Has the Church Let Schiavo Down?

Certainly the headline for the front-page article, “Terri Schiavo's Bishop Warns Against Removing Feeding Tube” by Stephen Vincent (Aug. 24-30), took the most positive view possible of the long-awaited statement by the bishop of St. Petersburg, Fla. But those words emerge as a terrible life-and-death vigil is rapidly coming to an end and follow language that indicates a husband who has abandoned his marriage vows and is living with a woman not his wife — who has borne him a child — is still to be recognized by the Catholic Church as having his legal wife's best interests in mind.

This in spite of the fact that money given him to provide medical and rehabilitation services for that wife have been paid to lawyers and doctors noted for their support of the culture of death. Small wonder that people with disabilities are puzzled and wonder if the Catholic Church really cares about their lives.

The Aug. 12 statement notes, “her family has not been able to come together to make a single, unified, mutually agreed-upon decision concerning Terri's situation.”

Terri's family is totally united and includes a mother, a father and siblings who have been struggling to end the fabrication that Mr. Schiavo is concerned about Terri's continued welfare. Anyone concerned should certainly review the real family's Web site, terrisfight.org.

As the executive director of a national Catholic office charged with promoting respect for the lives of people with various disabilities, I am receiving dozens of e-mails every day asking how the Catholic Church can say it is pro-life yet fail to support the lives of those of us with disabilities.

Yes, Terri is neurologically disabled, but a number of medical and rehabilitation specialists not associated with the pro-euthanasia movement have affirmed she is not in a coma or persistent vegetative state. These individuals ask why the Catholic press does-n't ask “us” about such cases. There is a phrase, “Nothing about us without us,” which apparently has little meaning to the Register.

Thousands of us with disabilities have had the personal experience of receiving negative judgments of the quality of our lives. At one point I was urged to accept death rather than request antibiotics to cure pneumonia. This was justified on the basis that “pneumonia is an easy way to go.” I had the ability to fire those doctors. Terri does not. She has had to depend upon her “real” family, and we have failed them!

Starvation and dehydration are not easy ways to go. People are asking me if Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life, the 1995 encyclical) was cancelled. What do I tell them?


Washington, D.C.

The writer is executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

How unfortunate and sad that Terri Schiavo's own bishop has not spoken out loudly and clearly against removing her nutrition and hydration (Aug. 24-30). It was a perfect teaching moment.

None of the facts as reported would indicate that she falls into any of the categories described by Catholic teaching as legitimate reasons for removing a feeding tube. Simply put, removing her nutrition and hydration will result in her death.

Terri's case is laying groundwork for future cases. Allowing her to die in this ma ner should cause us all to tremble in our boots.


Middleville, Michigan

The writer is past president of California Nurses for Ethical Standards.