of-life care" being determined by the "latest directive from Rome", and a scary "edict of the bishops". And, of course, there's the obligatory quote from Frances Kissling.

I used to be amazed that people like Ellen Goodman, Maureen Dowd, or Anna Quindlen could get their drivel published by major newspapers and magazines. If I submitted to publications like the National Catholic Register, Crisis, or Catholic World Report (all of which publications I have written for) claptrap as poorly-reasoned and patently ignorant as that which they regularly discharge, it would be unhesitatingly round-filed and I'd get an e-mail from the editor saying something like "you've got to be kidding!"

But columnists such as Goodman aren't about actual thought. You see, to be a liberal requires a constant effort to deny and hold back reality, and as such requires constant reinforcement. That's what Goodman, et al., are in the business of doing. They're the voices lulling the Establishment into its intellectual torpor, saying "don't worry, we must be right..."

Ellen Goodman is like a clown on fire: kind of funny, kind of sad.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Schindlers To Go On Larry King Live

Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, will appear on the "Larry King Live" show tonight

I'm sure they'll have a lot to say about the Florida Supreme Court's recent ruling, and Michael's continuing efforts to kill their daughter.

The show begins at 9 PM EST. 

Requiem

I was doing some writing a little while ago, and while writing I was listening to Gabriel Faure´'s Requiem, drinking a glass of pretty good Spanish sherry, and smoking a pipe full of "Knightly News", one of my favorite blends from Jon's Pipe Shop of Champaign, Illinois - Jon's is where I first learned the noble art of pipe smoking as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois.

Now what, you are probably wondering, does this little nugget of "Fr. Rob Lore" have to do with anything? Well, it was as a student at the U of I that I first got serious about my Catholic faith, and first contemplated my vocation to the priesthood. It's also where I first got involved with the pro-life movement. When the full horror of abortion struck me, I decided I had to get involved. For a couple of years as an undergraduate, I was the Publicity Chairman for Illini for Life. As such, I and other students manned a weekly information booth at the Student Union. And since those days, abortion has continued apace: approximately 40 million unborn children have had their lives cut short in the womb since 1973. That's more than the Nazis, Stalin, and the Cambodian killing fields managed to wipe out combined.

The scripture readings for yesterday's Mass revolve around the issue of complacency. The prophet Amos chastises the Israelites for being so self-satisfied that they are unaware of their nation's slide into immorality and apostasy. The Gospel's parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is an illustration of the consequences of complacency. I reflected in my homily today that we pride ourselves, and have done a fair bit of collective chest-thumping in the last year or so, on being the most powerful, richest, and greatest nation in the world. And all of those things are no doubt true. But is our justice commensurate with our power? Is our self-donation commensurate with our riches? Is our holiness commensurate with our greatness? I have my doubts. We slaughter 4,000 unborn children every day for the sake of our lifestyles. We countenance all manner of perversion under the name of "alternative lifestyles" and "non-traditional families", for the sake of gratifying our lusts. In Florida, Terri Schiavo is very likely to be starved to death in the name of the fictive "right to privacy", and the lawyers and judges congratulate themselves on having dotted all of the legal jots and tittles.

A nation that can do all of these things, and yet proclaim its righteousness, is one in the throes of complacency.

And so, I've been reflecting on my own complacency. "I have a pretty nice life," I thought. I've had a good education, I'm (overly) well-fed, and have had the leisure and disposable income to learn about and enjoy things like Spanish sherry. I love my priesthood, and enjoy most of what I do in connection with being a priest. I am doing that to which God has called me, and I'm pretty happy as a result. I even have the time to indulge in this avocation of writing. As my former vocation director in the Diocese of Arlington, Fr. Jim Gould, told me many a time, "Johansen, you're the luckiest man on the planet."

What struck me was that at the very time I am writing this, unborn children are having their lives snuffed out in the womb. And what stuck me next was the general lack of urgency about the slaughter of the unborn among many of us who acknowledge the Church's teaching. I include myself in this category: I could be doing much more than I am now. I haven't been out to the abortuaries with other pro-lifers to say the rosary on Saturday morning in years. I give money to various pro-life organizations (and I could do more of that), but not a lot of time. I've been "in the process" of putting together a teen-oriented pro-life presentation for over a year now, but have little down on paper. Has the death of those unborn children become a mere abstraction to me? Is that what it is to those who also in some way acknowledge the Church's teaching, but nevertheless find some rationale for making it OK to support politicians who embrace that slaughter?

The right of the unborn to life is the foundation of any "seamless garment" of the Ethic of Life. I would like to see an end to war, poverty, etc. But there will simply not be any progress in those areas until we restore the foundation of protecting the most innocent and vulnerable among us. Any attempts, apart from that, to build a society that respects the dignity of life, will crumble just as a house built without a foundation. As long as we can find rationales to allow, or stand by and permit, the killing of the most innocent, we are setting ourselves up as the arbiters of life and death. And as long as we do that, we will find ways to rationalize the killing of anyone whom we find inconvenient or unworthy.

Faure´ omitted the Dies Irae, with its language of judgment and wrath, from his Requiem. He did this because he wanted to focus his work on the mercy and generosity of God. And God is, indeed, merciful. But we cannot fool ourselves by simply omitting the uncomfortable truths about Him. God is just, and does not allow injustice to go on forever. I fear great judgment for our society as long as the death toll of abortion continues to mount. I fear great judgment as long as those who claim the name of Christ can continue to justify themselves in receiving the Lord of Life at the altar, while yet mocking Him by advocating, defending, or making excuses for a slaughter simply unprecedented in human history. As one of my commentors once suggested, prayer and fasting are what these times call for. And for those innocents deprived of life while still unseen and unheard, this prayer:

Pie Jesu, Domine, dona eis requiem;
dona eis requiem, sempiternam requiem.


Merciful Jesus, grant them rest;
grant them rest, eternal rest.


Friday, September 24, 2004

Statement of the Schindler Family

Yesterday, after the Florida Supreme Court struck down "Terri's Law", the Schindler family issued this statement:


Statement by Schindler Family in Response
to Florida Supreme Court Ruling


For years now lawyers and judges – all of them total strangers – have besieged our family stating in courtrooms and the media that our severely disabled daughter, Terri, must be starved to death. We have been told that she must die in order to protect her right of privacy. And now the Florida Supreme Court tells us that a law crafted to save Terri’s life is unconstitutional when it is applied to her. None of this makes any sense to us.

The ruling by the Florida Supreme Court today was not unexpected; nevertheless the family is disappointed at the outcome. We would like everyone to understand the reason the Florida legislature and Governor Bush interceded in Terri’s case was to protect Terri from a serious miscarriage of justice. The Governor specifically wanted answers to the following questions, all of which are extremely troubling: (1) Why Terri’s purported desire to die was hidden from the jury in the 1992 medical malpractice case, during which Michael Schiavo testified that Terri would need compensation to live out her life; (2) What did Michael Schiavo mean when he purportedly said at Palm Gardens Nursing Home such things as “When is she going to die?” “Has she died yet?” “When is that bitch going to die?” “Can’t you do anything to accelerate her death?” (3) What Michael Schiavo knows about the multiple traumatic injuries of relatively recent origin that were found to be present in a bone scan conducted on Terri by Dr. Campbell Walker in March of 1991? (4) Why were nurses’ notes which documented Terri’s rehabilitation potential deleted from her chart at Palm Gardens? (5) Why were observations of the nursing assistants regarding Terri’s level of function and responsiveness deleted from her chart? and (6) What would Terri’s desires be regarding who should make end-of-life decisions for her if she knew that Michael Schiavo was living with another woman who has borne two children by him?

The family knows that Terri never expressed a desire to be starved to death, and the Legislature and Governor thought the case troubling enough to get involved directly. We profoundly regret that the Florida Supreme Court felt compelled to ignore these questions and opted instead to issue a technical legal decision that doesn’t protect Terri from the cadre of crusaders who are so desperate for our daughter be starved to death. The family knew that this outcome was probable and so we are pursuing other legal avenues, which we hope will save Terri’s life. The family appreciates all those who have supported their fight to save Terri, and again express to them our sincere gratitude. The family also will forever be grateful to Governor Bush and his legal team for their devotion to saving Terri’s life.


Contributions and/or help in the fight to save Terri's life may be made at TerrisFight.org.

Cheryl Ford Has a Blog!

Cheryl Ford RN, is the nurse who discovered the "Exit Protocol" I published a couple of weeks ago, detailing in cold clinical detail how to end Terri's life.

Cheryl has a blog, Fight4Terri.blogspot.com.

Cheryl has firsthand access to lots of information, so it's a good idea to keep on eye on her blog. Check it out!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Florida Supreme Court Rules Against "Terri's Law"

Today the Florida Supreme Court handed down their ruling on the constitutionality of "Terri's Law", the law passed last October by the Florida Legislature which gave Govenor Bush the power to intervene to save Terri's life.

Unfortunately, as I speculated before, this is pretty much the outcome I expected. It was clear from the questioning of the Supreme Court justices that they had pretty much made up their minds about the case.

You can get the ruling yourself here (Adobe PDF file). Thanks to Amy Welborn for finding the link to the case file.

I have only quickly skimmed through the ruling, but it seems to rest on the legal issues I have identified before, namely:

Separation of powers: In our system of government, the functions of the Executive branch, the Courts, and the Legislature are clearly delineated. Except when judges legislate from the bench by discovering new rights in the Constitution which the framers somehow forgot to spell out. But that's OK because it's judges who are doing it, and judges are really smart, and, after all, they really know best. In this case, it means that only judges get to make life or death decisions regarding helpless women who can't speak for themselves.

Irreviewability Of Judicial Decisions of Fact: The Supreme Court recites Judge Greer's decisions of fact, such as that Terri is in a Persistent Vegetative State, as gospel. Ditto for the judge's ruling, based on husband Michael's testimony and not much else, that Terri wouldn't have wanted to go on living like this. The Schindler's and Governor Bush have repeatedly asked for new hearings to review thses and other issues, citing new evidence and ample reason to suspect that evidence was not fairly considered before, but have been rebuffed.

This decision strengthens the ability of judges to make rulings of fact without fear of review or appeal. Judges' rulings of fact are now virtually incapable of being reviewed in Florida. In other words, a judge could, for all intents and purposes, rule that the sky is green. And once he has done so, you can point to the sky all you want and say it's blue, and it won't matter a whit to the courts.

I hope to post more later, when I have time to go through the ruling in greater depth, and if I can reach the Schindlers to get their reactions.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Sorry To Be So Invisible...

Over the last week or so. I've been away from my parish. I was on the East Coast last week, and spent last weekend visiting Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. Among other things, I attended the annual Partnership Dinner for Crisis Magazine in Washington Friday night. It was an outstanding evening, and I was able to see some old friends there and meet some new ones.

I also was able to meet and have dinner with fellow bloggers Zorak and The Old Oligarch Sunday evening. We've never met before, but we quickly warmed up to each other and had a great time. The conversation ranged from Pistols to Patristics. The O.O. introduced me to one of his delights, Absinthe, otherwise known as Wormwood liqueur. It was interesting stuff, but I don't know that I'll make a habit of drinking it.

Sorry, but though I now know the secret identities of the O.O. and Zorak, I'm sworn to secrecy. You'll never get it out of me!

This evening, my diocese's (Kalamazoo, Michigan) Priest's Convocation begins in the Detroit area. This is a pow-wow in which we priests and our Bishop get together and talk about priest stuff.

I'll try to blog more later, but I'll have limited opportunity to do so until Wednesday.



Thursday, September 09, 2004

Proportionally Pro-Abort Politicians

Cardinal Ratzinger recently made a statement in a letter to the US bishops about "proportionate reasons" possibly justifying a vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

Some Catholics, including Fr. Andrew Greeley, have taken that to grant a broad license to vote for pro-aborts as long as you can come up with some issue you feel more strongly about than abortion.

This interpretation of Cardinal Ratzinger, and Church teaching, is almost perfectly wrong. It's so wrong as to be a caricature of the Cardinal's statement.

I intended to blog on this issue, but now I don't have to, because Apologist Extraordinaire Jimmy Akin has answered Fr. Greeley and the rest, by explaining the doctrine which Cardinal Ratzinger assumed (perhaps imprudently) everyone would understand he was referring to when he used the phrase "proportionate reasons".

As Jimmy wrote:
Many Catholics were at a loss to understand the Cardinal’s statement. “Has Ratzinger lost his mind?” some wondered. “Isn’t he departing from sound Catholic theology?”

Others, including well-known dissidents, pounced on the statement as vindication for their cause and wrote newspaper columns trumpeting it as proof that in the Vatican’s view it is okay to vote for pro-abortion politicians as long as you don’t share their pro-abortion view. In other words, a voter can be “personally opposed but . . .”

Both responses fail to do justice to the Cardinal’s remark. Contrary to the first response, he is not departing from the established principles of Catholic moral theology. In fact, he is emphasizing them. Contrary to the second response, he is not offering an easy pretext for voting for pro-abort politicians.

Go read the rest. This is a "must" read.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Cultural Elites Promote Death

A new movie recently screened at the Venice Film Festival represents the latest effort to glorify death and those who promote it.

The movie, "Mar Adentro" ("Out to Sea"), is the story of a man who fought for the right to die after an accident paralyzed him.

The movie "was greeted with enthusiastic applause at a preview showing for the press, giving it an early lead in the competition for the Golden Lion."

It tells the fictionalized story of Ramon Sampedro, a Galician sailor who was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident at the age of 25. He campaigned for the next three decades for the right to die then took his own life.

Sampedro became an international symbol for those who advocated euthanasia.

This is how the Culture of Death advances. The "beautiful people" adopt an idea, and soon it becomes de rigeur among the chattering classes. Then it becomes part of the Received Wisdom of the editorial board of the New York Times. Then the engine of popular culture popularizes it and makes it look attractive by wrapping it in an image of heroism, opposing entrenched forces of medieval superstition and obscurantism, etc.

And the people who produce popular culture are very good at what they do, so they frequently succeed.

This happened with contraception and abortion, it's happening now with gay "rights" and same-sex marriage, and now it's happening with euthanasia.

When are we Catholics going to wake up to and address the power of the culture around us? When are we going to start providing an antidote to the poison?

Friday, September 03, 2004

Terri's "Exit Protocol" Discovered In Hospice Documents

Cheryl Ford, RN, a nurse from Tampa who has been very active in the efforts to save Terri's life, recently undertook, on behalf of the Schindlers, a review of medical records from when Terri was first admitted to Woodside Hospice. Woodside Hospice is run by Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. It is of interest to note that Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, was a member of the Board of Directors of Hospice of the Florida Suncoast until the Terri Schiavo case began to attract widespread public attention a few years ago.

In her research, Ms. Ford found a document titled "Exit Protocol" in Terri's file. The document is on Hospice of the Florida Suncoast "Patient Care Notes" stationery, and is dated April 19, 2001. This document lays out, in clinical detail, the procedures to be followed in bringing about Terri's death by starvation and dehydration.

I reproduce here, in entirety and verbatim, the contents of this document. It was sent to me in the form of an Adobe PDF document. It is not yet available on the web, but as soon as it becomes available I will post a link to it.

The text of the document is in black type, my comments and explanations will be presented in red type


Exit Protocolxxxxxxxxxxxx00038


Patient Care Notesxxxxxxxxxxxxx The Hospice
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxOf The Florida Suncoast

Date

4/19/01xxxxxxxxxxxxxClinical Pharmacy
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxRe: Medication review and symptom management


Pt. is a 37 yo woman in a vegetative state with no apparent signs of distress. Enteral tube-feeding to be discontinued on 4/20/01.

Current Medications:

1. antacid suspension 1-2 tablespoons prn [prn = "as needed"]

2. Naproxen suspension 375 mg Q8* prn menstrual cramps. [Q8* prn = "every 8 hours as needed". Naproxen is a pain-relieving and anti-inflamatory drug. ]

3. Vitamin liquid daily.

Upon discontinuation of enteral feeding the following signs/symptoms may or may not occur. The following is a brief list of symptoms for which to monitor and recommended interventions.

1. d/c ["discontinue"] antacid. d/c Naproxen suspension.

2. d/c Vitamin liquid

3. Monitor symptoms of pain/discomfort. If noted, medicate with Naproxen rectal suppository 375 mg Q8* prn.

Wait a minute! George Felos, Michael Schiavo, and all the other advocates of feeding-tube removal have been saying repeatedly that dying by denial of nutrition & hydration is "peaceful" and "painless". They've both said so in interviews and press conferences, such as on Larry King Live. So if dying by denial of nutrition and hydration is, as Michael said, "painless and probably the most natural way to die", then why is medication needed for pain and discomfort?

4. Signs of compromised skin integrity — continue vigilant skin care, provide moistener to lips, consult wound-care specialist if needed.

As the body dehydrates, the skin loses its tone and dries out. Left untreated, this will lead to cracking and bleeding. The lips are even more sensitive in this respect. "Vigilant skin care" is the liberal use of lotions and moisteners to mask these symptoms. The lips must be continually swabbed with special moisteners, and have lip balm applied to them. In the last stages, though, in spite of such measures, skin breakdown often occurs. Because of the body's debilitated state, normal healing mechanisms do not function. Hence the need to consult wound-care specialists to deal with ulcers and open sores.

5. Signs of dehydration
(A) dry lips, mouth. Swab saliva substitute inside mouth prn. (see next page)

After a few days without water, the body stops producing saliva, necessitating the use of a "saliva substitute" to avoid ulceration in the mouth, and a characteristic foul odor on the patient's breath. The cessation of salivation also leads to other complications which appear in the "pulmonary" section.



xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx00039

Patient Care Notesxxxxxxxxxxxxx The Hospice
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxOf The Florida Suncoast

Date

4/19/01xxxxxxxxxClinical Pharmacy Note — continued

xxxxxxxxxxxxxSigns of dehydration — continued

(B) decreased urinary output - no change in care plan.

While there may be "no change in care plan", one of the effects of dehydration is incontinence. The patient's diapers or "chux" pads will need to be changed more frequently, until such output ceases entirely.

6. Pulmonary
(A) Inability to clear secretions - reposition and swab mouth, consider scopolamine patch behind ear every 3 days.

Dehydration causes the natural mucus secretions of the mouth, nose, and throat to thicken, as the body struggles to protect these delicate membranes. The lack of saliva exacerbates this problem, preventing the normal swallowing of these secretions. These thick deposits can interfere with breathing. The use of the scopolamine patch promotes drying of these secretions, which prevents their build-up, but hastens the breakdown of the tissues.

(B) dyspnea ["difficulty in breathing"] — nebulize low dose 2-5 mg morphine sulfate Q4* prn.

In the last stages of dehydration/starvation, the patient's breathing will become difficult and labored. He or she may even begin gasping for breath, as even the lungs' ability to effect transfer of gases is compromised. Morphine nebulized into a fine spray relaxes bronchial passages and relieves these symptoms. However, because of the resultant decrease in respiratory efficiency, this may hasten death.

7. Multifocal myoclonus or terminal agitation (sometimes caused by electrolyte imbalance). Consider diazepam rectal administration 5-10 mg. May repeat in 4 hours if not resolved then daily - twice daily as needed.

Myoclonus is twitching or spasm of the muscles. Multifocal means "occurring in many different parts of the body". This is usually the result of imbalance in electrolytes, the chemicals, such as salt, potassium, and calcium, which make your bodies internal electrical "batteries" work. Nerve impulses and muscle contractions are governed by electro-chemical reactions utilizing these chemicals. Dehydration causes these chemicals to be out of balance, interfering with normal nerve and muscle function. This can result in nerves and muscles "firing off" uncontrollably, causing spasm. The patient will writhe and become extremely agitated. If you have ever had muscle cramps resulting from strenuous exercise (especially when you have sweat profusely), you have some idea what this feels like. Imagine having this happen all over your body, repeatedly. Diazepam (more commonly known as Valium) is a muscle relaxant

8. Grand Mal seizure, which is highly unlikely given current conditions and lack of contributing factors (meds). Recommend diazepam 15 mg rectally as indicated in seizure management orders.

In the final stages of starvation and dehydration, the same electrolyte imbalances which can cause muscle spasm can also lead to uncontrolled firing of neurons in the brain, according to a similar mechanism. This results in seizures.

Thank you for the opportunity to collaborate regarding this patient's care.

I would observe, in conclusion, that most of the "treatments" described in this Exit Protocol are in fact not directed at easing the patient's true condition, but in masking the symptoms of dying by starvation and dehydration. These treatments are designed to create the appearance of a peaceful "slipping away", when nothing of the sort is happening. The medications hide the fact that the patient undergoes a lengthy and painful deterioration, in which his/her body wastes away cruelly. Remember this the next time you hear or read someone say that Terri should be "allowed" to die.

Not Dead Yet

One organization that has emerged as a leading advocate for Terri Schiavo is Not Dead Yet, a disability-rights organization. Not Dead Yet was founded 1996, as a response to Jack (Dr. Death) Kevorkian, after he was acquitted in the assisted suicides of two women with non-terminal disabilities.

Not Dead Yet, in conjunction with other disability-rights groups, filed two Amici Curiae ("friend of the court") briefs in the recent Florida Supreme Court case concerning "Terri's Law".

Diane Coleman, the president of Not Dead Yet, published an editorial in Tuesday's Florida Today.

From Coleman's perspective, Terri's case is about the rights and dignity of the disabled:
...The life-and-death issues surrounding Terri Schiavo are first and foremost disability rights issues -- issues that ultimately affect millions of Americans, old and young.

These issues apply directly and immediately to thousands of people with disabilities who, like Schiavo, cannot currently process information or articulate their views to the extent that health-care providers require, and so must rely on others as substitute decision-makers.

Coleman, along with other disabled-rights advocates and myself, also sees that the legal process is being used to run roughshod over the rights of the disabled:
In the modern-day United States, bioethicists are working to dismantle the due process part of the Bill of Rights that has previously protected people in guardianship from wrongful decisions to withhold life-sustaining medical treatment.

They would misuse the right of privacy to supplant the right of due process, so that they may kill behind the closed doors of a room in a hospital or nursing home.

With abortion, and, increasingly with regard to those whose lives are for one reason or another considered not worth living, the "right to privacy" has become the "right to kill".

Statement of Not Dead Yet President At Tallahasse Debate

On Monday night, Not Dead Yet President Diane Coleman, along with Patricia Anderson, attorney for Terri's parents Bob And Mary Schindler, participated in a debate opposite "right-to-die" advocate Bill Allen and others at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

I reproduce here the text of Diane Coleman's opening remarks at that debate. The text was sent to me in an e-mail and is not yet, as far as I know, available on the Web. As soon as it becomes available I will link it.


Opening Statement of Diane Coleman at Tallahassee Debate

I've been a health care advocate for a couple decades, sometimes joining protests against government health cuts. One mission of the end-of-life care movement is to educate health care providers about how to provide good end-of-life care, but another mission is to shape public policy on health care. It appears that a certain line of thought in bioethics has pretty much taken over the policy-making work. This line of thought involves a lifeboat approach, deciding who gets thrown out.

The lifeboat bioethicists seem to think of themselves as progressives, but oddly they never spend much energy on ways to cut unnecessary costs before cutting lives. My sister just started a new career as a medical assistant at a practice with 25 doctors. She says that four days out of five, she doesn't have to buy lunch anymore because it's catered in by a pharmaceutical company. But rather than spending all that professional brain power on conquering the waste and inhumanity of a profit-driven health care system, these bioethicists are pushing new health care decisions laws to kill disabled people who aren't going to die soon enough without a little push.

Last year, one of the leaders of the end-of-life care movement, Dr. Ira Byock, was interviewed by Ragged Edge Magazine, a leading disability rights publication. He stated that Partnership for Caring and Last Acts, national leaders in the movement, had excluded the disability perspective, and that this exclusion was "deliberate and irresponsible." What's especially disturbing is that they have set up surrogate decision-making protocols to end the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, without seeking the input of such individuals and the established organizations that address issues of self-determination for people who have less typical ways of receiving, processing and communicating information.

What might other disability groups bring to the discussion table?

I just read a journal article about the problems with advanced directives. A consistent finding in several funded studies is that people change their minds about what treatments they want, and what level of disability they will accept, as they move through the experience of having increasing disabilities. The disability community has a response to that, to use a popular phrase, "well, DUH."

And you may have seen reports of a new Alzheimer's study in the last few weeks. It confirmed previous studies that caregivers have a lower opinion of their relative's quality of life with Alzheimer's than the persons themselves have, and found an explanation for the discrepancy. It seems that the caregivers project their own feelings of the burden of care-giving onto the person they care for. Once again, the disability community response is "well, DUH." And these are the very caregivers who make life-ending decisions.

This is our point. We have expertise to bring. But we also have an attitude about disability that diverges from the mainstream, especially the mainstream of bioethics. And, frankly, I think that's why we were deliberately excluded.

Professor Peter Singer, who holds an endowed chair in bioethics at Princeton, believes that legal personhood should be subject to a cognitive test. Those who don't pass are eligible for killing if their families prefer, or for society's greater good.

At least two of my co-panelists here are working to implement theories like Peter Singer's. In the California case of Robert Wendland, all parties admitted that Mr. Wendland was conscious, what they called "minimally" conscious, and that he had not left clear evidence of his wishes, but Dr. Cranford and Mr. Eisenberg, then representing 43 bioethicists, argued that his wife hould be able to starve and dehydrate him anyway. What Dr. Cranford and Mr. Eisenberg have done, and continue to do here in the Schiavo case, is a direct assault on people with disabilities and the disability rights movement, which demands equal protection of the law, regardless of our health or disability.

Did you see last week's report of a case in which the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that a public guardian may deprive life sustaining treatment from a man labeled mentally retarded, despite the financial conflict of interest for a state guardian of a ward on Medicaid?

Basically, the bioethicists have warped the end-of-life care movement into a life-ending movement. They've had tens of millions of dollars to work with, and they've used it to build a steamroller that's decimating the civil and constitutional rights of people in guardianship. This affects more than the disability community of today, it affects everyone, directly or through family, sooner or later. There are rules being made for who lives and who dies, but the rule-making and the medical killing are happening behind closed doors. We can't ignore it. It's time to call "time out," to go back to the table and talk about how to build a good end-of-life care system, one that respects us all. Let's do that before this goes any further.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

LifeNews.com Also Thinks Court Tipped Its Hand

In an article posted at LifeNews.com, Steven Ertelt observed that the justices "sharply questioned" attorneys for Governor Bush.

But the attorneys for the Governor point out that behind the legal issues lie Judge Greer's bizarre rulings, and the appellate courts' unwillingness to expose those rulings to the light of scrutiny:
Clearly, Schiavo seeks to have this Court accept his incompetent, extra-record allegations as fact, while depriving the Governor of the opportunity to rebut the extra-record claims and prove or disprove the truth of his claims," the brief explains.

Florida Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Terri's Law Case

I was able to watch the oral arguments over "Terri's Law" in the Florida Supreme Court yesterday morning. Nothing very surprising was said by either side. George Felos, the attorney seeking Terri's death on behalf of husband Michael Schiavo, argued that Terri's Law is unconstitutional because it interferes with a person's right to make his own decisions regarding refusing medical treatment. Felos argued that the law, by allowing the governor to intervene, violated Terri's "right to privacy", that is Terri's "right" to decide to die.

Of course, Felos's argument rests on a legal fiction, that Michael, in his guardianship of Terri, is representing Terri's wishes and her best interests. But that Michael can in any sense be said to represent or act on Terri's behalf is a doubtful proposition. One of the problems throughout Terri's legal proceedings is that she has never had an independent guardian ad litem to represent her throughout a case. Both guardians ad litem, Richard Pearse and Jay Wolfson, were discharged by none other than Judge Greer. Oddly enough, these discharges happened after they pointed out things which were uncongenial to Judge Greer or George Felos, such as the fact that Michael stood to inherit Terri's settlement fund if she died. But Felos's case rests on another fiction, namely Judge Greer's ruling of "fact" that Terri would not want to go on living in her current state. As I have written in my Crisis Magazine article Killing Terri Schiavo, the representation that Terri "wouldn't want to go on" is highly dubious, and that Michael didn't raise this contention until several years after Terri was placed on the feeding tube is downright suspicious.

But Felos is staking his whole legal case on this fiction. And because, as I have also written before, the legal system is very reluctant to revisit rulings of fact, he stands a good chance of succeeding.

Felos, I observed, was able to expatiate at some length in response to the Supreme Court justices' questions. It seemed to me that Ken Connor, the attorney representing Governor Bush, was hardly able to get a word in edgewise in response to the badgering he received from some of the justices. As this New York Times article relates, Justice Charles Wells "said he was troubled because he had to conclude that `Terri's Law', passed last October, was designed to sidestep a trial court ruling that found "clear and convincing evidence" Schiavo would not want to be kept alive artificially."

Justice Wells apparently takes Judge Greer's findings at face value. He's also apparently already made up his mind about this case. It's said that the law is blind. I don't know about the law, but I'd say that Justice Wells is certainly blind. It seems to me to require an almost wilfull blindness to be able to read the evidence in Terri's case, see how Judge Greer violated civil trial procedure to allow Michael's assertion that Terri "wouldn't want to go on" into evidence, and then conclude that this farrago of confabulation met the standard of "clear and convincing" evidence.

The attorneys for Gov. Bush argue that Terri's Law is not an unwarranted intrusion of the Executive Branch into matters exclusively under the authority of the courts:
"The Legislature gave this power to the governor because the governor ... is the ultimate defender of people's civil rights in the state," [Bush attorney Robert] Destro said. Another Bush lawyer, Ken Connor, said the courts do not have the "exclusive domain" of protecting the rights of disabled people.

These ideas would seem to be common sense to many. But don't count on too many judges agreeing with them. This case is about judges protecting their hieratic powers to decide life, death, right, wrong, and the meaning of the universe, as much as it is about Terri Schiavo.

The case of Terri Schiavo is also an object lesson in the untold mischief wrought by the so called "right to privacy" recognized by the Supreme Court in the 1965 Griswold decision. Of course, the Constitution doesn't actually say anything about a right to privacy, but the Court found "emanations" of privacy in the "penumbra" of the rights defined by the Constitution.

So, under the right to privacy, women have the "right" to abort their children, people have a "right" to engage in sodomy, parents do not have a right to be informed if their child seeks an abortion, etc. Now, the right to privacy has been twisted to include the right of a husband to end his disabled wife's life, basically because he says so.

If the Florida Supreme Court rules against Terri's Law, it will effectively give guardians and the courts untrammeled power to end the life of anyone who is disabled and cannot speak for himself. It will also mean that, at least in Florida, there is no meaningful remedy for a judge's erroneous, biased, or even bizarre rulings of fact.

Judges, even Judge Greer, as Ann Coulter pointed out, can make mistakes. And Judge Greer's mistakes have cost innocent people their lives before. But this case is about judges never having to admit their mistakes. If Terri dies at the stroke of a judge's pen, it also will be about judges being able, literally, to bury theirs.

Judge Greer Re-Elected

Judge George Greer, the "unjust judge" of the Terri Schiavo case, was re-elected to the Pinellas County Circuit Court yesterday. Judge Greer won over challenger Jan Govan by a 65% to 35% margin (you'll have to scroll down a ways on the linked page to find the results).

Govan, unfortunately, was not able to prevail over Judge Greer's campaign war chest and the support of the legal establishment.

The message Judge Greer's victory should send is this: Pinellas County, Florida is not a good place to get sick in. It's certainly not a place you'd want to become disabled in.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

While Schindlers Are Threatened With Contempt of Court,

Michael Schiavo's Lawyer Gets Set To Clean Up Financially



On the eve of the Supreme Court arguments over Terri's Law, Deborah Bushnell, one of Michael Schiavo's attorneys, sent Pat Anderson, attorney for the Schindlers, two letters in as many days, threatening legal action against Bob and Mary Schindler if videos of Terri are not removed from the family’s web site.

Citing a July 2002 court order, attorney Bushnell, states that videos of Terri may not be disseminated by her family and promises that she will pursue a contempt of court action against the family if videos are not immediately removed.

It is important to note that these videos of Terri were never sealed by the court and, therefore, are public record.

In the meantime, Attorney George Felos has been picked upo as a speaker by Eagles Talent Connection, Inc., a Speakers and Entertainers Bureau in New Jersey. In their online booking site, Eagles Talent offers the speaking services of Mr. Felos for fees ranging from $10,000 to $15,000. Felos joins the Eagles Talent roster with such celebrities as Catherine Crier and Star Jones. Among the topics listed as presented material, Mr. Felos includes “The Terri Schiavo Saga – From Family Fight to Constitutional Crisis”.

I guess it's not enough that Felos has collected more than $500,000 in legal fees from Terri's malpractice settlement fund. Those funds, by the way, were awarded to Terri as a means to provide health care and rehabilitation services. Instead, Michael Schiavo, with the ongoing connivance of Judge Greer, used this money to pay Felos’s legal fees in the ongoing case to end her life.

Day Nine Of The Novena For Terri

Holy Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother, hear our prayers on behalf of Terri Schiavo, and all whose lives are in danger from the Culture of Death. By your gracious intercession, may the Florida Supreme Court be guided by the Spirit of Justice, Counsel, and Fear of the Lord. May the people of Pinellas and Pasco Counties choose judges who will respect life, and use their power for the vindication of the innocent. Amen.

Monday, August 30, 2004

C-SPAN To Broadcast Terri's Law Oral Arguments

According to the C-SPAN website, C-SPAN 2 will broadcast the Oral Arguments in the "Terri's Law" case LIVE, tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM EDT.

Attorney George Felos will represent Michael Schiavo in arguing that Terri's Law is unconstitutional. Ken Connor will represent Florida Governor Jeb Bush, arguing that Terri's Law provides necessary protection for the disabled who are unable to speak for themselves, and that crucial issues and facts were never heard in the original court case which ruled, among other things, that Terri is in a Persistent Vegetative State. He will also argue that Circuit Judge Douglas Baird should not have ruled against Terri's Law without a trial.

I'll be tuning in and praying. I hope you do too.

In Spite Of His Advantage, Judge Greer Can Be Defeated

As I mentioned last week, Judge Greer has the advantage over challenger Jan Govan in organization and money. But good voter turnout in this election is almost certain to help Govan far more than Greer.

A reader writes to tell me:
The election on the 31st is a primary. Florida judicial elections are non-partisan. If no one wins a clear majority in the primary, then the general election in November is essentially a run-off. If someone gets a clear majority in the primary, then they're automatically elected.

Judge Greer has never been opposed in an election before. While the media and a portion of the legal community are behind him, by no means could he be called a popular jurist. There is no groundswell of "pro-Greer" sentiment out there. And, as a recent article on LifeNews.com reports, " pro-life advocates and disability rights activists...have rallied around Terri and are supporting Govan. They've distributed thousands of brochures and fliers on his behalf."

The bottom line is this: judicial elections traditionally have pretty low voter turnout. So mobilizing pro-lifers to get to the polls tomorrow can put Govan over the top. If you live in Pinellas or Pasco County, get out to vote tomorrow! If you know someone who does, get them out to vote! And if you don't, then pray that tomorrow is a day of victory for Govan, and the cause of the dignity of human life.