“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
It wouldn’t surprise me if Terri Schiavo died today.
It will be a tragedy.
I will be very mournful.
I suspect it will feel like losing a member of the family for many of us.
But it will not surprise me if she died on Good Friday, the day Jesus died.
I want to be optimistic. I want to believe there is still some virility, some manhood, some courage, some godliness, some morality and some intestinal fortitude in public officials who could save her life with the stroke of a pen, with a phone call.
But as Terri, now in her eighth day of court-ordered starvation, weakens, I am forced to contemplate the strong possibility that this young lady may be purposely and torturously killed with the whole world watching.
Good Friday. Imagine that.
Like Jesus, Terri was an innocent – at least for the last 15 years. By definition, she was virtually incapable of committing sin during her disability. Yet, she was treated more harshly than our society would ever treat even the most abominable serial killer.
Like Jesus, Terri was betrayed. She has her Judas. His name is Michael Schiavo. He claims he is starving her to death because that would be what Terri would want. And this specious, unsupported claim is the sole basis for starving to death a young handicapped woman denied rehabilitative efforts by her so-called “guardian.”
Like Jesus, Terri’s mother has been forced to watch this public execution helplessly. Imagine what this must be like for mother Mary Schindler. Can anyone reading my words today imagine watching your child starve to death by court order? Can you imagine what it must be like to be kept from your loving child in these hours by armed guards?
Like Jesus, Terri has her accusers. The high priests today wear black robes. Judge George Greer, an obscure county bureaucrat just a few weeks ago, is having his 15 minutes of fame at Terri’s expense. Driven either by some blind ideological desire to pull the plug on handicapped people or in the death grip of fear of admitting a mistake, Greer was not so much a judge as he was the prosecutor and executioner. His supporting cast included the entire U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court and the entire 11th Circuit.
Like Jesus, Terri has her Herod. In this case, his name is U.S. District Judge James Whittemore, a Bill Clinton appointee who could have saved her or decided to hear the case himself. He could have listened to the will of Congress and the president of the United States. Instead, like Herod, he kicked the case back to Greer.
Like Jesus, Terri may, too, have her Pontius Pilate. It’s not too late for Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida to avoid playing this role. He doesn’t have to wash his hands of the matter. He has found no fault in the woman. He has spoken favorably of her and championed her plight. But he is uniquely positioned at this moment to save her. He, himself has already acknowledged he has the power and the legal authority to do it. He has even threatened to do it. But, like Pilate, he seems to be weighing the political implications of saving her life rather than using the scale of moral imperative.
I pray today Jeb Bush is reflecting on all this. I pray he has considered he has a big decision to make. I pray he listens to that still small voice in his heart that, I suspect, is speaking to him right now about this. I pray he is not distracted by the routine business of the governorship of his state to see this matter clearly. I pray he recognizes that if he washes his hands, pretending he did everything he could possibly do under the law, that he will become complicit in this horrible crime.