[Paleopsych] NYT: Schiavo Case Highlights Catholic-Evangelical Alliance

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National > Schiavo Case Highlights Catholic-Evangelical Alliance
March 24, 2005

[Another article should deal with the Evangeligal-Zionist alliance. 
Evangelicals are warm supporters of Israel, and explictly Jewish 
publications, like Commentary, have published articles questioning 
evolution. Others, like The Weekly Standard, feature both Evangelical and 
Zionist authors. Somehow, I suspect that Bill Kristol's dedication to 
pro-life issues is more tactical than sincere.]


    The powerful outcry over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida
    woman whose case has provoked a national debate over whether she
    should live or die, is a testament to the growing alliance of
    conservative Roman Catholics and evangelicals who have found common
    cause in the "culture of life" agenda articulated by Pope John Paul

    In their fight to keep their daughter alive, Ms. Schiavo's parents,
    who are Catholics, have been backed by an ad hoc coalition of Catholic
    and evangelical lobbyists, street organizers and legal advisers like
    the Rev. Frank Pavone, the Catholic priest who runs a group called
    Priests for Life and evangelical Protestants like Randall Terry,
    founder of Operation Rescue, and the Rev. Pat Mahoney of the National
    Clergy Council.

    The struggle is only the latest indication of a strengthening
    religious alliance between denominations that were once bitterly
    divided. Evangelical leaders say they frequently lean on Catholic
    intellectuals like Robert George at Princeton University and the Rev.
    Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things, to help them
    frame political issues theologically.

    An increasing number of Catholics hold crucial staff positions in some
    of the religious conservative groups that lobby Washington. And
    conservative Catholics and evangelicals meet weekly in Virginia with a
    broad array of right-leaning lobbyists.

    "The idea of building a culture that values human life is a Catholic
    articulation, but it echoes in the hearts of many people, evangelicals
    and others," said William L. Saunders Jr., director of the Center for
    Human Life and Bioethics at the Family Research Council in Washington.

    "It was articulated by John Paul II, who is a great hero to pro-life
    people, regardless of their church," said Mr. Saunders, who is among
    the Catholics working at an organization founded by or affiliated with

    The "culture of life" language has been widely adopted by conservative
    politicians. President Bush said in a news conference yesterday that
    government must "err on the side of life" in making every effort to
    keep Ms. Schiavo alive.

    The Catholics and evangelicals first joined forces in the
    anti-abortion movement. And their alliance has now extended to include
    promoting sexual abstinence education and opposing stem-cell research
    and euthanasia. It is an array of issues they link under the rubric of
    "respect for the sanctity of life," whether that life is an "unborn
    baby" or an unresponsive patient lying in a hospice bed.

    "Who can judge the dignity and sacredness of the life of a human
    being, made in the image and likeness of God?" asked the Vatican's
    official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, on Monday, commenting on the
    Schiavo situation. "Who can decide to pull the plug as if we were
    talking about a broken or out-of-order household appliance?"

    Burke J. Balch, director of the Powell Center for Medical Ethics at
    the National Right to Life Committee, said the religious alliance on
    the Schiavo case had also been given a great boost by disability
    rights organizations that saw Ms. Schiavo as a disabled American
    deserving legal protection.

    Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who runs Joni and Friends, an
    evangelical ministry for disability rights in Los Angeles, said: "When
    you look at those videotapes, you are unable to rule out that she is
    in some way conscious or cognizant. When reasonable doubts like that
    are raised, we who are disabled believe her condition should be
    exhaustively investigated."

    Historically, the Catholic and evangelical alliance is very new. Less
    than half a century ago, Catholics and evangelicals still shared
    little but a history of mutual contempt and mistrust. When John F.
    Kennedy ran for president in 1960, evangelical leaders sent out a
    letter to Protestant pastors asking them to preach against him,
    arguing that as a Catholic, his true allegiance was to Rome.

    It was only 11 years ago that a group of evangelical and Catholic
    leaders and theologians released a groundbreaking statement,
    "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," drafted after a series of
    unusual meetings. While the document treated primarily theological
    issues, it said that evangelicals and Catholics could unite on a broad
    social agenda that included "pro-life" issues, strengthening the
    family and government support for religious schools.

    Now the alliance of evangelicals and Catholics is among the most
    powerful forces molding American politics. Last year, conservative
    evangelicals cheered when a handful of Catholic bishops said that
    Senator John Kerry, the Catholic who was the Democratic presidential
    nominee, should not take communion because of his stance on abortion.
    Mr. Bush courted evangelical and Catholic voters in 2004 and benefited
    from their mobilization.

    But evangelicals have so far shown little interest in joining
    Catholics in opposing the death penalty, which Catholics also regard
    as a "culture of life" issue.

    On Monday, Catholic bishops announced a renewed campaign to oppose the
    death penalty. A representative of the bishops said that while he did
    not expect that Protestant organizations or denominations that support
    the death penalty would change their positions, he did find change
    among individual Protestants who had been exposed to Catholic

    "Certainly in the Catholic tradition, culture of life includes concern
    about the death penalty," said Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of
    pro-life activities at the United States Conference of Catholic
    Bishops. "There are many Protestants who've been great admirers of
    Pope John Paul II and his witness, and have well-thumbed copies of his
    encyclical on the gospel of life, and have read it more carefully than
    Catholics have. And as a result, they have done more thinking on the
    death penalty, as well."

    People who have opposed removing Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube have said
    in interviews that evangelicals were the first to take a stand in
    their support, even though Ms. Schiavo is Catholic. Her parents had
    the spiritual support of individual priests, but Catholic bishops had
    been reluctant to become involved, with a Florida bishop's issuing a
    statement saying he would "refrain from passing judgment."

    There were differences of opinion among Catholic ethicists, Mr.
    Doerflinger said, on whether assisted feeding constituted exceptional
    medical intervention, which is not necessary under all circumstances,
    or "basic care," which must be provided to a sick person. He said the
    pope helped clarify the teaching a year ago, after delivering a
    message to a Rome conference on end-of life-issues in which he said
    that providing food and water was "morally obligatory."

    The pope said, "I should like particularly to underline how the
    administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial
    means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a
    medical act."

    Since then, bishops have spoken out unequivocally on the Schiavo case.
    Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington said Monday that the
    court-ordered removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube was a "form of
    euthanasia," which the Catholic Church condemns as "gravely wrong."

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