One of the saddest components of the Terri Schiavo story besides the relentless efforts of her husband to kill her has been the efforts of Florida Catholic Conference and especially her own Diocese. You can look at the Diocese of St. Petersburg and would be totally unaware of the impending court ordered execution of one of their members. Bishop Lynch last letter on the subject on August 12th was quite equivocal o the subject with sentences like "Despite the prayers of many, myself included, her family has not been able to come together to make a single, unified, mutually agreed upon decision concerning Terri’s situation." As if the family coming to a unified discussion to withdraw nutrition and hydration in this case would be morally acceptable.
The recent statement by the Florida Catholic Conference isn’t much better:
At this juncture, we wish to reiterate several themes from those statements:
1. Lament Confusion as to Her Condition
We lament that there remains – in the eyes of many – confusion as to Terri Schaivo’s actual condition and prospects for her treatment. We have continually requested that parties involved seek greater resolution in this regard.
2. Presumption for Nutrition and Hydration
The Catholic community begins discussions regarding the withdrawal and withholding of artificial nutrition and hydration with a presumption in favor of their provision. However, when the burdens exceed the benefits of providing them, they may be withdrawn or withheld. We note that what is too burdensome for one person may not be too burdensome for another.
3. Need for Health Care Advance Directives
That Terri Schaivo left no written instructions as to whom should make such decisions in her absence (a healthcare surrogate), or what criteria ought to be used to make such determinations has contributed to the difficulty of this case. This is not rare. Studies indicate that approximately 20% of adults have completed such tools. We urge all adults to utilize written directives, and we offer a Catholic Declaration on Life and Death, which can be found on the website.
4. Need for Ethical Decision-making
It is also important to note that such health care surrogates and medical directions can never “trump” or override appropriate moral considerations. In this regard, Catholic teaching notes that the proxy may not deliberately cause a patient’s death or refuse ordinary and normal treatment, even if he or she believes a patient would have made such a decision.
5. Presume Best Intentions
We urge people to refrain from excessive rhetoric and misguided zeal, against which Pope Pius XI cautioned. There are many unanswered questions in this case, and it is necessary to presume upon the best intentions of all involved until shown otherwise.
6. Opposition to Euthanasia
We oppose euthanasia. While withdrawal of Terri Schaivo’s nutrition and hydration will lead to her death, if this is being done because its provision would be too burdensome for her, it could be acceptable. If it is being done to intentionally cause her death, this would be wrong.
7. Join in Prayer for Terri Schaivo and Family
We continue to ask all people of good will to join us in prayer for Terri Schaivo, whose spiritual needs are being met by clergy of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and for all involved in this difficult case, especially her husband, parents and siblings.
Now it is understandable to some extent why they are speaking in very general terms in regards to the Church’s positions on this subject. Yet in specific regards to the case of Terry Schaivo they should be speaking in the terms directly related to this case. They bring up the caveat of "too burdensome for her" but do not outline how in any way this might be applicable in this case. They "lament confusion as to her condition" when it is obvious that she is in no way in an end-stage condition. She has already survived two attempts at starving her to death and the only thing burdensome to some people is that she continues to live. The Florida Catholic Conference has issued many press releases to urge clemency for convicted killers (as well they should), but not one asking for clemency for Terri Schaivo. Why is it that a priest outside of St. Petersberg has been one of the biggest advocates for her. Fr. Rob Johansen has done much to help Terri’s parents and to get the message out. Too many statements sound more akin to diplomatic communique than shepherds tending their flocks. Wolves are not normally scared away via crouched language.
Fr. Rob and Pete Vere have collaborated and composed a prayer for Terri.
Merciful Father, you blessed Sr. Lucia of Fatima as a child with a vision of the Virgin Mary, and granted her the grace to live a life of holiness and heroic obedience to Holy Mother Church. By her life she bore witness to the glory of God. Grant, in this hour of need for your daughter Terri Schaivo, that by Sr. Lucia’s intercession, those souls hardened by the culture of death may come to believe in the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and be moved to revere and protect her life and all innocent human life. Amen.
Fr. Rob also previously suggested:
- Offer penance in reparation for sins against the dignity of life.
- Spread the word.
- Call your local talk radio station.
- Ask your priest, bishop or pastor to speak out.
- Send a donation to Terri’s Fight to support the effort to save Terri’s life.
- Organize a rally in support of Terri.
- Write and call the President to demand that he speak out and intervene.
- Pray some more!
I fervently remember the last time the feeding tube was removed that lead to the passage of Terri’s Law that temporarily put an end to this madness. Political intervention this time around is pretty unlikely and Terri’s fate is again in the hands of Judge Greer and her husbands. So as Fr. Rob an others ask, pray and especially pray for Judge Greer and her husband Michael. There seems to be less activity or at least less publicity this time around when it comes to defending her life.