From Father Frank Pavone: In His Own Words

by JHS, Esq.

The following comes from Father Frank Pavone’s most recent message to supporters of Priests for Life:

You may have seen on the news that I was at Terri Schiavo’s bedside during the last 14 hours of her earthly life, right up until five minutes before her death. During that time with Terri, joined by her brother and sister, I expressed your care, concern, and prayers. I told Terri over and over that she had many friends around the country, many people who were praying for her and were on her side. I had also told her the same things during my visits to her in the months before her feeding tube was removed, and am convinced she understood.

Terri’s brother, sister, and I read Scripture, prayed the rosary, and had times of silence during Terri’s last hours. We held her hand and stroked her head. During all that time, there was always at least one police officer in the room, watching our every move, and several more immediately outside the door. During those hours, one of the things I did was to chant, in Latin, some of the most ancient hymns of the Church. One of the chants I used was the “Victimae Paschali Laudis,” which is the ancient proclamation of the resurrection of Christ. There, as I saw before my eyes the deadly work of the Culture of Death, I proclaimed the victory of life. “Life and death were locked in a wondrous struggle,” the hymn declares. “Life’s Captain died, but now lives and reigns forevermore!”

As you may have also seen, those who killed Terri were quite angry that I said so. The night before she died, I said to the media that her estranged husband Michael, his attorney Mr. Felos, and Judge Greer were murderers. I also pointed out, that night and the next morning, that contrary to Felos’ description, Terri’s death was not at all peaceful and beautiful. It was, on the contrary, quite horrifying. She was dehydrating to death, and looked it. Her face had an expression of dread and sorrow. In my 16 years as a priest, I never saw anything like it before.

After I said these things, Mr. Felos and others in sympathy with him began attacking me in the press and before the cameras. Some news outlets began making a story out of their attacks and said I was “fanning the flames” of enmity and hatred.

Actually, there’s a simple reason why they are so angry with me. They had hoped that they could present Terri’s death as a merciful and gentle act. My words took the veil of euphemism away, calling this a killing, and giving eyewitness testimony to the fact that it was anything but gentle. Mr. Felos is a euthanasia advocate, and like all such advocates, he needs to manipulate the language, to sell death in an attractive package. Here he and his friends had a great opportunity to do so. But a priest, seeing their work close-up and then telling the world about it, just didn’t fit into their plans.

One of the attacks they made was that a “spiritual person” like a priest should be speaking words of compassion and understanding, instead of venom. But compassion demands truth. A priest is also a prophet, and if he cannot cry out against evil, then he cannot bring about reconciliation. If there is going to be any healing between these families or in this nation, it must start with repentance on the part of those who murdered Terri and now try to cover it up with flowery language.

Another aspect of the Terri Schiavo tragedy is that many people misunderstand its cause and therefore its solution. They think the problem was that Terri did not leave any written instructions about whether she wanted to be kept alive. In order to avoid any such problem in their own lives, they are now told that they have to draw up a “living will.” This is both erroneous and dangerous.

Terri’s case is not about the withdrawal of life-saving medical treatment, but rather about the killing of a healthy person whose life some regarded as worthless. Terri was not dying, was not on life support, and did not have any terminal illness. Because some thought she would not want to live with her disability, they insisted on introducing the cause of death, namely, dehydration.

So what good is a living will supposed to accomplish, aside from saying, “Please don’t argue about killing me, just kill me?”

The danger in our culture is not that we will be over-treated, but rather that we will be under-treated. We already have the right to refuse medical treatment. What we run the risk of losing is the right to receive the most basic humane care — like food and water — in the event we have a disability.

Our culture also promotes the idea that as long as we say we want to die, we have the right to do so. But we have a basic obligation to preserve our own life. A person who leaves clear instructions that they don’t want to be fed is breaking the moral law by essentially requesting suicide.

If you want to make plans for your future health care, do not do so by trying to predict the future. The reason you cannot indicate today what medical treatments you do or don’t want tomorrow is that you don’t know what medical condition you will have tomorrow, nor what treatments will be available to give you the help you need. Living wills try to predict the future, and people can argue over the interpretation of a piece of paper just as much as they argue about what they claim someone said in private.

The better solution is to appoint a health care proxy, who is authorized to speak for you if you are in a condition in which you cannot speak for yourself. This should be a person who knows your beliefs and values, and with whom you discuss these matters in detail. In case you cannot speak for yourself, your proxy can ask all the necessary questions of your doctors and clergy, and make an assessment when all the details of your condition and medical needs are actually known. That’s much safer than predicting the future. Appointing a health care proxy in a way that safeguards your right to life is easy. In fact, the National Right to Life Committee has designed a “Will to Live,” which can be found at and which I recommend highly.

Today, my friends, I will fly back to Florida to be with Terri’s mom, dad, and siblings and to preach at the funeral mass that will be held for her at 7:00 p.m. this evening. I will again convey to them your best wishes, and if you want to relay a personal message to them, you can send it to and I will pass it along personally.

Anonymous April 5, 2005 at 12:29 pm

That is very well written.

I putting together a “Right to Live” Will for everyone in my family. I haven’t finalized the language, but you can imagine what it says. “Do everything possible to keep me alive and comfortable because I have a right to my life, guaranteed to me by the U.S. Constitution.. . .” I will certainly check out his suggested document.

I wanted to add another statement. I heard last night, someone called the Hannity radio show and expressed his disappointment on the “low turnout” in Florida. I wish Sean would have stated that there were people (like me) who could not get away, but nevertheless showed their support by sending many letters of support for Terri’s life and family to Gov., Pres., Congress, etc.

Everytime I reach for a glass of water, I think of Terri and how this must never happen again.

Do you happen to know where we can get all of the documents of the Shiavo case?

In particular, I heard one of the legal analysts on FOX state that the Shindlers had a “jury demand”. So why was a judge the “trier of fact” when that would have been for the jury to decide?? That is, whether or not Terri had an “oral living will” or whether to believe M. Shiavo and other “facts” Judge Greer “determined by clear and convincing evidence” which essentially served a death sentence on Terri.

Additionally, why wasn’t Terri allowed to be mouth fed? Why were their police there to “enforce” that she not be fed or hydrated by mouth. I know that at one time, the nurses testified that she could take food & liquids by mouth. If she really wanted to die–which I don’t believe–she could have just spit the food out.

It was bad enough (which I did not agree with) to take out a feeding tube, it is even worse to force someone to starve and dehydrate by police force.

I agree wholeheartedly with the Father, it was murder plain and simple. They and the MSM get mad because they know it is true.


Janie Hickok Siess, Esq. April 8, 2005 at 11:32 pm

You can get a lot of detailed information about Terri’s case at Terri’s Fight. Many of the legal briefs can be viewed there as Adobe documents.

I do not practice law in Florida so I don’t know about the alleged “jury demand” that you mentioned. In California, conservatorships and guardianships are established and judicially supervised under the authority of the Probate Code. There is no right to a jury trial.

Terri did not clearly and convincingly express a right to die by dehydration and starvation should she become disabled. There was nothing remotely like clear and convincing evidence in this case either of Terri’s pre-disability desires or that it was in her best interests, from a medical standpoint, to die by dehydration and starvation.

The police were there, I presume, to see that Michael Schiavo’s orders were carried out to the letter. To assure that her parents did not slip her a drop of water. To assure that they didn’t take any pictures so the world could see that Ghoulish George Felos’ nauseating description of Terri’s “death process” was a lie perpetrated to make something ghastly, ugly, and unjust seem beautiful.

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