Terri Schiavo and Church Teaching At Risk
August 24, 2004
Woodstock, VA: The Catholic Media Coalition, a group of Catholic journalists, writers, and websites, issued a statement today deploring the action taken by 55 self-proclaimed “leading bio-ethicists” who signed an amici curiae brief siding with Michael Schiavo, asking that the Florida Supreme Court rule in favor of doctors removing the feeding tube from Schiavo’s brain-damaged, estranged wife, Teresa Schindler Schiavo.
Among the group of ethicists, physicians and theologians are five Roman Catholics, three of whom are affiliated with Jesuit-run Boston College: Rev. John Paris, SJ, the Walsh Professor of Bioethics at Boston College; Charles Baron, a professor at Boston College Law School and a member of the board of directors of the Death with Dignity National Center; Milton Heifetz, author of The Right to Die and a visiting lecturer at Boston College Law School, Lawrence Nelson, associate professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University and faculty scholar at the Jesuit school's Center for Applied Ethics; and James Walter, director of the Bioethics Institute at Loyola Marymount University. Autonomy, an organization that promotes assisted suicide joined the ethicists in the brief.
On March 20, 2004, Pope John Paul II delivered an address on Life Sustaining treatment and the Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas, in which he declared, “The obligation to provide the ‘normal care due to the sick in such cases’ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Iura et Bona, p. IV) includes, in fact, the use of nutrition and hydration.” The pope went on to say even if the vegetative state was of prolonged duration, the cessation of minimal care including hydration and nutrition can not be ethically defended. “Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.”
Cecilia Martin, editor of www.missionsun.net, who has written at length on the Schiavo case said, “It is clear these ethicists have exchanged the “sanctity of life” ethic endorsed by the Church for the “quality of life” proposal which progresses rapidly in our culture almost without opposition. The field of ethics today is filled with men and women who subscribe to a social utility assessment of human life. The disabled, those in various states of incapacity, disability and age are merely useless eaters in their eyes. We must stop the erosion of the dignity of human life, even in all its distressing forms.”
The Holy Father’s statement is the most recent and definitive teaching on euthanasia, one that leaves no room for debate, one which the ethicists and members of the clergy choose to challenge. The Catholic Media Coalition urgently asks that the bishops of the United States publicly defend the Church’s magisterial teaching on euthanasia as set forth by the Holy Father John Paul II from such attacks.
We further call on the bishops to publicly support the life of the disabled innocent Catholic woman, Teresa Schindler Schiavo, who, by virtue of the Florida courts, is in imminent danger of dying a prolonged and horrific death by starvation thus serving to advance the cause of legalized euthanasia in our society.
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