Terri Schiavo was given last rites and Easter communion – a drop of wine, but no bread – as relatives of the brain-damaged woman asked protesters gathered outside her hospice to tone down their behavior.
Neither Schiavo’s parents nor her husband offered new, specific details on her condition, but one of the two priests who visited her hospital room said the brain-damaged woman’s “death is imminent” – a devastating proclamation for those who spent Easter Sunday praying for a woman they never knew.
“We are Terri’s voice. Right now, Terri is fighting for her life,” the Rev. Patrick Mahoney angrily shouted Sunday, his face reddening. He pledged to protest outside the White House on Monday.
Schiavo’s mother, Mary Schindler, did not visit her daughter on Easter, emotions keeping her from the hospice for the first time since Terri’s feeding tube was pulled 10 days ago, said Paul O’Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk and a family spokesman.
“If she goes in there again, we might have to take her to the hospital,” O’Donnell said.
But the woman’s parents claimed one Easter victory: Terri received communion wine after her husband allowed her to receive the sacrament.
As her brother, sister and brother-in-law looked on, the Rev. Thaddeus Malanowski held Terri’s right hand as he and hospice priest Rev. Joseph Braun placed the droplet on her tongue. Malanowski also anointed her with holy oil, offered a blessing and absolved her of sin.
“She received the blood of Christ,” said Malanowski, adding he could not give her a fleck of communion bread because her tongue was too dry.
By previous court order, Terri Schiavo was allowed to receive communion once more with the consent of her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, who has fought her parents for years about whether the woman would want to live or die. Terri received both sacraments on March 18, just before the tube was pulled.
Tensions were noticeably heightened both among the protesters and, apparently, among the closest confidants to the woman’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. David Gibbs III, their lead lawyer, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Schiavo has “passed where physically she would be able to recover.”
“In the family’s opinion, that is absolutely not true,” spokesman Randall Terry said outside the hospice.
The Schindler family, also bothered by repeated arrests and heightened angst outside the hospice, pleaded with supporters to tone down their behavior. They had little success; five people were arrested and chants of “Give Terri water!” echoed for much of the day.
Fewer than 10 protesters stayed overnight Monday in the rain and wind. One man was arrested before dawn trying to bring a jug of water to Schiavo.
Doctors have said Terri Schiavo, 41, would probably die within a week or two once the feeding tube – which kept her alive for 15 years – was disconnected. She relied on the tube since suffering catastrophic brain damage when her heart stopped beating and oxygen was cut off to her brain.
At Michael Schiavo’s Clearwater home, protesters dropped roses and Easter lilies on his lawn – a peaceful protest interrupted when sprinklers came on suddenly.
His fiancee’s brother picked up the flowers and handed them to a bystander to take away. John Centonze declined to answer questions, only saying that Michael Schiavo was “very upset.”
The saga was on the mind of many churchgoers, but some leaders skipped mention of it in Easter services.
At St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Clearwater, Father Ted Costello avoided mentioning the Schiavo case. Yet at Faith Lutheran Church in Dunedin, the Rev. Peter Kolb thought Schiavo’s story was appropriate for his sermon. “One day, we’re all going to go through the valley,” he told churchgoers.
Extra police officers blocked the road in front of Schiavo’s hospice. Pinellas County school officials said the elementary school next to the hospice would not open Monday. The 600 students were to be sent elsewhere. And some protesters continued demanding Gov. Jeb Bush intervene, but Bush told CNN he cannot ignore numerous state and federal court rulings against intervention. “I don’t have powers… that would allow me to intervene after a decision has been made,” he said.
Gibbs told CBS he believed Bush has done all he could. “Gov. Bush has been a real friend,” he said.
Schiavo’s parents dispute that their daughter is in a persistent vegetative state as court-ordered doctors have determined. Michael Schiavo contends his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially.
At least two more appeals are pending by the state and Bush, but those challenges are before the state 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed the governor’s previous efforts in the case.
Associated Press writers Mike Schneider, Vickie Chachere, Fred Goodall and Allen Breed contributed to this report.