Friday, March 04, 2005

Fast For Terri!

Greg Popcak over over at the Heart, Mind and Strength Blog has a great idea!

Greg says, rightly, that we need a miracle to save Terri. So let's stand at the gates of heaven and ask for one:
In this season of Lent, a time of repentance in which we reflect on the generous suffering Christ endured for our sake, I suggest we do as St. Paul suggests (Col 1:24).  Let us "join our sufferings to the cross of Christ" and offer those sufferings for Terri's sake.

I propose that from today to March 18--and perhaps beyond--all those reading this who are physically able, participate in a fast for Terri.  Let us offer our hunger to God so that she might be spared of the hunger that will kill her.

As this is a Friday in Lent, when we are called to fast and abstinence, I can't think of a better day on which to start.

To paraphrase Our Lord, some victories can only be won through fasting and prayer.

Woman Deprived of Food & Water Joins Fight For Terri

Kate Adamson, who was in a "locked-in" state, and diagnosed as "a vegetable" by doctors, had her feeding tube removed for eight days and suffered from hunger and dehydration. Only through the persistent efforts of her husband did she receive treatment and eventually recover.

Adamson has now "joined the fight to save Terri Schindler Schiavo and hopes to visit the 41-year-old disabled Florida woman by mid-month."
Now, at 43, the mother of two is fully functional, except for some paralysis on the left side of her body. She tours the country to tell her story and speak about the sanctity of life. Adamson believes the campaign to defend Terri's life has a large impact on all of society.

"This is not just going to affect Terri, but a lot of Terris," she told CNA. "This (the outcome in Terri's case) will affect a lot people's lives."

"I pray that God will soften hearts to see the woman (Terri) lying there and see someone who deserves a chance at life, even if she doesn't respond the way we want her to respond," Adamson told CNA. "I'm praying the judge's heart will be softened."

"God is in the business of miracles. Everything hinges on him right now," she said.

Thank God for people like Kate Adamson, who, having "been there", can help us see beyond our utilitarian ideas of whose life is worthwhile!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Florida Bishops' Conference Issues Statement on Terri

Yesterday, the Florida bishops issued a statement titled Continued Concerns for Terri Schiavo. Among other things, they quote the Holy Father's address last spring to a conference on the Persistent Vegetative State, saying:

"In a statement provided in March 2004, Pope John Paul II urges us to see every patient in a so-called "vegetative" state as a fellow human being, retaining his or her full dignity despite diminished abilities. Regarding nourishment for such patients, he said:
I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means,always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering."

By saying this, the Florida Bishops have gotten to the heart of the matter: Food and water are not medical treatment, they are the underlying support and sustenance of human life. As such, they cannot be treated like other medical treatments. Until 10-15 years ago, this would have been considered standard medical ethics.

The Bishops' statement is a positive development, but I think they could go farther.

The fact is, Michael's efforts to end Terri's life are wrong. Michael is trying to end the life of an innocent woman, whom he promised to "love, honor, and cherish". He has repeatedly refused to provide her with the therapy which could improve her condition. He has repeatedly refused to have non-invasive diagnostic procedures done, such as MRI and PET scans, which most neurologists consider standard and necessary to diagnose PVS or other serious brain injury. He has been aided and abetted by the Florida courts, which have simply refused to admit any evidence which would question Judge Greer's "finding of fact" that Terri is PVS. The efforts of George Felos, Michael's attorney and passionate pro-death advocate, have been aided and abetted by the Florida legislature, which changed Florida law in 1999 to specifically include "artificially provided sustenance and hydration" under the definition of "medical treatment".

Make no mistake, Terri's case is about more than just Terri. This is the front line of an attack against the dignity of life itself, and over who will have power over life and death. More is needed than statements of concern and promises of prayer.

The bishops need to say "This is wrong, and we cannot allow it to stand!" A woman's life hangs in the balance, and many more lives will follow if Michael Schiavo and George Felos are successful. The bishops must speak the Truth to power, in this case, the unrestrained use of raw judicial power, and say "No! This is evil, and we will oppose it!"

Where have been the bishops out at the hospice with those keeping vigil? Where have been the bishops appearing before the press, and urging Catholics to stand up against this? There have been precious few priests, and most of those from outside of Florida.

Why can't the bishops just come out and say "This is wrong". We know what the Church's teaching is, we know, as the Catholic Medical Association said last week, that there is "no rational justification, moral or medical, to withdraw food and water from Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo."

A moral theologian I know told me the other day that the bishops would be on firm ground to say that removing Terri's feeding tube is objectively wrong, and that Michael, whatever his subjective frame of mind might be, is wrong for pursuing it.

Why won't the bishops say it?

I'm Leaving Florida Today

I wish I could stay longer, but we can't always have what we wish for...

I'll have some more personal remarks and descriptions of my trip in a later post, but right now there are more important things to get out there.

Bishop Lynch Won't Comment on Cardinal's Statement,

Issues Statement Calling Terri's Case a "Sad Situation"

Last week, Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, issued a statement saying that if Michael succeeded in removing Terri's feeding tube, it would be "tragic in itself", and "a serious step toward legally approving euthanasia in the United States."

When reporters from the Tampa - St. Petersburg area contacted Bishop Robert Lynch for his response, Bishop Lynch "could not be reached for comment".

I wonder, if they had contacted him regarding his Annual Pastoral Appeal, would he have been "available for comment" then?

But, not to worry, on Monday Bishop Lynch issued a statement in which he recognized that the Schindlers feel "they are outside of the decision-making process" and that "they are in great pain and suffering mightily."

So Bishop Lynch feels the Schindlers' pain.

He devotes most of the statement to urging "both sides" to "allow some mediation" so that Terri's legacy is "a heroic moment of concern for the feelings of each other, guided by moral and ethical considerations, with a single focus of achieving the best result for Terri."

The most charitable thing I can say about this statement is that it is utterly inadequate.

Bishop Lynch refers to normal "end-of-life" cases, where families know that "they have done all they possibly might to provide alternatives to death", and have attempted "every possible treatment protocol which might be helpful". But nowhere does he give a clue that he recognizes that such has not been done in Terri's case. Heck, Terri hasn't even had the proper diagnostic procedures most neurologists consider standard for someone with a brain injury.

Furthermore, by going back to his talk of "decisions made within families", and of "both sides" coming together, Bishop Lynch shows that he still views Terri's situation, as Bob Schindler told me for my Catholic World Report piece, as a family dispute, and not as a grave injustice being perpetrated on one of his flock.

Bishop Lynch, it would seem, doesn't get it.

Bishop Lynch could mobilize the faithful of his diocese. He could encourage his priests to speak out and preach about it. Instead, the priests of his diocese have been largely invisible (as has he). Bishop Lynch, why have the priests of your diocese been so silent? Why have they been so lamentably uninvolved in the efforts to save Terri's life?

Bsihop Lynch could give a bold and clear witness to the sanctity of life. He could stand up for the rights of those whom our world sees as "useless eaters". He could send a message to the "right-to-die" crowd that the elderly and disabled of Florida are "off limits".

He has done none of those things. Last year, when I wrote my CWR article, I interviewed the Pro-Life Director of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Deacon Joseph Grote (he at least would talk to me, unlike Bishop Lynch). I asked him if he or the diocese had any events or activities planned with regard to the Terri Schiavo case. He said no, he wasn't aware of any such plans.

Not much has changed since last year.

Once again, the faithful are on their own.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Vatican Cardinal Speaks Out for Terri

Earlier this week, Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke out against ending Terri Schiavo's life by dehydration and starvation. The Cardinal, citing constant Church teaching and more recent statements by Pope John Paul II, said:
“If Mr. Schiavo succeeds legally in causing the death of his wife, this not only would be tragic in itself, but would be a grave step toward the legal approval of euthanasia in the United States,” according to a Zenit News report.

“I would like to remind everyone in this connection, about all that the Holy Father has said in past days to the Pontifical Academy for Life, confirming that the quality of life is not interpreted as economic success, beauty and physical pleasure, but consists in the supreme dignity of the creature made in the image and likeness of God,” the Cardinal added. “No one can be the arbiter of life except God himself.”

Now that Cardinal Martino has spoken, will that move the Bishop of St. Petersburg, Robert Lynch, to a forceful witness on behalf of Terri? As I remarked in this week's Crisis E-Letter, Bishop Lynch has been all-but invisible regarding Terri. And the Florida Bishops' Conference hasn't been much help, either, issuing only this rather weak statement earlier this month.

The problem, as my friend Brian Saint-Paul said in the E-Letter, is that these bishops seem to be unwilling to actually apply Church teaching to what is known about Terri's case.

We've had bishops from outside Florida, such as Bishop Brusekwitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Archbishop Burke of St. Louis, speak out strongly in support of Terri's right to live. The Pope made a very forceful statement about the right to nutrition and hydration at a medical conference on PVS last Spring. Now we have a Cardinal at the Vatican speaking out.

Where are the Bishops of Florida?