Terri Schiavo now rests in the arms of a loving God. May she rest in the eternal grace of God and her family find peace and solace to replace the political and media circus that so exploited her suffering.
Terri's death raises grave questions concerning the true commitment of our leaders to consistently protect life, despite their having forcefully coopted the language of the Catholic Church in all their statements to the press. On the day of her death, President Bush spoke again in purely Catholic language, stating: "I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life." As Catholics, we are appalled at the straight-faced hypocrisy of these words. It is now clear that his Administration gladly "takes a stand" on "life issues," like end-of-life care and abortion, but has not spent any meaningful funds in alleviating these problems. One can only conclude that the Republican stands on these issues are pure window dressing, and that shouting about these problems is more valuable to them than actually solving them.
Perhaps the eeriest foreshadowing of the manipulation to come was evident in remarks made Thursday in Congress by House Majority Leader Tom Delay. He said, "We will look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president...We will look into that." His office released a statement, saying, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today." Mr. Delay appears to be preparing the groundwork for using the Schiavo family's situation to make the argument that Bush judicial nominations must be approved in order "to protect innocent, vulnerable people from being preyed upon." Federal court nominations, and eventually Supreme Court selections, will become a "moral battleground" for the Right, possibly viewed as so important that the Senate filibuster must be eliminated to win the battle. We predict that Terri Schiavo's plight will become the rallying cry for dismantling nearly 200 years of Senate protocol.
But what does a "presumption of life" mean when 300,000 people and counting have died in the Darfur Region of the Sudan as our country stands idly by? What does a "presumption of life" mean when 40,000 children die every day around the world from hunger, disease and violence? Will Bush and Delay interrupt vacations and gather their faithful in Washington anytime soon to address the increased mortality among over 45 million Americans without healthcare? Being "Pro Life" means protecting all life, not just those who can afford it or those who will attract the most media attention.
Like Bush and Delay, some Catholics such as Priests for Life's Fr. Frank Pavone, the Catholic League's William Donohue, and Senator Rick Santorum have exploited Terri Schiavo's suffering to promote an extremist agenda. They are essentially "cafeteria Catholics," pursuing a vindictive and counterproductive campaign to criminalize abortion, helping drive further increases in military spending, and obsessed with more tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% as social services to the poor are slashed. Their narrow definition of "the sanctity of life" shows substantial ignorance of the Catholic Church's clear teaching on a consistent ethic of life. Their misrepresentation of the Catholic Faith to promote their extremist agenda hurts us all, and devalues the moral standing of our Church in the world.
Mr. Bush's words about Terri Schiavo ring very hollow, when he and his ideological soulmates completely sidestep all the killing in Iraq, the bloodbath of gun violence on our own streets, the domestic suffering that will result from the impending cuts in Medicare and Social Security, and any truly effective action to protect the unborn. They may use Catholic language, but they are completely ignoring the Catholic Church's clear teaching on a consistent ethic of life.