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April 14, 2005

Terri Schiavo, Martyr

Topics: Terri Schiavo's Life Counts

By: Deacon Keith Fournier

© Third Millennium, LLC

The news out of Pinellas Park, Florida breaks the hearts of all decent people. It should shake us to the core. Terri Schiavo is dead, intentionally deprived of food and water, with the force of the raw power of government holding the hands of the executioners. She was killed deliberately, by starvation and dehydration. No Court, Legislative body or Chief Executive had the courage to stop this killing. She was deprived of her substantive due process rights by every branch of government.

Terri was not dying. She was not receiving any "extraordinary medical treatment." She was being fed and given water, as many disabled people are at this very moment, with assistance. She had trouble swallowing because she was disabled by damage to her brain. She would have lived for many, many years, bringing great joy to her family and changing the world. But now she is dead; killed by the complete abject failure of a system that has lost its soul.

The Greek word for "witness" is "martyrion". In our use of the word over all these centuries of Christian history, we have emphasized those who shed their blood for the faith. However, there is also a tradition of "white martyrs", those who live sacrificial lives that change the world. That is what Terri did. None of us will forget her smile. We all adopted her beautiful family. We now mourn her loss and share, at least a little, in their deep pain. We must also become outraged at the sheer evil of this killing and we must act.

Terri Schiavo is a martyr. She had her life taken away by the enforcers of a New Rome. Remember, the old Rome also had an elaborate system of courts and a highly developed legislative system. It prided itself on its culture, its arts and its claims to "civilization." Yet, it legally sanctioned horrors such as the practice of exposure, where children, the disabled and other "unwanted" persons were left on rocks to die by exposure to the elements or to be killed by hostile passers by. We now do the same.

The killing of Terri Schindler must mark a turning point in American history. Terri was killed while "the law" was unwilling to intervene. Her death stripped away the veneer of civility painted on the face of the current culture of death. It was a diabolical event, plain and simple. The rejection of the inherent value of every human life as a foundation of our whole understanding of ordered liberty is a clear and present danger. We face a serious risk to both life and liberty when reference to the truth is removed as the measuring stick for our behavior. Authentic freedom has been replaced by a counterfeit. The very foundation of decency is shaken.

To honor Terri, we should dedicate ourselves to the long term work of building a new society, a culture of life and civilization of love, where the dignity of every human life will be the polestar of all public policy; marriage and family will be protected as the first mediating institution and defended against those who aim to replace and eradicate them; authentic freedom will be exercised in reference to truth and within a moral constitution, and our obligations in solidarity to one another, and most especially those who have no voice, will be upheld by elected and unelected public servants.

With all the talk of the "religious influence" in America, the martyrdom of Terri Schiavo reveals the lack of a national soul. Terri was killed in a manner reminiscent of past evil regimes. I am reminded of the old adage attributed to the English Philosopher Alisdair Macintyre who, commenting on the decay in English society, once said "The Creed of the English is that there is no God but it is proper to pray to him once in a while." Without reference to the Source of unalienable rights, the One who placed the hunger for true justice within every human heart, we have become unmoored as a Nation.

Terrible injustices sometimes mark turning points in the political history of Nations. I pray that Terri's death becomes such an event; an impetus for a new coalition for life, family, freedom and solidarity. If it does, Terri's martyrdom will not have been in vain.


Deacon Keith Fournier is a member of the Catholic Clergy and a human rights lawyer.

Priests for Life
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Hat tip - BlogsForTerri and Powers That Blog

Posted by Hyscience at April 14, 2005 10:29 AM

A wonderful article; thank you for posting it. I agree Terri is a "white martyr" and perhaps a white rose is not a bad symbol for Terri's life.
You may recall the White Rose resistance group in Germany; young people who opposed Hitler; some of them were executed by guillotine for printing anti-Hitler leaflets. Hans and Sophie Scholl, brother and sister, were key members.

White roses for Terri, every March 31.

Posted by: S.Moore at April 14, 2005 8:36 PM

Indeed Terri Schindler was a martyr. It is utterly appalling that our civilized culture could deem necessary the starvation of an innocent woman. To not only be denied medical treatment, but to actually be ordered to starve. There is no creature on earth that we aim to starve; no not one. We don't starve animals, and if we did, there are laws against it. If any private person tries to starve someone it is called murder. However, our medical industry and our legislative branches must be above the law in this regard because they blatantly starved a woman and the whole world watched in numbing horror. We looked to our leaders and even they claimed tied hands. Was there anyone or any way that she could have been saved? I doubt it. Jack Kevorkian has been in prison since 99 for assisted suicide. Yet we now practice assisted murder. Shame on us!

Posted by: Hannah Elizabeth Cyprus at April 16, 2005 4:26 AM

This can't be the turning point. It's nearly identical to the Nancy Cruzan case (in which someone who was not quite brain dead was starved in response to hearsay testimony that she was dubious about being in such a condition).

On the other hand, it doesn't sound much better to say that civilization collapsed fifteen years ago.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at April 16, 2005 10:34 PM

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