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Schiavo receives sacraments; protests go on

Monday, March 28, 2005

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- With their hopes fading and legal options exhausted, Terri Schiavo's family appeared quietly resigned Sunday to watching her die and asked protesters to spend Easter with their families as the severely brain-damaged woman went a ninth day without food or water.

Outside the hospice where Schiavo is being cared for, protesters were not as calm. Five were arrested as ministers attempted to bring Schiavo Easter communion. About a half-dozen people in wheelchairs later got out of them and lay in the driveway, shouting "We're not dead yet!"

Later, a priest said he gave Schiavo a drop of wine on her tongue. The Rev. Thaddeus Malanowski said he could not give her a fleck of bread because her tongue was dry. He also administered the last rites.

Schiavo's husband, who a day earlier denied a request from his wife's parents that she be given communion, granted permission to offer the sacrament.

The priest's announcement drew applause and cheers from the crowd, which spent most of the day heckling police and protesting loudly. The noise prompted Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, to come out and ask protesters to tone down their behavior.

"We are not going to solve the problem today by getting arrested," he told the crowd of about three dozen people. "We can change laws, but we are not going to change them today. ... You are not speaking for our family."

Schiavo's husband and parents have battled for years over whether the 41-year-old woman wanted to live or die. The two sides have given differing opinions of her status. Her parents have said she is declining rapidly and in her last hours; Felos argued Saturday that her condition is not yet that grave.

A spokesman for the Schindlers denied a report from David Gibbs III, their lead attorney, who told CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday that Schiavo has "passed where physically she would be able to recover."

That statement "was not made with the family's knowledge. In the family's opinion, that is absolutely not true," family spokesman Randall Terry told reporters.

George Felos, an attorney for Schiavo's husband, Michael, declined to comment on Schiavo's condition.

At Michael Schiavo's home in Clearwater, about three dozen protesters dropped roses and Easter lilies on his lawn in a peaceful demonstration. His fiancee's brother picked up the flowers and handed them to a bystander to take away.

Doctors have said Terri Schiavo would probably die within a week or two of the tube being removed March 18. She relied on the tube for 15 years after suffering catastrophic brain damage when her heart stopped beating and oxygen was cut off to her brain.

Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have maintained their daughter is not in a persistent vegetative state as court-appointed doctors have determined. Michael Schiavo has said his wife told him that she would not want to be kept alive artificially.

The Schindlers said they would stop asking courts to intervene after the Florida Supreme Court rejected their most recent appeal Saturday. The parents were rebuffed repeatedly by federal courts after Congress passed an extraordinary law last weekend allowing the case to be heard by federal judges.

About 100 protesters gathered at the hospice Sunday, ignoring the Schindlers' request that they spend Easter Sunday with their families. Bob Schindler told reporters the protesters were welcome back today.

"People are getting emotional," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition. "A woman is starving to death, but we want to focus on Terri, not on us." Mahoney said he planned to ask congressional leaders Monday to act to keep Schiavo alive.

Police have arrested 38 people in the past week, most for trying to bring Schiavo water.

At St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Clearwater, Father Ted Costello scrupulously avoided mentioning the Schiavo case in Easter Mass. Parishioner Bill Youmans said that was a good thing.

"I don't think that's got anything to do with Easter," the 76-year-old retiree from Michigan said. "I thought the church's teaching is not to take extraordinary measures to perpetuate life. ... I think all those people bleating in Schiavo's front yard give Jesus a bad name."

But down the road at Faith Lutheran Church in Dunedin, the Rev. Peter Kolb thought Schiavo's story was appropriate for an Easter sermon.

"Imagine the young woman that's been trapped in a hospice for 15 years," he told his flock, without actually mentioning Schiavo's name. "One day we're all going to go through the valley. ... Some day, somehow, each of us are going to face that last enemy."

Supporters of the Schindlers continued their demands Sunday for Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene.

"Terri is in effect on death row. ... We're asking the governor for a stay of execution on Easter Sunday," said Larry Klayman, founder of the conservative legal group Judicial Watch.

Bush told CNN on Sunday that he has done all he can in the case, as he has said for several days.

"I cannot violate a court order," he said. "I don't have powers from the United States Constitution or, for that matter, from the Florida Constitution, that would allow me to intervene after a decision has been made."

Schindler attorney Gibbs told CBS the governor had done all he could to help the family. "He was legally blocked," Gibbs said, calling Bush "a real friend to the Schindler family."

At least two more appeals were pending by the state and Bush, but those challenges were before the state 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed the governor's previous efforts in the case. It was unclear when the court would rule.


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