What do Judge Moore, Sandra Cano and Norma Jean McCorvey have in common with Terry Schiavo? Each has become a principle actor in the legal test for how far the law can lie.
Private Lies Smash the Law
When Norma Jean McCorvey, the Roe in Roe v. Wade, approached lawyers in order to get an abortion, she lied about how her child had been conceived, asserting she had been gang-raped. Stoned or drunk during most of the proceedings, she never actually got the abortion. She gave her child up for adoption instead. But, when she discovered that her case had gone all the way to the Supreme Court and had resulted in legal abortion in all fifty states, she twice attempted suicide. She was disgusted by how far her lie had been taken. She did not want her name, even in a pseudonym, to be associated with that kind of mass slaughter.
Sandra Cano, the Doe in Doe v. Bolton, had an even worse experience. She wasn’t the one who lied: her lawyers were. All she wanted was a divorce from her husband and custody of her children. Her lawyers forged documents in order to mislead the courts into accepting a case on abortion. They carried this lie all the way to the Supreme Court, duping everyone along the way. The Supreme Court ruling was based on a complete fabrication, but no one knew it except the lawyers who had invented the lie.
Nothing Smashes the Law
Ironically in the summer of 2003, the same summer that both Cano and McCorvey returned to the courts seeking overturn their own Supreme Court victories, another legal controversy erupted. The case of Judge Moore and the placement of the Ten Commandments in his own courthouse eventually resulted in his removal from the bench.
Now, keep this in mind: the legal principle that ostensibly evicted Judge Moore is found nowhere in the law at all. While the Constitution says the federal government may not make a law concerning religion, it does not anywhere say that Church and state must be separate or separated, nor does any other law make such a statement. The celebrated “wall of separation” is simply a personal opinion expressed by Thomas Jefferson in a private letter. It exists nowhere else. Thus, it does not even carry the interpretative weight of the Federalist Papers, the public discussion of Constitutional principles carried on by the Founding Fathers in the newspapers of the day. Judge Moore was removed from his position precisely because he did not disobey any known US law.
Public Lies Smash the Law
Now, watch the progression. Norma Jean McCorvey knowingly lied to her lawyers. Sandra Cano didn’t lie to her lawyers, rather her lawyers lied to both her and the courts. In Judge Moore’s case, it was no longer lawyers who were lying – now it was the judges. Other courts publicly lied about the content of the law itself. But in Terry Schiavo’s case, we have reached the end of the road. Now, the court isn’t even bothering to lie about the law. Now, the law simply isn’t relevant.
It does not matter what the law says concerning minimum standards for Terry’s care. It does not matter what the truth is. Indeed, in Terry’s case, everyone who tells the truth is forbidden to testify. When they do testify, their testimony is thrown out. The law is no longer admissible in court. The truth is no longer admissible in court. There is a reason for this.
Deicide is Suicide
In his book Breaking the Thread of Life, the eminent moral theologian Robert Barry, O.P., demonstrated that pagan societies have always had enormous difficulty respecting human life. Pagans would commit suicide at the slightest provocation, whether to escape shame, pain and suffering, or to promote certain kinds of community values. From the Greek habit of keeping stores of poison available for popular use to the Japanese practice of hari kari, where ever personal suicide was accepted, assisted suicide and socially required suicide always co-existed. The widow had to be strangled, burned alive or buried alive with her husband’s corpse, for if she refused to die, she would be offending the community understanding of marriage. Wives would certainly suffer without their husband, and suffering was evil, so it were best the wives were put out of their misery immediately, even if they were not yet miserable.
This attitude, taken to its logical extreme, permitted human death for any reason or for no reason at all. As Rev. Barry points out, Russian roulette is ancient. In Thrace, a group of boys would hang a noose on a tree with a stone beneath it and draw lots. Whoever drew the short lot picked up a scythe, put his head in the noose and allowed the stone to be kicked out from underneath. He had to cut the rope with the scythe or die, as his friends watched in amusement at his frantic writhings, walking away merrily no matter what the outcome. Human life existed to be enjoyed, and if you did not enjoy your life, others would enjoy your life, and its ending, at your expense. Human life was nothing special.
The influence of Christian thought radically changed this idea. Where Christianity reigned, suicide disappeared. Prior to the Incarnation, it was not uncommon to find entire towns commit suicide on the approach of an armed enemy or in response to the ravages of pestilence and famine. After the Incarnation, a new idea became embedded in western society – suffering might actually be ennobling. It might actually contribute to the honor of the individual, it might have worth. The value of individual life infinitely elevated.
Post-Christian society has not only returned to the pagan notion of human life as valueless, it has actually degraded it more thoroughly. Pre-Christian pagans at least insisted the woman be a widow before she was thrown screaming into the fire. Post-Christian pagans aren’t so punctilious about details. So the husband is alive, so what? All the more reason the wife should die. Instead of throwing the wife alive onto the funeral pyre, just throw her alive into any old fire. The thirst of dehydration lasts enormously longer than the kicks of the hanging man with his blunt scythe, and pagans can take that much more morbid enjoyment in the process as we cluck sympathetically about the sad situation.
As we remove the requirement that God be the basis for the legal system, we remove the requirement that truth be the basis for legal action. At this point, it would not matter if Terry miraculously gained the power of speech tomorrow. The principals plotting her death have become so enamored of their power that even her own spoken testimony would arguably be inadmissible before the court. They need only a doctor who would assert that her plea for life was just an artifact, a spasm of diaphragm muscles that really could not be held to mean anything, regardless of the words they seemed to form. As has already been demonstrated, one can find a doctor who will testify to anything given the right motivation.
Terry is being killed in order to establish a principle: God is dead. Whereas the pre-Christian pagans sought to establish law in harmony with divine principles, but could not do so because they did not fully know God, the post-Christian pagans actively seeks to divorce divine principles from the law because they have learned of God’s existence and they reject Him. As everyone knows, it is easier to destroy than it is to create. Destruction takes no imagination, no power, it takes merely determined blindness, an adamant refusal to accept the reality of anything except one’s own will. We see in this struggle three men – a lawyer, a husband and a judge – attempt to decree the death of a bride. We know God, the Lawgiver, the Bridegroom, the Judge, desires life for this bride. If Terry dies, it is because three human men will what three divine Persons do not.