Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano: Schiavo's Death 'Cruel'

Thursday, March 31, 2005


ROME  The Vatican denounced the "arbitrarily hastened" death of Terri Schiavo on Thursday as a violation of principles of Christianity and civilization, and a cardinal described her end as a "death sentence executed through a cruel method."

"The circumstances of the death of Ms. Terri Schiavo have rightly disturbed consciences," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valization."

Cardinal Renato Martino, a top Vatican official, said Schiavo's death was not only a "human tragedy, but also an ethical, judicial and cultural tragedy." He told reporters her loss of life in a hospice in Florida to a "death sentence executed through a cruel method."

"We are against the death penalty, and that was practically a death penalty that was inflicted on her," Martino said. "That was not a natural death. It was an imposed death."

"When you deprive somebody of food and water, what else is it? Nothing else but murder," Martino said, adding that he was speaking on the case "according to the teaching of the pope." The pontiff has spoken on behalf of providing food and water, even through artificial means, to patients like Schiavo.

Pope John Paul II was informed of Schiavo's death, Martino said. The cardinal likened the pope's frail health, including resorting to a feeding tube, to Schiavo's case.

The "comparison is easy," Martino said. "Everybody will do all the best to keep him alive, to feed him the way it can be done."

Before the Vatican statement Thursday, the Holy See had left comment in the hands of Martino, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and other prominent church officials.

"One hopes that from this dramatic experience there matures in public opinion a greater awareness of human dignity, and that it brings greater protection for life even at the legal level," Navarro-Valls said Thursday.

Speaking of Schiavo, another leading Vatican official, Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, said "an attack against life is an attack against God, who is the author of life."

The cardinal said Pope John Paul II "teaches us not only with his suffering, but also with his teaching the great respect for life. Life is the most precious thing we have."

Martino, asked who should be held responsible for Schiavo's death, replied: "the judges, her husband, whoever denied access" to feeding. The cardinal had previously appealed for Schiavo to remain on the feeding tube, which was removed by court order March 18.

Schiavo suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago. Her husband said Schiavo told him she would not want to be kept alive in a vegetative state, and insisted he was carrying out her wishes by having the tube pulled. Her parents opposed its removal.


Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano: Schiavo condemned
to 'atrocious death'

March 23, 2005


Terri Schindler Schiavo has been condemned to die "an atrocious death" in a society that is "incapable of appreciating and defending the gift of life," said the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

A judge in the United States "has decided that Terri's life is not worth living, at the same time condemning the woman to an atrocious death: death by starvation and thirst," the paper said in its edition, which was released to reporters at the Vatican March 22.

The paper gave its reaction to the case of the severely brain-damaged Florida woman in a front-page editorial.

On March 22, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore refused to order the restoration of Schiavo's feeding tube, which had been removed March 18 by order of a Florida state judge, because the woman's parents had not established a "substantial likelihood of success" at trial on the merits of their arguments.

The Vatican newspaper called the reasons behind the court decision "absurd and chilling" and said Schiavo's "destiny" based on a court decision was not unlike the death sentence facing the men and women sitting on death row.

However, in this case, "Terri has not committed any crime, other than that of being 'useless' in the eyes of a society that is incapable of appreciating and defending the gift of life," it said.

Earlier, in its March 21-22 edition, the Vatican newspaper said the debate surrounding the future of Schiavo has ignored "the heart of the issue" that no one has the right to determine whether another human being should die.

Under an avalanche of "accusations, appeals, and last-minute surprises, one risks losing the true 'heart' of the issue," the paper said.

"A human being, not a vegetable, is slowly dying" and instead of "provoking a wave of pity or solidarity," the "authentic drama" of Schiavo is "smothered by the indecent race to arrogate the right to decide on the life and death of a human creature," the paper said.

Schiavo's suffering recalls the "the agony of love" that comes when one remembers to help those who are "more fragile and needy," said the paper. "The slow, heart-rending agony of Terri" is "the agony of humanity."