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The revered Roman Catholic priest who was barred from visiting Terri Schindler-Schiavo when she was hospitalized due to a medical crisis in mid-August is holding an all-night prayer vigil on behalf of the 39-year-old brain-disabled woman, whose death by court-ordered starvation is scheduled to begin in six days.
From 8 p.m. Eastern tonight until 7 a.m. tomorrow, at St. Laurence’s Church in Tampa, Fla., Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski of the Diocese of St. Petersburg will personally conduct the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, marked with hourly prayers, and conclude with a celebration of the Mass at 6:30 a.m.
Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski
“As a priest, I feel we have to do something spiritual and religious for Terri because we’re getting down to the deadline, and I want to plead with our Lord to intervene,” Malanowski told WorldNetDaily.
The deadline to which he’s referring is not only the Oct. 15 date when Terri’s feeding tube is to be disconnected, but the hearing tomorrow in federal court.
At 1:30 p.m., U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara will listen to arguments by Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler of Gulf Port, Fla., and their attorney, Patricia Anderson, regarding alleged violations of Terri’s civil rights by her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo. Anderson will be joined by Christopher Ferrara of the American Catholic Lawyers Association.
Lazzara will also consider a request by the Schindlers for a preliminary injunction to postpone the Oct. 15 removal of the feeding tube that is keeping Terri alive, until she is given therapy and training that would enable her to be spoon-fed.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Schindlers have been locked in a decade-long legal struggle with their son-in-law over the care and custody of their daughter, who suffered massive brain damage when she collapsed at her home 13 years ago under unexplained circumstances at the age of 26.
A bitter family dispute over Terri’s lack of care and therapy became a major euthanasia battle five years ago when Schiavo petitioned the court for permission to remove his wife’s feeding tube, claiming she is in a “persistent vegetative state” and had told him years ago she would not want to be kept alive “by tubes” and “artificial” means. Although Terri breathes on her own and maintains her own blood pressure, she requires a simple tube into her abdomen to her stomach for nourishment and hydration.
Over a dozen prominent doctors and therapists have stated that with therapy Terri could be rehabilitated. However, about half-a-dozen physicians maintain her brain is so damaged she is essentially unconscious and will never recover from her “vegetative” state.
Despite a mountain of evidence and testimony to the contrary, the Florida courts have consistently ignored experts on the Schindlers’ side and ruled for Schiavo and his attorney, George Felos, a well-known “right-to-die” advocate.
The situation with Malanowski developed last summer, when Terri began coughing up blood and appeared to have aspiration pneumonia. On Aug. 14, she was transferred from the Hospice of the Florida Sun Coast in Pinellas Park, Fla., where she has been living the last three years, and taken by ambulance to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.
Terri’s parents were not immediately informed of the medical crisis, but when they learned of it her father visited her in the evening at the hospital. Upon returning home, he phoned Malanowski, who lives a few blocks from Morton Plant, and asked him to run over and see her. As a priest, Malanowski thought nothing of going to the hospital – even though it was 10 p.m. – to see the sick woman, who was quite possibly on her deathbed.
He told WorldNetDaily he gave Terri the Sacraments of Absolution and Healing, as he had done nearly every Saturday for three years when he visited her at the Hospice with her parents. The only difference was this time he was there alone, without the Schindlers.
When Michael Schiavo learned of this, he barred the priest from visiting Terri at the hospital, the hospice or any other place – saying he was concerned about Malanowski’s “integrity” and did not think he was the kind of person he wanted visiting Terri.
Malanowski served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army for 30 years, retiring with the rank of brigadier general. He left the service with an unblemished record. Now 81, he is known locally as the “pinch-hitting priest,” because, at the request of the bishop, he runs the parishes of several priests forced to leave because of child-molestation charges.
When Anderson learned Malanowski had been barred from visiting Terri, she demanded an emergency hearing. But by the time it was held, Terri had been returned to the hospice even though she was not fully recovered from her illness.
Probate Judge George Greer, of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, who has presided over the case almost from the beginning, refused to reinstate Malinowski’s visitation rights, ruling that since Terri was no longer at the hospital there was no emergency and the attorneys should “work things out.”
Anderson has repeatedly asked Greer to reinstate the priest’s visitation rights – most recently at a hearing yesterday – but he has rejected every request. Nonetheless, Malanowski has been allowed to visit Terri on a week-to-week basis, but only in the company of her parents.
He told WorldNetDaily he saw her Saturday to administer the Sacraments and was impressed with the way she had recovered from her mid-August illness and a bout with pneumonia and sepsis over the Labor Day Weekend.
“I was there yesterday [Oct. 4], and it’s amazing how she’s overcome pneumonia,” he exclaimed. “Her mother was kissing her, talking to her, and Terri’s smiling.”
Malanowski said the Schindlers brought earphones and a tape recorder so she could hear some music.
“She loves music, she wants music,” he said. “They played [Luciano] Pavarotti for her, and her eyes go wide open. She hears Pavarotti through the earphones, and she becomes alert.”
There are musical performances and sing-a-longs at the Hospice, but Schiavo has not allowed his wife to attend and she is kept isolated from the other patients.
Malanowski said he has no idea how many people will come to the vigil, especially during the early hours of the morning, but he has a program planned for every hour. He explained he felt compelled to have it.
“I want to do it,” he said. “I want to let people know we’re doing something spiritually for Terri. I feel it in my own heart: that’s what I want to do. You know, all things are possible with our Lord. That’s what the Bible says. With God all things are possible.”
Legal documents and information on Terri’s fight for life are posted on the family’s website.