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FEBRUARY 21, 2005

God is Speaking: Are We Listening?

by Thomas A. Droleskey

An Associated Press report of February 13, 2005, was e-mailed to me by some unknown person. The report speaks for itself:

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) For 20 years, Sarah Scantlin has been mostly oblivious to the world around her the victim of a drunken driver who struck her down as she walked to her car. Today, after a remarkable recovery, she can talk again.

Scantlin's father knows she will never fully recover, but her newfound ability to speak and her returning memories have given him his daughter back. For years, she could only blink her eyes one blink for "no," two blinks for "yes" to respond to questions that no one knew for sure she understood.

"I am astonished how primal communication is. It is a key element of humanity," Jim Scantlin said, blinking back tears.

Sarah Scantlin was an 18-year-old college freshman on Sept. 22, 1984, when she was hit by a drunk driver as she walked to her car after celebrating with friends at a teen club. That week, she had been hired at an upscale clothing store and won a spot on the drill team at Hutchinson Community College.

After two decades of silence, she began talking last month. Doctors are not sure why. On Saturday, Scantlin's parents hosted an open house at her nursing home to introduce her to friends, family members and reporters.

A week ago, her parents got a call from Jennifer Trammell, a licensed nurse at the Golden Plains Health Care Center. She asked Betsy Scantlin if she was sitting down, told her someone wanted to talk to her and switched the phone to speaker mode:

"Hi, Mom."

"Sarah, is that you?" her mother asked.

"Yes," came the throaty reply.

"How are you doing?"


"Do you need anything," her mother asked her later.

"More makeup."

"Did she just say more makeup?" the mother asked the nurse.

Scantlin still suffers constantly from the effects of the accident. She habitually crosses her arms across her chest, her fists clenched under her chin. Her legs constantly spasm and thrash. Her right foot is so twisted it is almost reversed. Her neck muscles are so constricted she cannot swallow to eat.

The driver who struck Scantlin served six months in jail for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.

Scantlin started talking in mid-January but asked staff members not to tell her parents until Valentine's Day to surprise them, Trammell said. But last week she could not wait any longer to talk to them.

"I didn't think it would ever happen, it had been so long," Betsy Scantlin said.

Scantlin's doctor, Bradley Scheel, said physicians are not sure why she suddenly began talking but believe critical pathways in the brain may have regenerated.

"It is extremely unusual to see something like this happen," Scheel said.

The breakthrough came when the nursing home's activity director, Pat Rincon, was working with Scantlin and a small group of other patients, trying to get them to speak.

Rincon had her back to Scantlin while she worked with another resident. She had just gotten that resident to reply "OK," when she suddenly heard Sarah behind her also repeat the words: "OK. OK."

Staff members brought in a speech therapist and intensified their work with Sarah. They did not want to get her parents' hopes up until they were sure Sarah would not relapse, Trammell said.

On Saturday, Scantlin seemed at times overwhelmed by the attention. Dressed in a blue warm-up suit, she spoke little, mostly answering questions in a single word.

Is she happy she can talk? "Yeah," she replied.

What does she tell her parents when they leave? "I love you," she said.

Family members say Scantlin's understanding of the outside world comes mostly from news and soap operas that played on the television in her room.

On Saturday, her brother asked whether she knew what a CD was. Sarah said she did, and she knew it had music on it.

But when he asked her how old she was, Sarah guessed she was 22. When her brother gently told her she was 38 years old now, she just stared silently back at him. The nurses say she thinks it is still the 1980s.

Her father, Jim Scantlin, understands that Sarah will probably never leave the health care center, but he is grateful for her improvement.

"This place is her home ... They have given me my daughter back," he said.

What is remarkable about this story, other than its truly remarkable nature, is that the Associated Press reporter makes no mention of the parallels between the cases of Sarah Scantlin and Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo. Both are brain-damaged women. Miss Scantlin was given pro-active medical care by her parents, who did all they could do to offer their love and support to their incapacitated daughter, no matter what it cost them. Mrs. Schindler-Schiavo was given minimal maintenance as her adulterous husband sought to use an immoral Florida statute to have her starved to death. The Sarah Scantlin is one of the fulfillment of a family's obligations. The Terri Schindler-Schiavo story is one of the dereliction of such obligations. God is speaking very clearly in the case of Sarah Scantlin. Are we listening? He is saying that we never give up our efforts to perform the Corporal Works of Mercy for those who appear to the "experts" of medicine and science to have nothing to offer the world except pain, heartache and sacrifice on the part of those who care for them and must pay for their upkeep.

Oh, yes, God is speaking very clearly at this time as the forces that have contrived to kill Terri Schindler-Schiavo by a cruel death by starvation and dehydration appear to be within days of imposing the death sentence on this victim-soul in Florida. Our Lord is reminding us through the Sarah Scantlin case that there is no cost, no price-tag, if you will, that can be placed on the surrender of ourselves to our relatives who are in need. Just as He offered Himself up on the wood of the Holy Cross to pay back in His Sacred Humanity the blood debt of sin that we owed Him in His Infinity as God, we, too, have an obligation to offer ourselves up as victims to those in need no matter how many years we are called to serve them. "Whatsoever you do to the least of My brethren, that you do unto Me." The patient and selfless surrender to an incapacitated relative brings grace upon grace to those who serve with love and without counting the cost, offering up all of the merit they earn for their tender devotion and the performance of the duties imposed by the precepts of Charity and filial piety to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Scantlin family did not seek to have their brain-damaged daughter starved to death. They gave her love. They gave her the medical attention she deserved. Despite the best efforts of Terri Schindler-Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, Terri's estranged husband Michael and his "death with dignity attorney," George Felos, have made it appear that starving and dehydrating Terri to death is what she herself stated would be her preference in such a circumstance and that it is a "merciful" and "compassionate" thing to do to put her out of her misery. Thousands upon thousands of dollars have been spent on legal fees to execute Terri Schindler-Schiavo under cover of law. Think of how that money could have been spent in love to provide her with the same sort of treatment that Sarah Scantlin had received.

Ultimately, though, it does not matter if Terri Schindler-Schiavo did indeed say that she would prefer to be starved and dehydrated to death. It would not matter if she were able to sign her consent to such a death by starvation and dehydration. It would not matter if she was in an irreversible coma from which she might never recover. As I include below in yet another repetition of points I have been making on this tragic case since August of 2003, no one can do anything which has as its first and only end the death of an innocent human being. There is no other end that can come from starvation and dehydration of a person unable to feed himself than death.

The ingestion of food and water is a voluntary activity of the human being. We need help to eat and drink when we are newborn infants. Children cannot forage for food in the woods when they are toddlers. They need their parents to provide them with food and to teach them how to eat. Those who are the victims of accidents and strokes may lose the ability to feed themselves, having to be taught how to do so all over again and/or having to receive assistance in eating and drinking.

This is quite different from an involuntary activity such as breathing. No one else can breathe for us. An artificial respirator can keep us breathing when our lungs are unable to function. The removal of this extraordinary means of life support may or may not result in the death of a patient. There are many cases in which patients who were removed from artificial respirators lived for some significant period of time thereafter. Perhaps the most famous case is that of Karen Ann Quinlan, a comatose women in New Jersey whose parents sought in 1975 to have her respirator removed after she was injured. She lived another nine years after the removal of the respirator, helping to sanctify her family as they lovingly cared for her until she breathed her last. The end of the act of removing a respirator is to cease providing artificial sustenance to an involuntary function of the human body, which may or may not be able to function thereafter. The death of a patient in such a circumstance is the result of the body being unable to function on its own. This is qualitatively very different from causing a person's death by depriving him of his absolute right to food and water.

This is what I wrote on this matter on this just about a year ago now:

Similarly, one has the right to refuse dialysis or chemotherapy. One is under no obligation to sustain life as an ultimate end in and of itself. There are qualifications, though, that have to be made in these instances. A young man with a family to support may have to at least consider such forms of treatment, seeking out the assistance of a solid spiritual director to guide him in the decision he makes. One who is in his sixties or seventies or eighties or beyond certainly has the right to let nature takes its course in cases of chronic or terminal illnesses, offering up his crosses to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary to unite them to the Cross of the Divine Redeemer Himself. God could choose to cure them miraculously. Indeed, I know of one such case within the past year. Refusing treatment to let nature take its course or to pray for a miraculous cure is far different morally than taking positive, concrete measures, such as the removal of food and water, that can result in only one outcome: death, which can never be directly willed under any circumstances.

In order to summarize the governing moral principles in cases such as Terri Schindler-Schiavo, it is important to remember the following:

  1. The Florida statute permitting the starvation and dehydration of incapacitated persons is immoral and unjust. Every pro-life American must seek the permanent repeal of such legislation.
  2. No human being has any right found in the Divine positive law or the natural law to starve or dehydrate himself to death.
  3. No human being has any right found in the Divine positive law or the natural law to delegate to others the power of starving or dehydrating himself to death.
  4. No human institution, such as a legislature or a court, has the authority to pass or to enforce legislation contrary to the Divine positive law and the natural law.
  5. Terri Schindler-Schiavo's absolute right to live did not and does not depend upon her ability to react to others or to feed herself. Her right to food and water is absolute and cannot be violated. The fact that Terri Schindler-Schiavo does react to others and might be capable of feeding herself if she had been given the therapy for which over a million dollars was awarded to her faithless husband speaks volumes about the extent to which those seeking Terri's murder went to extinguish her life by claiming things that were not so and were irrelevant to her absolute right to food and water. Food and water are not medical treatment, no matter how they are administered.

The case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo has attracted attention because she has family members who love her unto eternity and who want to defend her right to food and water to sustain her life. There are countless more victims of the culture of physical and eternal death in this country who are being put to death in hospitals because no one in their families objects to their being starved and dehydrated, trusting in the judgments rendered by "competent" medical personnel. Each of these victims have been put to death because of the triumph of the vicious logic of sentimentality as a replacement for the authentic mercy and compassion found in nations where Christ reigns as King and Mary is honored as Queen. What I noted in March of 2004 needs to be repeated now in light of the continued advances of the forces of death marching against Terri Schindler-Schiavo:

All of the crimes against the inviolability of innocent human life are the direct result of the overthrow of the Social Reign of Christ the King and its replacement with the modern, secular, religiously indifferentist nation-state. There is no lowest common denominator with which to fight the evils that have their origin in the rejection of Our Lord and the Deposit of Faith He has entrusted to His true Church. It is one of the great tragedies of the past forty years that the Church herself has accepted the modern state as something beyond question and that is considered "triumphalistic" even to make advertence to the Social Reign of Christ the King. Thus, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, who is very concerned about crimes against innocent life and issued a strong statement about the morally illicit nature of the removal of food and water from patients in Mrs. Schiavo's circumstances, winds up as the prisoner of the very paradigm with which the Church has made an ill-advised accommodation. Some pope, therefore, is going to have to say that it is impossible to fight secularism and all of its multifaceted evils with secularism and Masonic talk of "brotherhood" and a "civilization of love." Some pope is going to have to say that we can only fight secularism with Catholicism.

If one looks at the matter through the eyes of the true Faith, he will see that the crimes against innocent life that are taken for granted by most people as "human rights" beyond question are really crimes against the Incarnation of the Word Who was made Flesh in Our Lady's virginal and immaculate womb and dwelt amongst us. Our Lord chose to become man as a helpless embryo in the tabernacle of Our Lady's immaculate womb. He was teaching us from the moment that St. Gabriel the Archangel announced to His Most Blessed Mother that she would conceive a Child by the power of the Holy Ghost. And one of the things Our Lord was teaching us from the moment of the Incarnation was that He became helpless so as to remind us that we must see Him in the helpless around us. We must be as ready to serve Him in others, especially those who depend upon us for their basic needs, as Our Lady was to do the will of the Father at the Annunciation.

The Traditional Latin Mass concludes (with exceptions here and there during the course of a year, especially during this season of Lent) with the reading of the Prologue to Saint John's Gospel. The Church in her wisdom placed this Gospel following the dismissal and final blessing in order to remind the faithful that the Incarnation changed everything about human existence. The Mass itself is incarnational: the God-Man becomes incarnate under the appearances of bread and wine. We are thus to be mindful of our need to subordinate everything in our own lives and in the larger life of the world around us to the fact that the Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us so as to redeem us on the Wood of the Holy Cross. The Church herself must come to understand once more that unless this central fact of salvation is presented firmly and unequivocally then she will always be fighting a rear-guard effort to oppose crimes against life, both natural and supernatural, that emanate from a rejection of her Divinely given authority to proclaim the Word and to discipline men and nations authoritatively in His Holy Name.

Many brave souls have come to Terri Schilder-Schiavo's defense. Many more will be traveling to Florida for a rally in her support on Tuesday, February 22, 2005. One person who will not be at that rally is the Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of Saint Petersburg, Florida, who should have been in the vanguard of support Mrs. Schindler-Schiavo's absolute right to food and water after Pope John Paul II reiterated this basic right in March of last year. It fell to Florida Governor Jeb Bush to do what he could to save Terri Schinlder-Schiavo without any ecclesiastical support from the shepherds of Florida. Indeed, only a handful of bishops around the country, including the Most Reverend Robert Vasa, Bishop of Baker City, Oregon, and the Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, the Archbishop of Saint Louis, Missouri, went on the record in support of the Catholic moral teaching that no one can do anything that causes the death of a human being as the first and only end of an act. Then again, why should Bishop Robert Lynch be concerned about the starvation and degradation of Terri Schinlder-Schiavo. He has starved his own flock of the spiritual nourishment provided by Eucharistic adoration by issuing an order in June of 2000 to limit the periods of a year in which his parishes could provide Solemn Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament for the faithful to adore. What's the big deal about remaining deaf and dumb as a person is starved to death physically if you can starve the sheep entrusted to your pastoral care unto eternity of a practice that has been promoted in the past thirteen centuries of the Church: Solemn Exposition and Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament?


Sadly, though, the Holy Father himself has a responsibility to bear in this case. Although the Pope issued a document in March of last year that reiterated the immorality of removing food and water to effect the death of incapacitated patients, he has yet to plead specifically for the life of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. This is incomprehensible. Pope John Paul II has issued pleas to various governors of the states of the United States of America to spare convicted felons from execution, doing so by specifically invoking the name of the condemned convicts. The Holy Father refused to mention the name Hugh Finn before the popular television anchorman in Louisville, Kentucky, who was brain-damaged as a result of automobile accident in March of 1996, before he was starved and dehydrated to death as a result of his wife's use of a Commonwealth of Virginia statute that permitted such an execution. A generalized concern for the sanctity and inviolability of innocent human life really means nothing when there is a palpable opportunity to demonstrate this concern for a specific individual whose life is being threatened as a result of the use of an unjust and immoral state statute.


Alas, there is a reason that explains the Pope's disparity in treating cases of the imposition of capital punishment and the execution of brain-damaged or otherwise incapacitated human beings: Episcopal Collegiality. Pope John Paul II never contradicts his bishops. The dictates of the novelty of episcopal collegiality demand that the Successor of Saint Peter and the Vicar of Christ do or say nothing that make his bishops, all but a handful are now his own appointees (although I could be mistaken, I believe that Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, is one of the few Pope Paul VI appointees who governs the same diocese in this country that he did when appointed in 1977), look bad when they are wrong. Two bishops, Archbishop Thomas O. Kelly, O.P., of Louisville, Kentucky, and Bishop Walter Sullivan of Richmond, Virginia, reaffirmed Michele Finn's desire to have her husband's food and water cut off in 1978. The Pope did not utter Hugh Finn's name because he knew that it would be a rebuke to those two bishops. In like manner, you see, he has not thus far uttered the name Terri Schindler-Schiavo as to do so would be to make Bishop Robert Lynch look bad. (I know. The Pope would be doing nothing other than removing, no less correcting, his bishops if he was not himself an engineer of the revolutionary novelties that have paralyzed his pontificate in situations such as this.)


Some might protest, saying that the Pope's mention of Hugh Finn's name would have done no good in 1998 and that his mention of Terri Schindler-Schiavo's name might do no good now. So what? How many commutations of death sentences have there been as a result of the Pope's pleas with American governors? So what? Those who are suffering in such circumstances need the voice of the Chief Shepherd on earth to speak loudly in their defense. Hugh Finn and Terri Schindler-Schiavo and the countless thousands, if not millions, of people like them who are murdered each year by starvation and dehydration around the world are not only the victims of the overthrow of the Social Reign of Christ the King as brought about by the Protestant Revolt and the subsequent rise of Modernity, they are the victims of Modernism within the Church, of which episcopal collegiality has proven itself to be a particular pest and menace both to bodies and, more importantly, to souls.

With continued prayers for Terri Schindler Schiavo and her parents--as well as for all those in circumstances similar to hers, we implore the intercession of Our Lady Help of Christians so that the relatives of disabled persons will provide love and support in the midst of the suffering of their loved ones, uniting the sacrifices made thereby to the Cross of the Divine Redeemer through her own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. May these suffering souls receive the care afforded Sarah Scantlin and denied to Terri Schindler-Schiavo.

There will be some who rejoice if the continuing court battles go against Mrs. Schiavo's right to live. There will be some who rejoice when she takes her bodily life's last gasp. What these sad, unfortunate, misguided people do not realize is that Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who has lived the life of a victim-soul, will be praying for them from eternity so that they will repent of their crimes and will be, at least by the time they take their own last breaths, members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that is mankind's only guardian against the barbarism that took her own life in a world where the devil is king and evil is extolled as a virtue.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for Terri Schindler-Schiavo.

Saint Christopher, worker of miracles, pray for the conversion of those seeking to murder Terri Schindler-Schiavo and all of those in like circumstances.

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