March 23, 2005

Random Thoughts on Terri

From the pages of Fides, Spes, Caritas...

Yesterday morning, after blogging about Judge Whittemore's decision not to reinsert Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube, I was in a state that can only be described as despair. It's difficult for me to put into words how important saving Terri Schindler-Schiavo's life is to me; I don't know why exactly, but I feel that this woman's life is the most important cause I've blogged about since I started blogging. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I don't see her just as Terri anymore, but as Jesus Christ hiding in our midst. We don't realize it, but what we do to her we are doing to Christ, and through her pain we are crucifying Christ anew. Throughout the day yesterday, I gradually came to the realization that, without an act of God, this woman is going to die. I had a feeling that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wouldn't act to save her life, and I was right. Now the only option is the Supreme Court, and the justices have already expressed their unwillingness to help Terri.

In effect, the court system is saying: "We are innocent of this woman's blood. Look to it yourselves." And I think that very shortly we will respond, largely by our inaction, saying: "Her blood be upon us and upon our children." According to all of the opinion polls -- and it was a crude form of opinion poll that shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" -- over half of the nation thinks that Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed. Some have proposed that this number arises out of ignorance, because most if not all of those people don't know all of the facts behind this story. I don't think so. Maybe they don't know all of the facts, but I think if you sat them down and told them, it would have a minimal effect on the number who think her feeding tube should be removed. What we often label the "culture of death" has become the culture of death because of American utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is basically the way of thinking which says that usefulness is the highest good, and that the "right thing to do" is determined by the usefulness of its results.

Letting Terri Schindler-Schiavo live is not useful, and regardless of whether or not they know it, the fact that Terri is not useful to them has contributed to many Americans' feelings about her case. Often, many of the arguments these people present amount to this: "She can't do anything, why should she have to live that way?" The translation is this: If you can't do anything, what's the point of living? Utilitarianism. People don't have an inherent dignity regardless of whether or not they're doing anything, not anymore; rather, people have become utilities that can be shut on and off at the whim of society based upon whether or not they are still useful to society. It's a dangerous path. Hitler didn't think that Jews were useful to German society, and we know how that turned out. Terri Schindler-Schiavo is one woman, not six million, but it is not difficult to see how the precedent her death sets could contribute to millions of other deaths. Besides the fact that Terri's death is horrible in and of itself, the decisions reached on this case could set a precedent with implications similar to Roe v. Wade.

What's even more frightening in this case is that the effort to remove Terri's feeding tube has been a bipartisan effort. Although Republicans and conservatives would have you believe that the Democrats and the Left represent the largest and most vocal opposition to saving Terri's life, that's not the case. It's a pretty even mix.

- Judge George Greer, the primary judge in the Schiavo case who has ruled again and again against the Schindlers, is a conservative Republican.

- Judge James Whittemore, the U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of Florida, was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1999.

- Judge Frank Hall was appointed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton in 1997, and Judge Ed Carnes was appointed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. These were the authors of the majority opinion which refused to reinsert Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube.

- Judge Charles Wilson was appointed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Clinton in 1999. He was the author of the dissenting opinion, which would have reinserted Terri Schindler-Schiavo's feeding tube.

- In the event that the Supreme Court becomes involved: Chief Justice William Rehnquist was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986; Justice Ruth Ginsburg was appointed by President Clinton in 1993; Justice Stephen Breyer was appointed by President Clinton in 1994; Justice John Paul Stevens was appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975; Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed by President Reagan in 1981; Justice Antonin Scalia was appointed by President Reagan in 1986; Justice Anthony Kennedy was appointed by President Reagan in 1988; Justice David Souter was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990; and Justice Clarence Thomas was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. That's seven justices appointed by three Republican Presidents and two appointed by a Democratic President.

- As far as congressional action goes, there was no opposition to Terri's Bill in the Senate (it was passed by voice vote), and the Democrats were pretty evenly divided between those who supported Terri's Bill and those who opposed it in the House of Representatives. Five Republicans in the House opposed Terri's Bill.

My point is that throughout our government, judges and politicians from both political parties think that Terri should be starved to death, or "allowed to die" as the spin doctors might put it. The point is that while abortion or the Iraq War might be issues pretty neatly divided along party lines, the starvation of Terri Schindler-Schiavo is something that members of both political parties can get behind. That is truly disturbing.

I don't really feel much better today, because I am still certain that only a miraculous intervention by God himself can save Terri Schindler-Schiavo now. What I'm doing now is what I believe is the only thing left to do: I'm praying. I'm praying for Terri Schindler-Schiavo's body and her soul, I'm praying that the Schindlers and all of Terri's friends and supporters will be comforted, I'm praying for Michael Schiavo's salvation and the salvation of those in our judicial system who have helped him do this, I'm praying for our country, and I'm praying that this case will not set a precedent that will starve countless more disabled and incapacitated persons. I think that's what we really need to do now, we need to pray.