Saying she only was following court and doctor’s orders, an attorney for Michael Schiavo yesterday would not allow a revered Roman Catholic priest to administer Holy Communion to brain-disabled Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who is being slowly starved to death following the judge-ordered removal of her life-sustaining feeding tube on Wednesday.
Attorney Deborah Bushnell told Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski, who has been Terri’s spiritual provider for three years, that ”because of court order and doctor’s orders, you can’t put anything in her mouth,” not even a morsel of moistened communion wafer.
Malanowski recounted the bizarre incident for WorldNetDaily.
”I felt that time was of the essence at this point and made a decision that because she is not going to live much longer, I might not have another opportunity to give her Holy Communion,” he said.
As he had done almost every Saturday for over three years, the priest accompanied Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, to the Hospice of the Florida Sun Coast in Pinellas Park, Fla, where she has been a patient since April 2000. Because so little time is left for the family to be with Terri, her brother Bobby and sister, Suzanne, were there as well.
Plus there were two police officers in the room and a woman who was said to be Schiavo’s ”representative.”
Malanowski spoke with Bushnell outside the room, explaining that he wanted to administer the Sacrament of Annointing of the Sick or the Viaticum, the last communion for a Catholic before death. Bushnell contacted Schiavo by phone to make certain he would allow it, and he gave his permission.
Wanting to make it a prayer service, the priest invited the family into the room to share the sacrament with Terri, but Bushnell demanded to know what the priest was going to so.
Malanowski explained he was going to give her: ”a small, tiny particle of the consecrated Host. And I’ll moisten my index finger [in water] to make sure the Host will stick to it and that it will stick to her tongue.”
Bushnell said he couldn’t do that, but suggested he ”take the Host, touch her lips with it, and you consume it.”
Malanowski protested, ”I’m not here for that. I am here to bring her communion, not me. I went to communion this morning. This is communion for her.”
Contacted by telephone, the priest of the local parish told Bushnell there was an ”alternative” called ”spiritual communion” for people who can’t receive communion – ”She receives the Lord in her heart.”
”I told attorney Bushnell, I’ve been doing that for over three years,” Malanowski exclaimed. ”Every Saturday I give her spiritual communion, and I want her to receive communion in the mouth. She hasn’t received communion for 13 or 14 years. She’s dying. She’s on her deathbed, and with dying people – whether it is a male or female Catholic – I’m obligated to take care of their religious and spiritual needs when they’re dying. They get absolution, Holy Communion, and Annointing of the Sick.”
Malanowski argued the matter with the parish priest, but realized he was ”following the party line about spiritual communion.”
”I told him I’d been doing that for two-and-a-half years – and he said, ‘Well, the doctors say you cannot put anything in her mouth.”’
Malanowski said he would do it, ”because she has the constitutional right to follow her religious beliefs, she has the right to receive communion and I have the obligation as a priest to give her communion. This will be perhaps the last time in her life on earth that she receives communion.”
But the priest didn’t agree. ”I sensed that, because he was saying, ‘Otherwise you can’t do it. If the court-order says so and the doctors say so, you can’t do it.”’
Unwilling to argue points of theology and constitutional issues on the phone, Malanowski tried Bushnell again, but she was adamant. ”She wouldn’t let me do it.”
There were two police officers, and he asked them, ”What if I go in there now and give her communion?” And they said, ”We will deny you access to her. You will not be able to put it in her mouth.”
At that point Bobby and Suzanne, said, ”Father, let’s go.”
And they did. While Bushnell was talking with the priest, they had had a prayer service and the ”spiritual communion” – but many Catholics do not regard that as the same as communion with a consecrated host.
Outside the hospice a scheduled press conference was about to begin, and Malanowski found himself in front of the TV cameras.
”I told them [the media] the whole story, that she was denied her religious privileges and I was denied the right to take care of her religious needs,” he said. ”I told them, that the attorney had some suggestion about me touching Terri’s lips with the wafer, and then I was supposed to consume it. What does she know about Catholic ritual or rites?”
As WorldNetDaily reported, the Schindlers had been fighting their son-in-law for 10 years over the lack of care and therapy Schiavo as her guardian provided for their daughter, who suffered massive brain damage when she collapsed at her home 13 years ago under mysterious circumstances at the age of 26.
The ongoing dispute escalated five years ago when Schiavo petitioned the court for permission to end his wife’s life by removing her feeding tube, insisting she is in a ”persistent vegetative state” and had told him years before she would not want to be maintained ”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.
The Schindlers fought tenaciously to keep their daughter and the case alive in the courts, but they have been basically blocked at every turn in particular by probate judge George Greer, of the Pinellas County Circuit Court, who has had charge of the case almost from the beginning. When the seven-member Florida Supreme Court in August turned down a petition to review the case, the way was clear for Schiavo to starve his wife to death.
On Sept. 17, Greer scheduled Oct. 15 as the day Terri’s feeding tube would be removed. At the same time, in separate rulings, he denied any rehabilitation for the disabled woman or a chance to be spoon-fed.
Information on Terri’s fight for life is posted on the family’s website.