Terri speaks! — from Heaven

SoultoHeaven.jpgIt’s the sort of glurge one expects in the Inspirational category of sympathy cards at the chain grocery story: the human soul is in Heaven, watching our every movement with newly acquired supernatural powers. Except in this case the body is not dead yet:

I am Terri Schiavo. I died and my soul came to Heaven long ago. What was left behind wasn’t me. It was the body I used to live in.

When I look down and see pictures in the newspapers of my body — gape-mouthed, blank-staring — it makes me sick. Is my body some circus curiosity?

Let my body die and let me rest in peace.

So Terri Schiavo can now write a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch? From Heaven, no less? Who knew? (It did require channeling her thoughts to a resident of Montross, Virginia.)

This ostensibly Christian understanding of the ethical debate swirling around Terri Schiavo is becoming increasingly common among churchgoers, if a report by Neela Banerjee in this morning’s New York Times is any indication.

Banerjee’s article is a good roundup of what churchgoers had to say as they left worship services Sunday in Boston, Chicago, Washington and New Orleans. Many worshipers speak of how their confidence in going to Heaven would free them from anxieties about any suffering they experience as they die.

But some express an understanding of the soul that is — how else to say this? — biblically illiterate:

After 9:30 Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in downtown Chicago, Stephanie Zacharias, a 34-year-old personal trainer, said she saw a correlation between Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection and the Schiavo case. “Terri Schiavo deserves to end her suffering on this earth and go to a better place just like Jesus did,” Ms. Zacharias said. “What is her life? What kind of life is that? She’s a shell. Her soul is not living. I think she died 15 years ago and her body is just being kept alive to comfort somebody else.”

The Times never explains the church’s historic teaching that the soul animates the body, that the soul and body are separated at physical death and that the soul and body are reunited at the end of time.

Even Gnosticism normally would not say that the soul is gone when a body remains alive. Were a Gnostic to write in the name of Terri Schiavo, the message might be: “My pure spirit is imprisoned in this corrupt body. Please free me from it.”

But for Americans even that is not a sufficiently cheery presentation of Terri Schiavo’s condition. Instead, we are told she is strolling about Heaven already, or her soul is dead, regardless of what her body is doing.

In contrast, George Felos — Michael Schiavo’s attorney — offers a less authoritative answer on what Terri’s soul may be up to. Sharon Tubbs of the St. Petersburg Times wrote a sharp-eyed profile of Felos in 2001, before he had published his book Litigation as Spiritual Practice (“This book is a miracle,” says Conversations With God author Neale Donald Walsch).

Tubbs mentions in the profile that Felos says one disabled woman’s soul spoke to his and asked, “Why am I still here?”

But he’s reserving comment on Terri:

Does Felos believe Terri Schiavo’s soul has spoken to his?

Felos declines to answer, showing his lawyerly side. “It’s a pending case,” he says.

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  • keypusher

    At least no one has followed Dante and suggested her soul has been in hell for the past 15 years:

    Then cried out one, in the chill crust who mourn’d:
    “O souls! so cruel, that the farthest post
    Hath been assign’d you, from this face remove
    The harden’d veil; that I may vent the grief
    Impregnate at my heart, some little space,

    Ere it congeal again.” I thus replied:
    “Say who thou wast, if thou wouldst have mine aid;
    And if I extricate thee not, far down
    As to the lowest ice may I descend.”

    “The friar Alberigo,” answer’d he,
    “Am I, who from the evil garden pluck’d
    Its fruitage, and am here repaid, the date
    More luscious for my fig.” – “Hah!” I exclaim’d,
    “Art thou, too, dead?” “How in the world aloft
    It fareth with my body,” answer’d he,
    “I am right ignorant. Such privilege
    Hath Ptolomea, that oft – times the soul
    Drops hither, ere by Atropos divorced.
    And that thou mayst wipe out more willingly
    The glazed tear – drops that o’erlay mine eyes,
    Know that the soul, that moment she betrays,
    As I did, yields her body to
    a fiend
    Who after moves and governs it at will,
    Till all its time be rounded: headlong she
    Falls to this cistern. And perchance above
    Doth yet appear the body of a ghost,
    Who here behind me winters. Him thou know’st,
    If thou but newly art arrived below.
    The years are many that have passed away,
    Since to this fastness Branca Doria came.”
    “Now,” answer’d I, “methinks thou mockest me;
    For Branca Doria never yet hath died,
    But doth all natural functions of a man,
    Eats, drinks, and sleeps, and putteth raiment on.”

    He thus: “Not yet unto that upper foss
    By th’ evil talons guarded, where the pitch
    Tenacious boils, had Michel Zanche reach’d,
    When this one left a demon in his stead
    In his own body, and of one his kin,
    Who with him treachery wrought. But now put forth
    Thy hand, and ope mine eyes.” I oped them not.
    Ill manners were best courtesy to him.

  • Carl

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that no one has made that suggestion, keypusher. An acquaintance put this link in his live journal: http://durrrrr.blogspot.com/ . It’s pretty tasteless by itself, but the comments are, quite literally, obscene.

  • http://dogfightatbankstown.typepad.com/blog/2005/03/tuesday.html saint

    Funny, as an somewhat geographically distant observer I was thinking along those lines myself especially over Easter: how even Christians don’t get that we are embodied souls and even subscribe to the notion of disembodied souls floating in some ether.

    I agree that Tubb’s article was pretty sharp; I see Felos as the most conflicted party who has been directly involved and the most religiously zealous. I would like to see a good investigative journalist have a go at the relationship between Schiavo and Felos and maybe explore how an attorney, while technically taking instructions from a client, and also coaching a client, can knowingly and unknowingly impose their view on their client, particularly when there’s are some precedents to be set etc etc.

    And while I was waiting for the ‘Terri speaks’, I didn’t expect it this fast.

    P.S. I would use stronger words than Carl about the site and the comments.

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