Moral Issues

Catholic Fraternal Organization Requests Prayer For Terri Schiavo

by Sonya K. Davey

PINELLAS PARK, Fla ( - Responding to the court-imposed removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, the International Order of Alhambra called for prayer in support of Terri. "Following our Holy Father's intervention, it goes without saying that my prayers and the prayers of the entire Order of Alhambra are with Terri Schiavo and her family," Edward Fiorella stated.

Fiorella is the Order of Alhambra's Supreme Commander, which makes him the highest ranking official of this hundred-year-old Catholic fraternal organization. The Alhambra's primary focus is service to the needs of the mentally and cognitively disabled. "As Catholics belonging to a Catholic organization," Fiorella continued, "we support the Church's teaching on the dignity and value of every human life. This includes Terri's. Therefore, I have asked our members and the members of our ladies' auxiliary to keep praying for Terri."

Pete Vere is a canon lawyer who specializes in the rights of mentally and cognitively disabled. He is also a supreme officer of this five-thousand member Catholic fraternal organization. He attended the October 15th prayer vigil held by Terri's friends and family outside the hospice when doctors removed her feeding tube. "This is just a sad day for every Catholic concerned with the Culture of Life and the rights of those with some form of cognitive or mental disability," Vere said. "Not only is the state sanctioning involuntary euthanasia, but this sets an awful precedent in which society judges an individual by his or her perceived utility. God created us human beings, not human doings. All human life is valuable in His eyes."

As Vere prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet with other Catholics gathered at the vigil - many of whom were from the local special needs community - the mood was visibly somber. "We cannot begin to imagine the threat this poses to our special brothers and sisters in Christ," Vere stated. "I am particularly concerned for those who suffer from more severe forms of cognitive and mental disability. Under this new utilitarian ethic and definition of human life, will their right to life be challenged as well? In terms of mental and cognitive capacity, how far are they removed from Terri?"

"Recent video footage clearly shows Terri positively responding to stimulation from her friends and family," Vere added. "She smiles, she laughs, and she opens her eyes, turns her head and raises her eyebrows. A number of medical experts assure me that these are not the responses of one who has fallen into a persistent vegetative state as the courts and Terri's husband maintain."

Besides medical, ethical and political considerations, Vere also feels that Terri's situation involves a religious and spiritual dimension. "As members of the Order of Alhambra," Vere explained, "we must implore the intercession of our patron St. Francis of Assisi. He will obtain for us the grace to stand firm for the culture of life and assert the basic human dignity of our special brothers and sisters in Christ. I invite members of all other Catholic fraternal organizations to make this stand as well. Unless we take action now, Terri will die from starvation and dehydration within the next two weeks. This involves a most cruel and painful death. As my friend Fr. Rob Johansen recently noted, 'she will die not of any disease, but because a judge has ordered her to die. She will die in spite of ample evidence that her condition is treatable and improvable.' In short, there is no tomorrow for Terri and others like her. Now is time to pray, contact your legislators and make your voice heard."

Many of Terri's friends and family still hope for a miracle. One such individual is Msgr. Thaddeus Malanowski who has provided pastoral care to Terri and her family throughout this difficult ordeal. "It is no coincidence that today is the feast of St. Theresa of Avilla - Terri's namesake," Msgr. Malanowski shared with those who had gathered outside the hospice to pray. "Additionally, the Holy Father has scheduled Mother Teresa's beatification for this Sunday. I spent twenty years as a missionary among Mother Teresa and her sisters. Mother was a great apostle of the Gospel of Life in our time. I have asked that she intercede from above for Terri." Msgr. Malanowski grasped a relic of Mother Teresa as he shared his hope for a miracle with others who had gathered at the prayer vigil.

For more information on the efforts of Terri's friends and family to save her life, please visit the following website at: Terri's Fight

Sonya K. Davey
The Catholic Legate
October 5, 2003