Children of God for Life Responds to Fr. O’Rourke

October 31st, 2003

Dear Fr. O’Rourke,

I am writing in response to your statements that were published in the Miami Herald on October 30, 2003 regarding the Terri Schiavo case.  I would like to point out the following:

1) You have not only insulted the citizens and State of Florida , you have also insulted the Florida  bishops and the Florida Catholic Conference who have expressed their deepest gratitude to Governor Jeb Bush for intervening to save Terri Schiavo’s life.  “In the face of certain criticism and strongly expressed legal objection, the Governor and lawmakers have bravely risked erring on the side of protecting life.  We applaud this courage and pray with them that clarity and resolution will follow in this tragic case.” (Statement of the FCC 10-23-03 ) When there is doubt, and in this case there is considerable doubt, one must always “err” on the side of life.

2) You have insulted the legal system because dozens of attorneys and legal professionals from across the United States, including the American Center for Law and Justice, the Thomas More Law Center and the Judiciary Watch from Washington DC all agree that Governor Bush’s decisions were not only legal and justified, they were necessary.  There is a division of powers in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government and there is also a checks and balances system that prevents any one office from abusing their power.  In this case, there has been a gross abuse of authority – not by our Executive office, but rather by the judicial system. You claim to have followed this case for years, but you have obviously not read one bit of testimony or followed the proceedings in this case.

3) You have insulted millions of people with disabilities all over the United States .  No less than eighteen different advocacy groups of persons with disabilities see the truth in this case and know that this is not about religion, is not just about pro-life – but it is most certainly about the rights of people who want to live, yet are unable to care for themselves or speak for themselves.  This case has the ability to set a frightening precedent that will violate the civil and religious rights of our disabled in all future litigation.  Let me remind you, there is no written living will, no clear and convincing evidence at all that Terri Schiavo would not have want to be given the right to live.

4) You have insulted the truth for there is an enormous amount of doubt in this case as to whether Terri Schiavo is really in a persistive vegetative state. (PVS)  You have callously disregarded the fact that no less than 15 medical experts have testified that Terri is most certainly not a PVS patient.  She is responsive, can swallow on her own, follows commands, laughs, cries, smiles and attempts to talk.  In addition, you disregard the fact that there is substantial evidence to warrant an investigation of why Terri is in the condition she is.  Michael Baden, one of the top forensic pathologists in this country examined Terri’s bone scan and medical reports and concluded that severe trauma and the nature of her injuries warrants a criminal investigation – an investigation that has never, ever been conducted in this case.

5) And last but not least, you have insulted the teaching of the Catholic Church which is clear in cases such as Terri Schiavo’s.   The statement of the United States Bishops’ Pro-Life Committee, Nutrition and Hydration: Moral and Pastoral Considerations, rightly emphasizes that “the omission of nutrition and hydration intended to cause a patient’s death must be rejected and that, while giving careful consideration to all the factors involved, the presumption should be in favor of providing medically assisted nutrition and hydration to all patients who need them. To blur this distinction is to introduce a source of countless injustices and much additional anguish, affecting both those already suffering from ill health or the deterioration which comes with age, and their loved ones.” It should be pointed out that Terri has never been given the therapy promised to her by her husband and paid for through the court’s award in 1993.  Terri has never even been allowed to be tested to see if she could take food orally, even though nurses caring for her have already proved she is fully capable of eating jello and responding with great joy. Terri’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been grossly violated and ignored.  She has been placed in Hospice for three years…a place where those who are in the dying process are sent.  The only thing that will cause Terri to die is her starvation.

In conclusion, as a priest you have the first and foremost responsibility to the Church and to her teachings.  As a moral ethicist in such matters, you have a duty to learn the entire truth and to defend it, which you have most certainly failed to do.  And as a human being, you owe an apology to the citizens of the State of Florida , to our bishops and to all people nationwide who are disabled, for your remarks have caused a considerable amount of embarrassment, harm and pain to all.  I would ask that if the article published is not your true opinion, or if you wish to review the case more closely and rethink your statements, that you let all below and the Miami Herald know at once. Thank you for your kind and prompt attention to this matter.

In Christ always,

Debra L. Vinnedge, Director

Children of God for Life

(By Email to:


cc:   Archbishop John C. Favalora

Bishop Gilberto Fernandez

Bishop Augustin A. Roman

Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey

Bishop Thomas G. Wenski

Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito

Bishop John H. Riccard, SSJ

Bishop Victor Galeone

Bishop Robert N. Lynch

Bishop John J. Nevins

Michael McCarron, Executive Director, Fl Catholic Conference