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Vatican, Gibson Join Fight for Terri's Life: A Summary of Recent Events |
By Valerie Schmalz | Updated March 15, 2005
Demonstrating an unusual willingness to intervene in U.S. affairs, the Vatican for the third time in
three weeks is speaking out for the life of Terri Schiavo, saying removal of her feeding
tube would be "direct euthanasia."
on Sunday, March 13th, that the
Pontifical Academy of Life has appealed for the life of the 41-year-old brain damaged Florida
woman. At the request of Michael Schiavo, her husband and legal guardian, a Pinellas County,
Florida circuit court judge ordered Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube removed on March 18th.
Numerous appeals by her family to let them take over her care have been rejected although
a number of actions are underway, including a bill before the U.S. Congress and another
one before the Florida legislature.
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Academy for Life, in explaining why the Holy See is
speaking out in favor of Schiavo, said Saturday on Vatican Radio that her "case goes beyond
the individual situation because of its exemplary character and the importance that the
media have rightly attributed to it," Zenit reports today. "Silence in this case might be
interpreted as approval, with consequences that would go well beyond the specific case,"
he said. "From all worthy accounts, Schiavo may be considered a living human person,
deprived of full consciousness, whose juridical rights must be recognized, respected,
and defended," the president of the pontifical academy said.
"The removal of the
gastric feeding tube from this person, in these conditions, may be considered direct
euthanasia," added the bishop. Removing the tube would create a precedent and "would
present euthanasia in reality as a right before the courts of the United States,"
with consequences in the U.S. and elsewhere, Bishop Sgreccia said.
Over the weekend of March 12-13, Inside the Vatican
magazine reported that "Mr. Robert Schindler the father of Terri Schiavo spoke to Mel Gibson
on the afternoon of Friday March 11 2005.
The report stated: "The film star and director/producer of The Passion of the Christ has released
a statement to the March 12, 2005 Rally organizers in Florida on behalf of Terri Schiavo
as follows: 'I fully support the efforts of Mr. & Mrs. Schindler to save their daughter,
Terri Schiavo, from a cruel starvation. Terri's husband should sign the care of his wife
over to her parents so she can be properly cared for.'"
In additon to Gibson, countless people around the United States and even around the globe are weighing
in to save Terri Schiavo from a March 18th date with starvation.
Within the Catholic Church, cardinals and bishops from Rome to Baltimore
to Tallahasee have decried the pending removal of the 41-year-old disabled
Florida womans feeding tube. Father Frank Pavone of Priests for
Life started a novena
for Terri Schiavo and urged Americans to write their Congressional
representatives in support of legislation pending in Washington, D.C.
and in Tallahasee, Fla.
Cardinal William Keeler, chairman for the U.S. Bishops Committee for Pro-Life
on March 9th that it was "morally obligatory" to provide
food and water to Terri Schiavo.
"The case of Terri Schindler Schiavo in Florida," wrote Cardinal Keeler,
"has focused national attention on the plight of patients diagnosed as
being in a 'vegetative' state." However, it has been argued by Terri's
parents and supporters for Terri Schiavo that she is not, in fact, in
a vegetative state, but a minimally conscious state.
Cardinal Keeler's statement followed a March 7th statement
the Vaticans Cardinal Renato Martino, the second in two weeks
by the president of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome:
"How can anyone who claims to speak of the promotion and protection
of human rightsof human liferemain silent? Is this not a question
of the right to life? I believe that I must speak out about this in the
same way that I would speak of the protection of the unborn and just as
I would concerning any injustice."
On Feb. 28th, the eight
Florida bishops issued a statement supporting Terri Schiavos
right to life. That statement said, in part: " No longer able to speak
on her own behalf, Mrs. Schiavo is a defenseless human being with inherent
dignity, deserving of our respect, care and concern. Her plight
dramatizes one of the most critical questions we face: To be a truly
human society, how should we care for those we may not be able to cure?"
On that same day, St. Petersburg Bishop Robert Lynch issued a
separate and somewhat contradictory statement while at the same time
signing the letter from the Florida Catholic Conference. Bishop Lynch
wrote: " Normally, at the end of life, families of the person in extremis
agree that it is time to allow the Lord to call a loved one to Himself,
feeling that they have done all they possibly might to provide alternatives
to death, every possible treatment protocol which might be helpful has
been attempted. There is a peace. This will not happen in this instance
because of the seeming intractability of both sides."
With little more than a week to go before Pinellas County Circuit Court
Judge George Greers judicial order will take effect, both Florida
state lawmakers and U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at
blocking the removal of Schiavos feeding tube.
In Congress, the Incapacitated Persons
Legal Protection Act introduced by Rep. Dave Weldon on March 8th had
more than a hundred co-sponsors. It would allow Terri Schiavo to qualify
for habeas corpus protection, the same protection afforded death
row inmates, which would move her case into federal court for a hearing.
Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez introduced similar legislation in
the Senate and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frists office told
the St. Petersburg Times that Frist would attempt to fast track
the bill to the Senate floor for a vote without any committee hearings.
The House version is scheduled for a Judiciary Committee hearing on March
16th. At least ten disability rights groups support the legislation,
according to Not
Dead Yet, an organization of disabled people opposed to euthanasia
and assisted suicide.
In the Florida legislature, a
bill (HB 701 in the House and SB 2128 in the state Senate) would block
removal of feeding tubes from incapacitated persons unless they had specifically
requested via a living will. The bill had cleared one committee and was
the subject of extensive debate in the legislature.
While Judge Greer rejected a Florida Department of Children and Family
Services request for a sixty-day stay to review abuse allegations, a department
spokesman said March 10th that the department is reviewing
its options. The
St. Petersburg Times reported that Gov. Jeb Bush was disappointed
by Greer's ruling, saying, "I don't know how DCF can't be involved. There's
a law that says if the hot line is called and there's a warranted need
for an investigation that there ought be an investigation."
Meanwhile, on March 11th Michael
Schiavo rejected a cable television millionaire and stem cell supporters
offer of $1 million if he transferred guardianship to her parents.
In commenting on the decision by Mr. Schiavo, the Schindlers said in a
March 11th statement that they were not surprised. "After
he has denied Terri therapy for so many years and denied our family any
opportunity to help her," the Schindlers said "we can only come to the
conclusion that he is not comfortable with the prospects of her regaining
her abilities to speak and communicate to us the reasons for her collapse."
John Paul II on "Life-Sustaining
Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas"
of Terri Schiavo: When Does Dignity End? | By Fr. Michael Black
Over Terri | Valerie Schmalz
DCF's Schiavo Petition Unsealed | The Tampa Tribune (Friday,
March 4, 2005)
Brother Fights For Sister's Life | by Margaret Zagroba | Vice President,
Princeton Pro-Life. Saturday, March 5, 2005.
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight.
She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print
and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University
of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service
at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San
Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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