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Terri's Treatment Based on 'Right' to Convenience

John Mallon

Published on

The passion of Terri Schiavo was taking place on our TV screens around the world during Holy Week 2005. Last year during Lent and Easter we had Mel Gibson's accurate portrayal of the Passion of the Christ, but this year it is not just a movie. We see Christ's Passion played out in the person of Terri and the anguish of her family, while the judiciary plays Pontius Pilate - seeming too annoyed to be bothered with reviewing new testimony and affidavits with a woman's life at stake and washing their hands of the whole matter and wishing it were over.

Now I know why we pray, "God Save the United States and this Honorable Court!"

Good Friday occurs this year on the same day as the Feast of the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary of Nazareth that she was to be the Mother of God pending her assent. It highlights that the joy and sorrow of Mary's motherhood were to be mixed inseparably like two liquids, like red and blue colored water forming a royal and penitential purple that could not be separated. One cannot help but think of another Mary, Terri's mother, Mary Schindler, and her anguish at her daughter's passion.

Terri is not terminally ill. She is not being allowed to die; she is being made to die. This is the crucial difference between the morally licit practice of refusing extraordinary treatment and being denied basic treatment like food and water, which all people need to survive. Food and water is not an extraordinary measure.

Do we have a right to "convenience," especially at the expense of another person's life? It seems the courts in the United States think we do. The stage was set with Roe v. Wade which planted the precedent that the convenience of one may trump the right to life of another. One can only hope and pray that this incident, unresolved as of this writing may serve as a speed bump on the slippery slope on which we have been embarked.

If Terri dies, as it appears she will soon, I pray that it will send a very cold, slow and lengthy shudder through this land and throughout the world about what sort of people we have become.

After months of claptrap from liberal pundits about the United States being turned into a "theocracy" by the so-called "Religious Right" it appears that the opposite is occurring. Outright denial of religious freedom is taking place. It would not be a stretch to call it religious repression.

In a press conference on Holy Saturday, March 26, George Felos, the lawyer for Terri's husband denied claims by Terri's family that Terri was refused the final sacraments of the Church. Felos said that on the contrary, the court authorized Terri to receive Holy Communion before her feeding tube was removed, and that the courts have also authorized her to receive Communion once more before she died.


Since when does a court "authorize" a Catholic's reception of the sacraments in America?

And if this were true, why was one of one of the Franciscan Friars caring for Terri's family on camera within a few hours begging Michael Schiavo to have compassion on Terri's parents by allowing Terri to receive Holy Communion for Easter?

This is not the first time a court interfered with Terri and her family's free exercise of religion. In October 2003 Msgr. Thaddeus Malinowski was told that he would be arrested if he attempted to give Terri Communion, which would have consisted of a tiny piece of the sacred Host, moistened to prevent choking. In the eyes of the court, apparently, this would have violated orders that Terri not receive any life preserving nourishment or hydration.

In a case with outrage upon outrage this adds only severe insult to severe injury. We have not arrived at this point by accident, but by a concerted effort to establish artificial "rights" via the judicial system. Authentic rights carry with them duties. The movement for artificial rights has been to deliver us from all duties to our fellow citizens, and even, nay, especially, to those who ought to be closest to us - our own families, be they unborn, disabled or old - should they become inconvenient to us. By extinguishing the duties we have toward others by means of artificial rights we are also extinguishing all authentic rights and removing the ground on which they stand.

God Save the United States and its Honorable Courts.

Mallon is Contributing Editor of Inside the Vatican magazine. He can be reached at




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