"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
I was unavailable for calls yesterday, pending precious time with my youngest son, our last child left at home after my wife and I have had the privilege of raising five. When I returned home and checked my calls and E-Mail, the messages were overflowing and rampant with the exasperation that has filled millions of hearts since they began the excruciatingly evil act of killing Terri by dehydration and starvation. There were requests for interviews and endless questions.
Some wanted my legal advice. I am glad I missed them. There is not much I can say given the cowardly, perfidious failure of any Court or Executive, at either the State or the Federal level, to stop the killing. They claim that Terri had no legal rights or standing and that they were "powerless". Where is courage these days? We all know that one of the legitimate purposes of government is to protect the innocent and serve the common good. There has been a massive failure of true leadership, a scandal of the highest order. Terri is being deprived of life and liberty while a Nation watches on television, being told there is nothing that the law can do. Perhaps I could have quoted Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist "If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, "the law is an ass, a idiot."
Others wanted my insights as a clergyman, a vocal and committed Catholic Deacon and writer who has been out front for decades in the fundamental human rights struggle of our age, the right to life and inviolable dignity of every human person at every age and stage. There is not much I could say on that front either. Thank God for the crystal clarity of the Catholic Church concerning this vital issue. The Catholic Church has been a beacon of light in an increasingly dark world. Oh, I know the media has dragged out the collaborators; dissidents like Fr. Robert Drinan who attempt to contradict the truth and play the role of the Tokyo Rose’s in this present conflict. However, the teaching of the Catholic Church is absolutely clear on this vital issue. They are simply wrong. Not only is the Catholic Church speaking through her teaching office, the message is being lived out prophetically through the witness of a suffering servant Pope who has joined his own suffering to Terri’s in a continuing Passion Play.
I returned none of the messages. I cannot speak about this any longer. It has shaken me to the bone. All I wanted to do was mourn. I wanted to hug all five of my children and grandson and not let go. My youngest is the only one still at home so he got my time and attention. It is his" Spring Break" from High School and he will have all I can provide in terms of my time. I also prayed continually for Bob and Mary Schindler and their brave children. I cannot imagine the pain and the anguish they are all experiencing. I have watched their dignity on the camera and thanked God for such a living witness of faithful love in such a treacherous age.
The killing of Terri Schindler marks a turning point in our history as a Nation and in the personal histories of millions of Americans. It will be a reference point for years to come. It has stripped away the veneer of civility and decency that has been painted on the face of the culture of death that has grown in this land. It has forced us to see the serious risk to life and liberty that we all face when truth is erased as a measuring stick for what we call "law" and authentic freedom is replaced by a license to do whatever one wants. It is one more sign of the rot at the root of the infrastructure of rights when "might makes right."
I believe that it can also mark the beginning of a new coalition for life, family, freedom and solidarity. I am tired of the labels of "right", "left", "liberal" or "conservative". They have all lost whatever meaning they may have once had. We have been used by both major political parties. We must rethink our strategy for social, cultural and political action for the common good. We must rededicate ourselves to the long term work of building a new society, a culture of life and civilization of love, where the dignity of every human life will be the polestar of all public policy; marriage and family will be protected as the first mediating institution and defended against those who aim to replace and eradicate them; authentic freedom will be exercised in reference to truth and within a moral constitution, and our obligations in solidarity to one another, and most especially those who have no voice, like Terri, will be upheld by elected and unelected public servants.
With all the talk of the "religious influence" in America, the events in Pinellas Park, Florida reveal the real truth behind it all. I am reminded of the old adage attributed to the English Philosopher Alisdair Macintyre who, commenting on the decay in English society, once said "The Creed of the English is that there is no God but it is proper to pray to him once in a while." Without reference to the source of all unalienable rights and the One who has placed the hunger for true justice within every human heart, we are left unmoored as a Nation.
Terrible injustices such as what is occurring in Pinellas Park, Florida have often marked turning points in the political history of Nations. This unfolding tragedy is such an event. It is time for a new social movement. It is time for a coalition for life, family, freedom and solidarity.
Deacon Keith Fournier is a member of the Catholic Clergy, a human rights lawyer, public policy activist and writer.