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October 23, 2004

Life's Last Gasp

by Thomas A. Droleskey

The long legal battle to save the life of Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo has reached yet another critical stage. Those who are militating for the removal of Mrs. Schiavo's feeding and hydration tubes believe that they have cleared most of the legal obstacles that had been placed in their path for so long now. Finally, these unfortunate people believe, Mrs. Schiavo's life can be ended within the near future. The "fanatics" who have kept Terri Schindler-Schiavo alive will have been defeated and "progress" and "the right to die" will have won the day once again.

This is what I wrote on this matter on this site seven months ago:

You see, the moral principle in all of this is very clear: it is never permissible to take any direct action that has as its only end the death of an innocent human being. Starvation and dehydration lead to death, inevitably and inexorably. Food and water are basic human needs, no matter how they are delivered. "Whatsoever you do to the least of My brethren, that you do unto Me." We must see the suffering Christ in those who are disabled, those who are as dependent upon others following an accident or an illness as newborn children are after birth. Eating and drinking are voluntary activities that sometimes need the assistance of others.

The removal of food and water, which are ordinary means to sustain human life, is different than the removal of an artificial respirator or the refusal of a patient to undertake or to continue dialysis or chemotherapy. The removal of an artificial respirator, which is sustaining life artificially, may or may not result in the death of one who is connected to it. There are instances aplenty in which those who have been disconnected from respirators have survived; some have even emerged from comatose states. Breathing is an involuntary human function. If the body is unable to breathe on its own, no one is under any moral obligation to continue such an involuntary function. Thus, the end of the removal of a respirator is to permit a person's bodily functions to operate on their own without artificial assistance. The result may or may not be death, which is not willed as the first end of the act. It is a possible indirect but foreseen consequence of the first end, which is to let a body operate on its own powers.

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. 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 this year 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) 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.

With continued prayers for Terri Schindler Schiavo and 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.

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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