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Why has the Chair of Peter become a Wheelchair?:
The Pope and Terri Schiavo

By Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

Along with millions of virtual pilgrims, I watched the events that occurred in St Peter’s Square this past week on television.

This once robust mountain climbing Pope who, it seems like only yesterday, had bounded out onto the world’s stage in 1978 proclaiming “Be Not Afraid, Open the Doors to the Redeemer…” was now presiding over the Sacred Liturgy, and the Church to which its redemptive work has been entrusted, from a wheelchair. His central message of the unrepeatable beauty and dignity of every single human person at every age and stage has not changed. In fact, now the messenger has become the message.

John Paul, this “servant of the servants of God”, who has written more than any Pope in history, given more public locutions than any occupant of the Chair of Peter, is now unable to speak verbally in a manner that can be easily understood. He is unable to walk. He is suffering and probably living what some would perceive as a diminished “quality of life”. He is increasingly “disabled” by Parkinson’s disease and seems a physical shadow of his former self. Or is he?

He is now speaking symbolically, in a language beyond words, one that transcends time, culture, nation and age. The content of this last living encyclical letter, the one framed by his visible witness in that chair, is the summary of everything he has been telling all who would listen for twenty five years. It is more important than even the vast rich treasury of teachings that he will soon leave behind.

He is being transfigured before our eyes, configured to the Image of the Crucified One whom He serves. He has become a sign of contradiction like the Savior that he follows, the One who gave His life for us all and transformed suffering into redemptive love. That same kind of poured out life is now being manifested in one of His sons, Karol Wojtyla, for the world not only to see but, more importantly to understand and to imitate.

Sadly, thousands of miles away, another disabled servant smiles, also unable to speak, but also manifesting that same Jesus to those who have the eyes to see. That Jesus who so identifies with the poor and the sick that He tells us we will all be judged by whether or not we recognized Him in them (See, The Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter 25). Her name is Terri Schiavo and she is being starved to death because, she has become inconvenient.

That’s right. Terri is not dying naturally, she is being euthanized, killed by not being fed or given water. She continues to respond to the affection and love of her parents and has shown remarkable non-verbal communicative skills. All of this is happening during the same week that the whole world is watching another disabled person contributing exceptionally to our human family, a week when we are celebrating his call to build a new “culture of life” and a “civilization of love”.

This horrible drama in Florida is also occurring during the same week when this Pope in a wheel chair is beatifying that little nun from Calcutta whose witness of a life of poured out love on behalf of the “least of these” still speaks from the grave to a world that is waiting to be born.

It is Blessed (“Mother”) Teresa of Calcutta who spoke with such simplicity concerning the horror of killing a child in the first home of the whole human race, a mother’s womb: “It is poverty to kill a child so that you may live as you wish." Now, we live in a world where the disabled are being killed for the same reason. Now, we seem powerless while, with the protection of the State, Terry Schiavo is killed by not giving her a cup of water.

That’s right. That is really what this all comes down to. Prayer vigils are being held while legal efforts seem to have been exhausted. Through the Common Good Foundations’ Legal Defense Fund, I joined with groups of other lawyers and submitted a legal memorandum to the Governor of Florida, at his Offices request, giving him the legal grounds to intervene. However, at least as of the writing of this article, he has not done so.

It seems to me that the best response to what we have seen in Rome during this week is to live what this wonderful Pope and that beautiful Nun from Calcutta have proclaimed. Perhaps, that is why the Chair of Peter has become a wheelchair - to show us the beauty and dignity of every human life, including Terri Schiavo’s life.

Will we hear the message before it is too late?


Deacon Keith Fournier is a constitutional lawyer, a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is one of the founders of the Your Catholic Voice Movement and the President of the Your Catholic Voice Foundation.

He is the founder and President of Common Good, an ecumenical movement devoted to the conversion of culture.


Your Catholic Voice Foundation  VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President, 757 546-9580




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