MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH
Husband bars priest from brain-damaged wife
Catholic monsignor regularly ministered to Terri Schindler-Schiavo
Posted: August 19, 2003
5:00 p.m. Eastern
By Sarah Foster
© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
The husband of brain-disabled Terri Schindler-Schiavo – whose continued
existence is at the heart of a highly charged legal battle – has barred
a revered Roman Catholic priest from visiting his wife.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler,
have been locked in a decade-long legal struggle with their son-in-law
over care and custody of their daughter, who suffered brain damage
when she collapsed at her home 13 years ago under unexplained circumstances.
Terri Schindler-Schiavo before her disability.
A contentious dispute over Terri's lack of care became a major euthanasia
battle five years ago when Michael Schiavo, 39, obtained permission
from a court to have a feeding tube removed so his wife would starve
to death. Terri breathes on her own and maintains her own blood pressure
but requires the tube for sustenance. An appeals court upheld the
ruling, declaring Terri to be in a vegetative state though her parents
present evidence she is responsive. Now they are trying to persuade
the Florida Supreme Court to hear a final appeal.
Yesterday morning, Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski of the Diocese of
St. Petersburg learned Shindler-Schiavo's husband has barred him from
visiting because of concerns about his "integrity."
Schiavo's actions took family members by surprise because Malanowski
had visited Terri many times at the hospice where she resides. Terri
was admitted to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., Wednesday
night to address an emergency medical crisis.
Malanowski served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army for 30 years, retiring
with the rank of brigadier general. He left the service with an unblemished
record. Despite being retired, he has been called on four times by
Bishop Robert Lynch to run the parishes of priests forced to leave
because of child molestation charges.
The priest found out he was barred when he dropped by the hospital
yesterday morning to see Terri. No reason was given by the nurse,
except that his name was not on the list of persons Schiavo allowed
to see his wife.
Malanowski told WorldNetDaily he had visited Terri Friday evening
at the hospital, assuring nurses he was on a court-approved visitors
list at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast.
The priest said he gave Terri the Sacraments of Absolution and Healing
as he had on many occasions. Before leaving, he asked the nurse at
the reception desk to note his visit in Terri's file. He visited Terri
again the next morning, Saturday, with her parents, part of an established
Every Saturday, for nearly three years, Malanowski has accompanied
the Schindlers to lead in religious observances.
"I say some novena prayers for her from St. Jude Thaddeus and
St. Theresa of the Child Jesus -- her patron saint," Malanowski
said. "Her parents share with her in the Sacrament of Healing.
They respond with the prayers."
He said there was nothing extraordinary about his two visits, which
makes the banishment inexplicable.
Malanowski noted a "No Visitors" sign now hangs on Terri's
door, and he learned not even the Catholic chaplains at the hospital
are allowed to see her.
"I thought every Catholic person has the right to the sacrament
of the Church by a priest or Catholic chaplain," he said.
Asked if he had ever run into anything comparable, Malanowski said,
"I was in the Army for 30 years, and never, never in my life
have I had an experience like this," he declared. "We were
very ecumenical, tolerated each other, shared with other ministers
and rabbis. I never came across anything like this."
No explanation came until yesterday afternoon when Deborah Bushnell,
the court-appointed attorney for the guardianship, faxed a brief letter
to the Schindler's attorney Patricia Anderson, citing complaints by
Schiavo about the monsignor.
"Mike Schiavo has asked me to inform you that Father Melanowski
[sic] is no longer on the authorized list to visit Teri [sic] at the
nursing home in the company of family members," Bushnell wrote.
She said Schiavo claimed to have reports from the staff that Malanowski
had "attempted to visit Teri [sic] at the hospital on his own"
The letter continued: "He told the hospital staff that he 'has
a court order' to visit, and that he is the 'court-appointed' chaplain."
It concluded, "Please let your clients and Father Melanowski
know that Father Melanowski is not authorized to visit Teri [sic]
at the hospital, the nursing home, or in any other venue."
Bushnell told WND Schiavo's action was prompted by requests of the
staff, and she insisted Malanowski had misrepresented himself, as
indicated in the letter. He conceded the priest was on the list of
visitors Schiavo had approved, but maintained it applied only to visits
at the hospice.
Bushnell argued a hospital is a different type of venue, because
they're doing "medical procedures, and lots of visitors can interrupt
"Mike has, at the request of the medical personnel, restricted
the visitors at the hospital to immediate family because of the medical
procedures that are going on," she said. "He didn't want
to interfere with that."
That includes barring a priest from visiting a communicant?
Bushnell claimed Malanowski tried to get in "by saying he had
a court order to visit, which he does not, and describing himself
as a court-appointed chaplain, which he isn't."
"They told him, sorry, family members only, and later they found
him in the room with Terri and they had to escort him out," said
Bushnell. "That kind of behavior in a volatile situation is not
the kind of thing that we really need."
Bushnell said the ban was extended to other venues because if Malanowski
"would misrepresent himself in order to gain access to visit
Terri, Mike felt that it was inappropriate for him, at least at this
point, to be on the visitors list to visit her anywhere."
She added that could change, "but at this point Mike is concerned
about Father Malanowski's integrity and his willingness to misrepresent
himself in order to gain access to her room. He felt that that's not
the kind of person that he wanted visiting Terri or that he felt comfortable
Malinowski emphatically denies he slipped into Terri's room and had
to be escorted out.
"That's not true!" he exclaimed. "[The nurse] told
me to sit down on a chair near the area where they work. I was about
30 or 40 feet away. When she told me I wasn't on the list, I got up
and left. I did not go back. I did not go into Terri's room."
The monsignor insisted he had been very calm and gentle with the
nurse, "and she was very calm and gentle with me. She said, 'There's
nothing I can do. We can only go by the names on the list, and your
name is not on the list.'"
Attorney Anderson said the directive barring the monsignor shocked
the Schindler family.
"Frankly, I am outraged that Michael Schiavo has barred Monsignor
Malanowski from visiting Terri and giving her communion as he has
been doing for the last three years," Anderson said.
Noting the priest's stellar record, she declared, "There is
not one bit of artifice in him. He is the kindest man you could meet.
He visits Terri on his own time, just because he wants to do it, and
he's been going there like clockwork for three years."
Anderson is particularly concerned about the impact this could have
"Terri looked forward to his visits," she said.
Anderson said Malanowski filed an affidavit "describing how
one St. Patrick's Day he visited Terri and told her he was going to
sing 'When Irish Eyes are Smiling' in Polish. And she started laughing.
She got the humor, she understood. Michael insists that she is so
brain-damaged that she can't recognize people or anything -- but she
As Anderson's sees it, Schiavo is trying to make Terri's environment
as "barren as possible, and as free from stimulation."
"I don't think there is any justification for removing spiritual
comfort from her in what may be her last days," she said. "It's
Anderson said she will file an emergency motion to restore Malanowski's
visitation rights and do away with the visitors list.
"Michael has proven he has misused his guardianship rights,"