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Schiavo Overload

At a retreat I went on several years ago, a priest of the Community of St. John offered some excellent advice that I reflect upon often.

He said, "If you spend more time reading the newspaper than you do in Eucharistic Adoration, you jeopardize your hope."

As my inbox gets flooded with messages from friends, each trying to send me the very latest development from Florida, I can't help but wonder if it is possible for us to become too consumed with the Terri Schiavo case. Perhaps it is just the circles I run in, but it seems to me as if the Schiavo case has become the Michael Jackson trial of the Catholic world. I am well aware of the differences between the two cases (differences which I'm sure many commenters will nonetheless make crystal clear to me), but I am becoming increasingly struck by our obsession with it.

Yes, we should pray fervently, yes we should take political action where appropriate, yes it is a great injustice that has been committed (yet one all too common in our culture), but should we keep our eyes glued to the TV, ears to the radio, and attention to the inbox, tracking the developments moment by moment?

If we spend more time reading the newspaper than we do in Eucharistic Adoration, we may very well jeopardize our hope.

That said, for the latest info on the Terri Schiavo case, visit http://www.blogsforterri.com/. They can keep you far more current than we ever could here at The Seventh Age. And if you find yourself there more than once every day or two, consider your hope.


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Comments (2)


Since no one has given you the smack down for comparing the Schiavo case to Michael Jackson, allow me to post a little intrablogatory dissent.

The priestly sex scandal could be said to be the Catholic Jackson trial. Many people who were quite disinterested in the doings of the Church became suddenly fascinated when the lurid details began to trickle out. Likewise, many people who haven’t thought of Jackson since “Thriller” became uncool are tuning in regularly to hear all about this one man freak show and his perversions.

Schaivo is fundamentally different. Much of the intensity on Friday was due to the sudden wellspring of interest from people who damn well should be interested. The MSM has systematically avoided coverage of the case, and Catholics had not done a good job of getting the word out. To my knowledge (never a reliable gauge, but its all I have), this is a new stage in our cultural implosion. There is strong evidence that the Courts in Florida have not been impartial, and we have a woman who will be denied food and water and allowed to starve. This is precisely the kind of case that ought to overwhelm our daily routines. I’m sure you get more interesting email than I do, but I found many points being made were powerful. It was argued that condemned criminals get better appeals as do foreign national terrorists. The discussion put an uncomfortable spotlight on Congressmen from OR and WA who advocate euthanasia. Parallels were drawn to Holland and Switzerland, two wretched nations further along this decline than we are currently.

Schiavo’s murder ought to call every Catholic out of their contemplation, for a while, to spread the word, call their representatives and senators, contact the FL politicians involved and do what can be done. I am reminded of the homeless I constantly see at freeway exists during the day. I ought to remember them in prayer, and to remember all who are in such a state, either due to misfortune or illness. I ought to give me money to Mary’s Place and offer their suffering and my feeling of helplessness up to the Lord in adoration.

But that does not give me license to look away and not give them a buck. I have it in my power to act, to do a little something and I fail if I do not do it.

It’s true that people can become consumed, but on Friday, at least for a while, it was better to be on the phone to DC than to be in adoration. Having done what we could do, we ought now retreat back to the Lord for solace, but also for wisdom to know what to do when next we are called to act.


The thing that strikes me about the Schiavo situation, and those like it, is that in this world of instantaneous communication, news stories can quickly become all consuming, and it is this dimension that I think merits critical reflection.

The similarity of the Schiavo case with the Michael Jackson case, the priest scandal, or just about any major news story that captures the nation's attention, is that we can quickly obtain up to the minute on the ground coverage, and participate in the event as it unfolds. Yet with this increased access to information there is no concomitant increase in ability to act. Thus while I may be made aware of the most intimate minute by minute developments in Florida, I am unable to act on such information, and at the end of the day it has little impact on how I live out my life in Minnesota, and I don't think it should.

When the events take on a national focus, like Terri's Bill, then it is time for me to take notice and action, as appropriate, but until that time, minute by minute updates seem like more of a distraction than a help. My home, workplace, neighborhood, city, and state have plenty of injustices to keep me busy the rest of my life.

I am not advocating a "stick your head in the sand" philosophy. Yes, we should pay attention to national and international developments, but I think there is a need for moderation, an application of the principle of subsidiarity to information. There is so much out there, one can easily be consumed with it. The Schiavo case is an example, but not a unique one. I can spend my entire day following the events in Florida, reading the background, getting the latest at Blogs for Terri and sending it on to my friends, but at the end of the day have I really been faithful to the tasks the Lord has set before me today?

I watched election returns all night on election day, but the same man was president in the morning, and the only thing different about me was I was over tired.

Raising awareness, and calling people to action when appropriate is commendable, but we must guard against inviting them into the media firestorm that so often follows.

When news cycles were daily this was much easier because the limits of the mediums imposed a certain filtering, but now that we are in the age of the perpetual news cycle, we must be more attentive in this area.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 19, 2005 2:08 PM.

The previous post in this blog was The Great Foot Washing Controversey.

The next post in this blog is Terri's Bill Unconstitutional?.

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