Monday, March 31, 2014

Saving Terri Schiavo: Florida, March 2005

Nine years ago today, Terri Schiavo died at a hospice in Florida. I was a matter of only yards away when it happened.  I dedicate this posting to Terri.

Published in The Telegram, April 2005                    

On Tuesday March 29, 2005 I traveled to Pinellas Park in Florida to stand with others in proclaiming the unjust and immoral killing of Terri Schiavo, a 41 year old woman whose only crime was that she was a disabled person. Less than 24 hours before the airplane left St John’s for Florida I had been experiencing a troubling day but I wasn’t sure why. Just after supper that day I realized that I was much more concerned about Terri’s plight than I had realized. After two weeks or more listening to and watching the in depth media coverage and my own intense inquiries into her circumstances for more than a month, I think it had gradually, and subtly, forced me to a point of decision. Was I just going to let the tragedy happen, let it continue without a murmur? What could I do anyway?  She could die before I even get there, I thought. I’ve left it so late, too late to do anything. And who am I, a Canadian, so far away? As my evening progressed from this point of climax I spent several hours thinking to find a reason not to bring a drink of water to Terri in Florida. But I could find no good reason not to go, no good reason to allow a great travesty of justice to continue without lifting a finger. It was obvious that the countless prayers of thousands of people had not prevailed and my continued silence would accomplish nothing as well. Terri was being starved to death, and all the world was doing was watching. How could this be happening? The whole world seemed powerless to stop it. Well perhaps if I went maybe thousands of others from all other parts of the world would join me in doing the same thing. Maybe that’s how Terri was to be rescued I thought.

What turned the tables irrevocably and finalized my decision that evening to go to Florida was my discovery of the call from the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, which went out into the entire world in 1995 in the form of his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae.” In it he said: “Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.” He made it clear in his address that Catholics have a moral obligation to actively resist and disobey unjust laws. And the Church had spoken many times very clearly on behalf of Terri Schaivo. The withdrawal of food and water is “an unjust condemnation to death of an innocent person by one of the most inhumane and cruel forms that exist, that of starvation.” Pointing to the questions and doubts surrounding Terri’s medical condition, Cardinal Martino said, it is a murder which one cannot take part in without become an accomplice.” I was not going to be an accomplice….I fully intended to take a drink of water to Florida directly to Terri Schiavo to alleviate her pain and suffering, or get arrested by police trying to do so.

I arrived in Florida just after noon hour the next day, and within a couple of hours I found myself walking towards the hospice where Terri’s execution was taking place. The first obvious signs of unusual activity were flashing lights from a distance and then an abundance of police activity…sheriffs and officers everywhere, on the sidewalks  and on the street, controlling traffic access to the area approaching the hospice…questioning drivers, checking the interiors and trunks of vehicles. It was like a terrorist zone, except they weren’t keeping the pedestrians away. I was free to follow the sidewalk directly to the hospice entrance, where police cars blocked the entrance and seemed to fill the entire parking lot of the hospice. About 50 meters from the sidewalk was the actual entrance door to the hospice. Again, there were police officers everywhere, along the property perimeter, at every point of access to the hospice. On the green lawn spaces directly in front of hospice property, between sidewalk and street, were fenced off areas where protestors were gathered in various ways or standing with their signs, posters, pictures, and other forms of messages. Some were talking about the latest news regarding Terri….which seemed to come in a constant stream, sometimes small details sometimes exciting stories.  Many were praying, singing and reading scripture. Some were catching a nap on a lawn chair under an umbrella. One or two had been beating a small drum non-stop for days maybe weeks, at about human heart rate, eerily signifying that Terri’s heart was still beating. Directly across the street from the protestors and the police was a huge community of media crews, with their trailers, tents and satellite towers shooting up about 7 or 8 stories high into the air. Every time there was a story in the air, the entire community would come to life, with reporters and camera men scurrying around at break neck speed to catch and report the story to the world.

It’s difficult to describe the impact of all this activity on someone who had never before been a part of such a wide scale, intense passionate protest. Perhaps my first thought was that it was pointless to think that crossing the “line” and getting arrested for bringing my 500ml bottle of Canadian water to Terri was going to make any significant impact on the situation, particularly the effort to rescue her. I had discovered very early that first day that a total of almost 50 people had been similarly arrested up to that point. Maybe some day in retrospect I will wish that I had proceeded directly, without further thought and analysis, to the hospice entrance with Terri’s drink and found myself shortly thereafter in a Florida jail. After all, if everyone had done something as similar or radical as that, wouldn’t that have maybe stirred the nation out of apathy and indifference and led to Terri’s rescue?

There were three main grassy areas in front of the hospice where protesters were gathered. I tended to stay mostly in the area with fellow Catholics who were praying more or less constantly day and night. I was able to meet and to speak with Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski, Terri’s family priest for the last 5 or more years who was seeing Terri daily, giving updates and encouragement to those who gathered and prayed, and who also arranged to celebrate daily mass right on location. I talked to quite a few people from different areas and a great many, perhaps even a majority, were individuals or couples (at great personal expense and inconvenience) who had traveled from all parts of America (a handful from Canada too!) out of extreme conviction and urgency to speak and to protest in some way on Terri’s behalf. There were other small groups present as well, at least two or three representing disabled persons, and who had brought along severely disabled friends and relatives to protest the starvation of a innocent disabled woman with whom they identified.  Quite honestly I was shocked at how few people were really there to protest what was happening. In fact I would say without fear of being refuted that there were more reporters and police there than protesters. I don’t think at any time I was there I saw more than 200-300 people gathered at once who had come to defend Terri. This to me was unbelievable!! Out of all America, a country of approx. 350 million or more and out of all Canada, with 30 million or more, only a few hundred persons had come to raise their voices. And yet what a noise was heard throughout the world! Imagine if the number had been a thousand, or two thousand or ten thousand! Terri surely would have been saved. Was that asking too much? Where was everyone who said they were concerned? Honestly, it was a heartbreaking experience facing the truth of what was happening.

And then, as quickly as I had arrived, it was all over! Two days later Terri died and once again it was a heartbreaking experience, an outpouring of grief and loss among those who had gone the distance for Terri, with many weeping and trembling souls overtaken also by the shock, disappointment, and betrayal of it all. This was the solemn conclusion to the long battle that the Schindler family had fought to save the life of their daughter Terri.

I realize that a significant number of people will protest about my protest. They see the Terri Schaivo case as simply a personal family matter that everybody else should have simply butted out of. Or they maintain quite simply that it was better to pull the plug and let Terri die because they would want the same thing done to them. They see it as a “quality of life” issue. But to me these arguments only add to the sense of confusion I saw in many people surrounding me those few days outside Terri’s hospice. I heard the voices of concerned persons who were aiming their protest at Michael Schaivo, or at his attorney George Felos, angered by what they believed to be their heartlessness, treachery and hidden agendas. And there were a hundred legitimate reasons to be concerned about just that.  Other concerned Americans who were there focused on the courts as the problem, and saw ‘wicked’ judges as the downfall of Terri, along with the failure of political parties.  

I’m afraid at what I saw in Florida. It was the ugly, subtle, and sinister face of a new ‘culture of death’ overtaking our minds and hearts. Terri was a fellow North American, a fellow human being with special needs. So much information has been disseminated yet it masks the simple truth and overpowers us. I shouldn’t have to, but I remind myself that Terri was not comatose before the killing began, was not on a respirator, and was not unaware of her circumstances. She smiled faintly, she followed people and objects with her eyes and according to the registered nurse who had cared for her, she succeeded in saying a few words. She was a healthy disabled woman who was not terminally ill.

Yet we allowed an estranged husband to insist upon her execution. We allowed a ‘justice’ system to sanction and enforce the execution. We allowed ‘society’ to redefine the essence of our humanity. We said we can measure ourselves by our perceived productivity, by our potential contribution to society. We said that our quality of life can be judged as unworthy of quantity of life. For a number of years now we have been adjusting our thinking of the designation and termination of new life simply in terms of "choice." We have been routinely make judgments about which lives are worth living and which are not. We have declared who is a "burden" at birth, and now it is becoming much easier to decide the nature of "burden" when a "loved one" is dying.

Did Terri’s disability and medical condition negate her essential dignity as a human person? Did Terri’s disability and medical condition limit her fundamental right to life? Was her ‘right’ to a ‘dignified death’ simply another expedient euphemism for her murder? Wasn’t Terri’s dignity (as well as yours and mine) untouchable? After all, isn’t it a gift from God?   I defer once again to the Holy Father, the late John Paul II, whom so many of us praise and admire, yet whom so few of us have the courage to imitate. For him, euthanasia was neither a matter of personal choice nor a matter of private morality. “The value of a man's life cannot be made subordinate to any judgment of its quality expressed by other men. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.”

My visit to Florida left me with an even stronger conviction to be bolder in discovering, declaring and defending the truth about the wonder and beauty of life, in all its stages. God help each one of us to do our utmost in this regard or face the consequences of a moral catastrophe that will exceed anything we have yet experienced in this generation or previous generations. Questions and concerns raised by Terri’s death move closer and closer to our own doorstep. Soon it will be too late to speak or act.

Eric Alcock
Paradise, NL


The Edifice of Michael Coren Crumbling?

I recently had something to say about Michael Coren. It was quite serious enough.

Apparently Michael Coren is having a meltdown with more than one of his "followers."

And then when you ask, as in the case of Mr. Coren, for simple clarification or refer him to seek fatherly counsel, you are rebuked as a “sad man” who lives in “darkness”.   When you press someone like Michael Coren who makes part of his bread and butter doing the Catholic circuit as a speaker to simply affirm something as fundamental as Humanae Vitae, you get banned from his Facebook page, because, as he says, he ”cares too much about Christianity to allow and enable [me] to distort it.”  I think the truth is somewhat different. I think the truth is that he cares too much about a family member or a close personal friend over and above the public witness that he’s giving about the Catholic teaching on homosexual relationships.  That’s what I think.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The "Penalty" Of Canon 915

Full article appears below.
(Yes, obviously, the priest who wrote it is retired.)

Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

Here is the text of Canon 915: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

Several American bishops have made statements to the effect that a bishop must exercise “discretion” regarding whether to “impose the penalty” of denial of Communion. Among them: Chaput, Dolan, O’Malley, and Wuerl.

All bishops who refuse to “impose the penalty” are participating in a lie. Namely, that denial of Communion is a penalty.

Denial of Communion is NOT a penalty.

So? What is the import of this fact?

It means that denial of Communion is not an option that MAY be chosen. It is MANDATED by Canon 915. No bishop, priest, or other minister of Communion is free to disobey Canon 915, for the simple reason that the action Canon 915 forbids is ALWAYS gravely sinful.

It needs to be emphasized that Canon 915 is NOT a canon that may be “applied” or “not applied.” Canon 915 can only be obeyed or disobeyed. And disobeying Canon 915 is always gravely sinful.

Canon 915 exists precisely because giving Communion to a person “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” is always gravely sinful. Doing so is always to give grave scandal, and to participate knowingly in a sacrilegious act.
Let that sink in. Always gravely sinful.

In terms perhaps more familiar to the laity: To give Communion knowingly and deliberately to ANYONE delineated in Canon 915 is ALWAYS a mortal sin.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has been the most outspoken of those bishops who refuse to obey Canon 915, but all of them are on record, as he is, as endorsing the commission of MORTAL SINS by their priests and other ministers of Communion. Cardinal Wuerl has even punished those who have obeyed Canon 915.

Of course, this is something he has no right to do, because no bishop has the authority to command anyone to commit a mortal sin!

Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.

Cardinal Wuerl and many other bishops have been doing PRECISELY what they are EXPRESSLY forbidden to do by this statement from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts!

They have also emanated specious arguments. Here are some of Cardinal Wuerl’s preposterous, irrelevant statements, made in these or very similar words:

  • That’s not my style.

  • I follow a “pastoral approach” rather than a “canonical approach.

  • ”We need to find out if the canon was written for the purpose of bringing politicians to heel.

  • I will not deny Communion to anyone who has not been formally excommunicated.

Now, that is a stunning statement, because the divorced-and-illicitly-remarried are not excommunicated. Yet, does anyone doubt that, were Cardinal Wuerl to direct all ministers of Communion in his jurisdiction to give Communion to the divorced-and-illicitly-remarried, the news would flash around the world, and Rome would take action within hours?

But Canon 915 mentions no particular SPECIES of sin! That is, the KIND of sin in which a would-be communicant is publicly involved is of no account!

In other words, Cardinal Wuerl’s long-standing determination to give pro-abortion people Communion is precisely as outrageous and scandalous as would be a directive to give Communion to the divorced-and-illicitly-remarried. Yet, there is no evidence that this massive scandal has attracted the attention of Rome.

It is said by many, including Cardinal Wuerl, that Communion should not be used as a political weapon.

Absolutely true. And the reception of Communion is being used as a political weapon—by pro-abortion politicians. As long as they are permitted to receive Communion, the bishop (e.g., Cardinal Wuerl) endorses their claim to be “ardent Catholics” whose promotion of abortion is NO SIN

Abraham Lincoln is credited with the statements: You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time. Cardinal Wuerl and other bishops appear to be relying on the truth of these observations. It appears that it has been left up to the laity to demonstrate the truth of Lincoln’s further statement: But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

If this scandal is to end, Rome needs to hear a great deal more noise from the laity. As Pope Francis told the youth of Brazil: “Raise a ruckus.” 

For further reading on Canon 915, please see the following links:

A native of Washington, DC, Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick is a retired priest of the Diocese of Fargo.

Bishop James Conley Razes Sterile Sex

As I see it, the Bishop (and Prophet) of Lincoln, Nebraska, has raised (maybe re-surfaced!) the bar for the American Bishops on the subject of contraception. In his exceptional pastoral letter of March 25, 2014, he tackles the scandal of contracepting Catholics, calling them back to “The Language of Love.”  “Today,” he says, “our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception"

Oh, for more faithful and courageous Bishops who would turn back the tide of evil in our land…

“Contraception robs the freedom…” to “…bring forth new human beings, children of God, created with immortal souls.”

One powerful paragraph proclaims: “The Church continues to call Catholic couples to unity and procreativity. Marriage is a call to greatness—to loving as God loves—freely, creatively, and generously. God himself is a community of love—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christian marriage is an invitation to imitate, and to know, and to share in the joyful freedom of God’s love, an echo of the Holy Trinity.”

Bishop Conley recalls the words of his predecessor, Bishop Flavin, whose strong stance against contraception led to a similar pastoral challenge to his diocese in 1991. “Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage. I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life.” He reveals to the faithful a glorious aspect to human sexuality which few Catholics today imagine, let alone believe: “I know that in this openness to life, you will find the rich adventure for which you were made.”

He soon broaches the subject of children, the fruit of sexual union, cautioning, “children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future.” Echoing Pope John Paul II’s words on the hedonistic mentality of today, Bishop Conley emphasizes that “generous, life-giving spousal love is the antidote to hedonism and immaturity: parents gladly give up frivolous pursuits and selfishness for the intensely more meaningful work of loving and educating their children.”

Raising the eyes of his flock skyward he declares that “the sexual intimacy of marriage… is a pathway to sharing in God’s own life” and “Contraception impedes our share in God’s creative love. And thus it impedes our joy.” Here is a shepherd unafraid to put to chase the wolves and to unveil the secret of experiencing God’s joy, so rarely experienced—even less understood—today.

Bishop Conley then recommends to married couples Natural Family Planning (NFP) as “a reliable and trustworthy way to regulate fertility” but is not hesitant to note that in some few instances NFP “is used by couples with a contraceptive mentality.” He is quick to encourage husband and wife to be “very open with each other concerning the reasons they think it right to limit their family size, to take their thoughts to God, and to pray for his guidance. Do we let fear, anxiety, or worry determine the size of our families? Do we entrust ourselves to the Lord, whose generosity provides for all of our needs?”

What of Catholic physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who participate in some way in promoting contraception? “No Catholic healthcare provider, in good conscience, should engage in the practice of medicine by undermining the gift of fertility. There is no legitimate medical reason to aid in the acts of contraception or sterilization. No Catholic physician can honestly argue otherwise.” Bishop Conley points also to the inevitable relationship between failed contraception and abortion, as well as to the fact that “some contraception destroys newly created life.”

He calls on physicians and pharmacists to refuse to cooperate in the contraceptive trappings of modern “medicine,” suggesting any resultant “antagonism, financial loss, or professional pressure” be embraced as “an opportunity to participate in the suffering of Jesus Christ.” What grit! Imagine a Bishop who believes in the supernatural grace of God!

Closing out his letter, the Bishop scores a direct hit on the damage done to society due to neglect and denial of Humanae Vitae: “Cultural attitudes that reject the gift of life lead very easily to social acceptance for abortion, for no-fault divorce, and for fatherless families. For fifty years, America has accepted the use of contraception, and the consequences have been dire.”

Finally, he urges the faithful to read that papal encyclical, admonishes his priests to “preach about the dangers of contraception, and to visit with families in your parish about this issue,” and advises all those who have used, prescribed or supported contraception to avail of the healing that is available in the sacrament of penance.

Brushing aside the faithlessness of modern society in welcoming and celebrating children into the world, this GoTo Bishop is unequivocal in saying, “No, the Church does not ask too great a sacrifice,” since sacrifice is the language of love. “And in sacrifice, we speak the language of God himself… I am calling your family to share in the creative, active love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…I pray that in true sacrifice, each of you will know perfect joy.”

Clearly Bishop Conley is a Bishop who takes his office quite seriously and is willing to address the hard issues of the day in order to save the souls of his flock. He seeks to set his people free from the sinful oppression of contraception into the joyful liberty of Christ. Given the twisted thinking and devilish outbursts of the day, the Bishop has taken a very gentle approach in presenting the truth of Humanae Vitae—which may be the wise route. But broach the subject he has and his fellow Bishops now have one further challenging example of what it means to be a true Apostle of Jesus Christ in the 21st Century.

There hasn’t been the kind of coverage and conversation from this pastoral letter that I had expected but, rest assured, this letter will be leaven in the loaf and will, in time, yield its holy fruit.

Here are some related news items worth reading:


Imagine (and I do mean I-M-A-G-I-N-E!) if this letter had been issued by our own Archbishop Martin Currie who, like Cardinal Dolan, is totally gun-shy on anything to do with the Moral Law. Rather than the headline in Bishop Conley's hometown paper, The Journal Star, the headline in The Telegram might have looked something like this:

As I said, I-M-A-G-I-N-E!
Lord help our Archdiocese!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Blogging Will Be Light For A While Longer

Due to a family emergency and special demands created by it, blogging and tweeting will continue to be light for a while.

Your prayers to the Lord for help and support during this time will be much appreciated.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Blockbuster Homily By Archbishop Alexander Sample On The Mass Of The Ages

On March 1, 2014 Archbishop Alexander Sample of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon celebrated a Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Brigittine Monastery "Our Lady of Consolation" in Amity, Oregon. The Mass was the crowning celebration of a 3-day conference on Gregorian Chant and the role of sacred music in the liturgy.

Here is video of his blockbuster homily on the Mass of the Ages:

h/t EM

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Loretta Saunders, Her Unborn Child And Bill C-484

Tragically, the body of Loretta Saunders, of Newfoundland & Labrador, was found this week in New Brunswick.

Saunders’ aunt, Barb Coffey, said the full impact of the horrific crime likely won’t sink in until Saunders is brought back home to Labrador. Saunders, who was a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, is from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Saunders, 26, was researching missing and murdered aboriginal women for a thesis and was to graduate this spring.  She intended to become a lawyer with a focus on aboriginal justice.

Saunders, who also was connected to Hopedale, disappeared Feb. 13. This week, police found her body and charged a man and a woman with murder. 

She was three months pregnant.

Yes, horrific. Two precious and unique individuals became victims in that senseless act of murder but the trial will altogether ignore one of the human beings killed.

A remedy of justice would have been provided by Bill C-484 but, alas, Canadians were too paranoid about maintaining the rights of mothers themselves to kill their unborn children to take action on this bill in 2008.

RIP Loretta and child.