Catholic Clergy and Terri Schiavo

December 17, 2007 09:00 AM

Many of us are aware of the heroic position Terri Schiavo's parents, brother and sister have taken in the wake of her tragic and untimely death. The entire family has been dedicated to protecting the vulnerable. As Bob Schindler, Terri's dad has said on many occasions, "We never want to see another family experience the horrors that we did." 

Carrying on in typical Schindler style, Bobby, Terri's brother, travels the countryside speaking out against direct killing, which is precisely the method by which his sister died.

Most recently, Bobby spoke with Alex Schandenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada. One of the more horrific lines in the report about that interview is: "Schindler revealed the shocking details of the support from many prominent Catholic clergy for the court ordered removal of food and hydration from Terri."

To set the record straight before I continue, Bobby is a practicing Catholic as was his deceased sister, so his comments are not designed as pot shots taken against the Catholic Church. They are as a matter of fact, from all the research we have done, dead-on in their accuracy.

Bobby reports that Father Gerard Murphy of the Diocese of St. Peterborgh, Florida helped the Catholic judge, George Greer, make his decision to permit the dehydration and starvation that caused Terri's death. Bobby tells us that Father Murphy never consulted with a single member of Terri's side of the family, but chose to discuss the matter with Terri's husband and her husband's lawyer.

Bishop Robert Lynch, Terri's bishop, never lifted a finger to help the family, nor did he speak out in Terri's defense.

Theologians such as Father John Paris of Boston College condoned the killing, as did Fathers Kevin O'Rourke and Richard McBrien.

This is so very troubling to those of us who are Catholic because it shows, once again, the power that a Catholic priest can have to either do good or to do evil, depending on his choices. I never thought a day would come when such things would occur within the Church because of the intemperate dissent from Catholic teaching that goes without rebuke, without corrective action being taken against the dissenter, time and time again.

Bobby's interview is so compelling that I would encourage you to read every word of it. The title is enough to whet your appetite: "Bobby Schindler assesses the clerical response to his sister's death."

One final note on Father Murphy, and here I quote Bobby's interview verbatim:


First, he [Fr. Murphy] agreed with “death with dignity” attorney George Felos that somehow food and water for Terri constituted “extraordinary care” and “artificial life support,” thereby falsely claiming that the Catholic Church would allow Terri’s life to be terminated. The Catholic Church teaches that food and water are never to be considered extraordinary treatment, especially when the person receiving it is not dying, as in the case of Terri.


Secondly, Fr. Murphy claimed that the opinions or wishes of an individual Catholic trump the teachings of the Church itself. This is patently false. Rather, instead of imposing our wishes and opinions on the Church, Catholics are obligated to allow their consciences to be formed by the teachings and standards of the Church.

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