March 31, 2006

Terri Schindler Schiavo: One Year Later

Terri Schindler Schiavo died one year ago today. Father Robert J. Johansen reflects on the anniversary.

There was a lot of hysterical talk in the public debate a year ago and that made it essentially impossible to conduct a reasoned discussion on the underlying moral and ethical issues in this case.

For example, this was pitched by some as only a "religious right" issue and nobody talked about how roughly 20 major groups representing disabled people had filed briefs in support of Terri's right to live. It would have been worth discussing rationally why those groups thought this was such an important case.

In the last weeks of Terri's life, I made some attempts on this blog site at a more reflective review of the important issues. Some attempts were better than others.

Here are what I believe were several of the more helpful postings as we debated the issues a year ago. I hope you will take the time to read them:

RIP, Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo

Nat Henoff: Judicial Murder - Her crime was being disabled, voiceless, and at the disposal of our media. Note that Henoff describes himself as an atheist.

Let's Not Delude Ourselves About the Consequences of Killing Terri Schiavo

Why the Rush to Kill Terri Schindler-Schiavo?

What If This Was Our Daughter or Sister or Wife? What If It Was "Only" A Stranger's Life?

Terri may be dead but these issues remain important and unresolved issues in our culture. To be more direct, I offered these summary-level thoughts on what this debate was ultimately about:

...As observers from afar, we cannot independently confirm the veracity of all of the information described above. But reasonable people must admit that the information pattern raises enough material questions about the behavior of Terri’s husband and the judge to have grave concerns.

And that leads us back to the more fundamental question about what value we will place on human life, including that of a disabled woman. If we begin to say it is okay to kill off "weak" human beings, think where that will take us over time. It will take us to a place where certain people will seek to play "God" so they can set the criteria for who lives and who dies. Why not then an elderly parent or a young child, should either become a financial or emotional burden? The freedom to do such great evil will only invite more profound evil over time.

Holocausts do not begin with operational concentration camps; they start on a smaller scale and steadily break down our resistance while many people plead that they are "too busy" to pay attention and get involved.

The stakes are enormous here and there is no neutral ground. Not to decide is to decide. The fight for Terri’s life is another battle to determine whether we are to live in a culture of life or a culture of death.