An open letter to the Bishops on behalf of the disabled

An open letter to the Bishops on behalf of the disabled

Here is an open letter to the Catholic bishops of the US from Barbara Kralis of the Catholic Media Coalition. She writes on behalf of Terri Schiavo and all disabled people, asking for the bishops to make a definitive statement on the food and water as more than extraordinary means of life support. Some individual bishops have made statements, but others—like Bishop Lynch of St. Petersburg—have suggested that removing food and water from someone who is not dying otherwise is acceptable. This is not the teaching of the Catholilc Church.

Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Oregon, had it right:

The Catholic Church teaches that hydration and nutrition are simply water and food. ... These must always be provided as long as the food or water itself or the method of delivery is not unduly burdensome to the patient. There does not appear to be any indication from Terri that the provision or the method of provision of food and water is burdensome to her.

The one ‘burden’, which so many seem so determined to lift from her, is that one thing that allows Terri to continue to be a living breathing human person, life itself. Life itself cannot be the burden from which we in the Catholic Church seek to deliver the faithful. This is the Assisted Suicide attitude.

Life is a grace and a blessing and yes the living of that life does entail some burdens, sometimes great burdens, but the solution can be neither murder nor suicide—these are offenses against life itself and the Lord who gives it.

Terri is alive. She is kept alive by the same things that keep me alive—food, water, air. Her disability deprives her of the ability to ingest these things, it does not deprive her of the ability to digest them. She may well die in the future from an inability to digest food but it would be murder to cause her death by denying her the food she still has the ability to digest and which continues to provide for her a definite benefit—life itself. [Emphasis added]

That’s a good distinction he makes.

In any case, I hope the Church clarifies this teaching once and for all soon. We can’t let this happen to anyone else.