Catholic Church Condemns Terri Schiavo’s "Inhumane" Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 31, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Church Condemns Terri Schiavo’s "Inhumane" Death Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 31, 2005

The Vatican ( — In a statement on Thursday, the Catholic Church condemned the manner in which Terri Schiavo was starved to death over a 13 day period. The comments come a day after the Pope received his own feeding tube to provide him with food and water.

"The circumstances of the death of Mrs. Terri Schiavo have rightly shocked consciences. A life has been interrupted," chief spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.

"A death was arbitrarily brought forward … There is no doubt there can be no exceptions to the principle of the sacred nature of life from the moment of conception until its natural end," his statement said.

Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of a Vatican office on sainthood, told reporters that "an attack against life is an attack against God, who is the author of life."

Cardinal Martins said the Pope has made Catholic teaching on euthanasia and end of life issues very clear.

He told the Associated Press that the Pope’s own medical condition and his many statements over the last few years "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."

Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Vatican Radio that Terri’s death was "an unjust death sentence to an innocent" person and done "in one of the most inhumane and cruel forms."

The Pope told doctors at a conference in Rome last year that food and water are a normal part of medical treatment for any patient and that denying it to someone constitutes "euthanasia by omission."

The Catholic Church has been consistent in its opposition to Terri’s starvation death.

"Who can judge the dignity and sacredness of the life of a human being, made in the image and likeness of God? Who can decide to pull the plug as if we were talking about a broken or out of order household appliance," the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said.

The Pope, who is recovering from throat surgery and struggles with Parkinson’s disease, had his own feeding tube inserted yesterday.

Last year, Pope John Paul II said that the lexicon used to describe some disabled patients — as being in a "vegetative state" was degrading and inhuman.

"A man, even if seriously sick or prevented in the exercise of its higher functions, is and will be always a man … [he] will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal,’" the Pope said. "The intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being does not change depending on their circumstances."

Providing food and water to such patients should be a natural thing to do and "morally obligatory," but not considered extraordinary measures, the Pope added.