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Is Fr. Bouchard a heterodox dissident vis-ŕ-vis Terri Schiavo?

By Barbara Kralis
©Barbara Kralis 2005
for Catholic

Why would the influential president of a Catholic Dominican theological institute recently teach moral theology that is markedly different than that of Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church?

Father Charles E. Bouchard, O.P., president, and associate professor of moral theology at Dominican's Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Mo. said today:

"Is it possible that the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is euthanasia?  Yes, but it is more likely that it is the legitimate withdrawal of a medical intervention that no longer serves her spiritual or medical good."[1]

Contrary to Fr. Bouchard's deviating and unorthodox theology on this important matter, the Vatican this week has for the fourth time specifically spoken out against the withdrawal of Terri's palliative and ordinary care which is her 'nutrition and hydration,' and called such removal a "murderous act of Euthanasia."

Is Fr. Bouchard feeding his young impressionable students heterodox dissent on a daily basis?  Let us see what else he has to say on this matter:

"Is it possible that Schiavo would want to be maintained in this medical and spiritual limbo for more than 15 years?  Yes, but it is likely that as a Christian she would forgo the very limited benefits of a tube feeding and embrace God's promise of eternal life with hope."

Why this betrayal of Christianity's timeless teaching, "Thou shall not kill."  Why this betrayal of the holy efforts of Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis who publicly supports Terri's parents in their fight to maintain Terri's 'nutrition and hydration.'  Why this betrayal of the human dignity of the disabled person, as described stunningly by Pope John Paul II:

"The sick person in a 'vegetative state,' awaiting recovery or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration) and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed.  He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery."[2]

Furthermore, Pope John Paul II, who virtuously struggles with his own illness, recently said specifically on Terri's behalf that a person's dignity does not depend on his "quality of life" which nowadays is sometimes interpreted as merely the ability to experience pleasure.[3]

The Church clearly and definitively teaches that providing normal care, which is food and water, "is morally obligatory" and to withhold it "is immoral and if this is knowingly and deliberately carried out, this would result in a true euthanasia by omission," which is "always a violation of God's Law."

As for secular medical and scientific evidence, thirty-three medical doctors, some neurologists and one a Nobel Prize nominee, all unpaid, said Terri was not PVS and could be rehabilitated to feed herself and speak again.  This actuality frightens some influential Catholic ethicists for some unknown reason.  Take for instance Aquinas Institute of Theology's ethicist, religious Sister Jean deBlois, C.S.J., who recently quipped:

"When someone suffers an illness or injury that puts them in a persistent vegetative state, they have put their first foot on the path to eternal life.  When we remove artificial nutrition and hydration, we open the door and say, 'Have a wonderful journey.'"[4]

There we have it!  Fr. Bouchard and Sister deBlois thereby maintains there is no moral obligation to continue someone's life such as Terri's.  They would have Terri's food and water taken away in exchange for their self-proclaimed quick and easy canonization of Terri to sainthood.

The apparent obfuscation by certain Church leaders who make ambiguous and evasive statements has distorted the secular media and general population's understanding of Terri's Schiavo's true condition.  Moreover, the definition of 'persistent vegetative state' has been challenged consistently since l996 and the PVS diagnoses reversed in more than 43% patients.[5]

If a Catholic theology professor cannot take the time to study the not-so-difficult issue of the moral unacceptability of withholding simple palliative care, or food and water, from a disabled woman, then he should not be writing essays for one of our nation's leading newspapers.  Either that, or Fr. Bouchard knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote words of dissent against the Catholic ...

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