While “channel-surfing” one evening recently, I came across a documentary about the sinking of the Titanic. At approximately 11:40 P.M. on April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic, having left Southampton four days earlier, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. By 2:20 the next morning, it disappeared beneath the waves, along with 1519 of its 2224 passengers. In terms of loss of life, it wasn’t the greatest sea-going disaster of all time, but it was certainly the most famous.* At the time, it was the largest vessel afloat, and it was considered by its builders to be “unsinkable.” Since this was its maiden voyage, the Titanic was carrying much of the crème de la crème of American and British society, including the millionaire John Jacob Astor and others. And since the ship was thought to be unsinkable, its builders didn’t think it needed lifeboats; and it was therefore outfitted with barely half the number needed.
One can only imagine what went through the minds of the Titanic’s passengers, when the realization hit them that they were going to die – that they were doomed, and that there was nothing they could do about it. The sense of tragic irony must have been particularly acute for those wealthy passengers, many of whom sailed on the Titanic only because they wanted to “see and be seen” on this glorious “floating palace” – and who now realized that all their millions could not save them from the same fate that was befalling the lowliest steerage passenger.
But the sense of frustration and dread must have been no less acute for those steerage passengers, most of whom had pawned their life’s savings to book passage to go to a new and better life in America. For both the lofty and the lowly, their sense of impending doom -- of the certainty that they were going to perish in the icy waters of the North Atlantic -- must have been overwhelming. One can only imagine the horror and the dreadful anticipation that passed through their minds. This “unsinkable” ship -- as its builders (and the media of the day) so haughtily proclaimed it to be -- sank on its first outing: a sober and terrible reminder from our Creator that He is Everything and we are NOTHING.
While watching this documentary, it got me to thinking about another “T”: Terri Schiavo; and it struck me that, as horrendous as the Titanic’s sinking was, it did not compare with what happened to her. The Titanic disaster was an act of God -- an accident. Terri’s death, on the other hand, was no “accident”: it was a totally pre-meditated, deliberate act of men, not God. The Titanic sinking was God’s retribution for culpable men’s pride and arrogance. Terri’s death wasn’t; it was the murder, by men, of a helpless innocent who did nothing to merit her fate, and whose only “crime” was costing her husband too much “insurance settlement” money – a man already shacked up with a new concubine, and who wanted to keep the money for himself and his bimbo. Terri’s continued care constituted, for him, a waste of money – and, in Anthony Cekada’s words, “a grave burden on society.” Teresa Marie Schiavo expired on March 31, 2005.
While the Titanic’s victims died relatively painlessly and quickly, Terri’s death was a slow, painful ordeal. Terri's final death agony lingered a full two weeks. She didn’t die of “natural causes” or even of “malnutrition” – and she certainly wasn’t “terminally ill” or in any danger of dying; her organs weren’t “shutting down.” The proximate (and official) cause of death was dehydration – forced dehydration by court order. Anyone – even a child -- who tried even to wet her cracked, bleeding lips, was prevented from doing so by an armed guard; and anyone who tried to give her water or food would be criminally prosecuted. It was a slow, methodical execution – for a crime that she never committed.
According to Fr. Frank Pavone, an eyewitness, Terri Schiavo’s facial expression in her last hours was one of dread and disbelief. In his words, “to describe the way she looked as peaceful is a total distortion of what I saw.” “Her eyes were open but they were going from one side to the next, constantly oscillating back and forth, back and forth. The look on her face (I was staring at her for three and a half hours) I can only describe as a combination of fear and sadness….a combination of dreaded fear and sadness.” “Her mouth was open the whole time,” he continued, “It looked like it was frozen open. She was panting rapidly. It wasn’t peaceful in any sense of the word. She was panting as if she had run a hundred miles.” Like the Titanic’s victims, Terri Schiavo knew that she was going to die, but couldn’t fathom WHY she was being deliberately put to death. And, because of that, her feeling had to have been one of utter, unspeakable terror.
One of the many facts “overlooked” by Anthony Cekada (that is, ignored by him) in his now infamous account of her death is that Terri Schiavo was actually able to swallow – including the Sacred Species in communion. Many of the nurses who attended to her (before she was condemned to death) attested to this. Another piece of public (but not publicized) medical fact is that when Terri Schiavo was first “discovered” by paramedics, she was “face down” (her husband made no attempt to “turn her over” so that she could breathe more easily); and subsequent X-rays in the hospital confirmed that she had several broken bones – breaks that did not look like they were caused by “falling,” but which appeared to be more likely the result of physical beating.
Yet Phony Tony ignored all this evidence (and more) and instead trumpeted out a “make-it-up-as-you-go” pile of bone-headed gibberish (including his absolute absurdity about a feeding tube constituting a painful and “extraordinary means” of sustenance -- an especially outrageous claim, considering the fact that, at that time, one of his own parishioners was being fed from that self-same feeding tube!). Equally outrageous was Cekada’s proffering his own crude, baseless medical opinion on Schiavo over that of an internationally known neurologist’s – where he not only questioned that doctor’s professional knowledge, but then FALSELY labeled his medical assessment of Schiavo as “presuming to pronounce on matters of faith and morals.” It seems that the only time that Phony Tony is lying -- as they say – is “whenever his lips are moving.” It is difficult to distinguish which is Cekada’s more dominant trait: his arrogance or his ignorance.
It is evident too, from what both Cekada and Dolan had to say about Terri Schiavo (both then and afterwards), that they had no REAL compassion for her – but it is not surprising. After all, what compassion did they show for the scores of children who were abused at SGG over the years? The only thing that passes for “compassion” from these two is the syrupy sanctimony that they pander day in and day out from their cult-center pulpit (or from the affected, insincere slop that Dannie drivels forth in his Bishop’s Corner column). The only thing that is really surprising about all of this is that their followers actually swallow it: people who know better – who know who and what Dolan and Cekada are -- and yet who lend their continued moral support to this thoroughly immoral pair: surprising -- and tragic.
The Titanic was an act of God – and, indeed, a terrible tragedy -- but it was a lesson learned (albeit a bitter one). Schiavo, on the other hand, was man-made -- concocted by evil men with an evil agenda -- where no lesson was learned. It was simply the “trial balloon” -- the “testing of the waters” -- for euthanasia: the “test market before the rollout.” What makes it even more tragic is that people like Dolan and Cekada never learned that lesson either. As men who call themselves “Catholic,” it was their moral duty to stand up for the dignity of life – but they didn’t. Instead, they stood up for the “right” of a man to have his wife put to death – a position that, to this day, they have never retracted.
But perhaps the greatest tragedy is that people who also call themselves Catholic – and who had supposedly learned that lesson – have apparently “unlearned” it. Several of those who were thoroughly disgusted with SGG -- and who left in protest -- have come back to these lepers (as Lay Pulpit’s last article illustrated). They, who not only have valid but legitimate alternative places to go for the sacraments, have returned to and re-embraced the toxic twosome. What that says about these people is that they themselves are not Catholic, that they really haven’t any Catholic principles, and that “the show” means more to them than their convictions -- more than their Catholic Faith. That is the real tragedy.
*An even greater maritime disaster (in terms of loss of life) was that of the riverboat SS Sultana, which exploded and sank on April 27, 1865, on the Mississippi River. A couple of interesting coincidences it shares with the Titanic are that both carried roughly the same number of people (2224 for the Titanic vs. approximately 2400 for the Sultana), and both sank in the month of April. Although the exact number of the Sultana’s victim’s is not known, it is estimated that 1800 perished. Another interesting thing to note is that the Sultana was built by the John Litherbury Shipyard in Cincinnati, Ohio – not all that far from SGG, Dannie Dolan’s southwest Ohio cult center.