Friday, April 1


For regular readers of my blog, you have come to know I'm a lover of old movie classics and often draw analogies between current events and famous movie scenes in my posts in order to make my point. Sometimes for me (and certainly for many of my readers) a vivid movie scene, and the memory of the impact of the screenwriter's craft and the actor's artistry, put in stark relief the common threads that run through our life and times, just as great literature does. And just as history so often repeats itself, movie-making, arguably among the greatest of American art forms, depicts and plumbs the depths of, over and over again, those seemingly mundane events in this world of ours that carry much larger meanings than we may otherwise realize.

So in watching the endless news reports last night of the tragic death of Terri Schiavo, and particularly a poignant montage of her life put together sensitively by CNN Cable News, a movie scene -- one of my favorites -- kept coming to mind. And although the subject of the movie -- mob control of the waterfront docks -- had not a thing to do with the right-to-die and right-to-life forces that collided in the Terri Schiavo legal controversy, there's nonetheless a grippingly powerful scene in the movie that comes to mind and draws meaningful parallels with Terri's death. In the scene, the actor Karl Malden, playing Father Barry, a gritty, tough-as-nails, parish priest, delivers an impassioned, dock-side sermon, down in the cargo hold of a ship, to union stevedores who had just watched one of their own senselessly murdered by mob thugs. The mob wanted the man silenced before he could testify about the tyranny and corruption that were rife on the waterfront.

I must tell you, that riviting speech, with some rewriting, could just as easily be deliverd today to the forces that aligned themselves against a hapless, handicapped woman to ensure her cruel death by dehydration and starvation. Just as Father Berry railed against the forces of immorality and apathy on that dock, so too could a similar sermon castigate the "culture of death" that held sway in Terri's death and illuminate the grave implications of a growing secularist movement in this country that has eschewed religious values and the great Judeo-Christian ethos upon which our nation was founded.

Here's the Father Barry sermon from the movie, "On The Waterfront":

Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. They better wise up. Takin' Joey Doyle's life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion. And dropping a sling on Kayo Dugan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow - that's a crucifixion. And every time the mob puts the crusher on a good man - tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen - it's a crucifixion. And anybody who sits around and lets it happen - keeps silent about something he knows has happened - shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of Our Lord to see if He was dead.

Boys, this is my church! And if you don't think Christ is down here on the waterfront, you've got another guess coming!

Every morning when the hiring boss blows his whistle, Jesus stands alongside you in the shape-up. He sees why some of you get picked and some of you get passed over. He sees the family men worrying about getting the rent and getting food in the house for the wife and the kids. He sees you selling your souls to the mob for a day's pay.

And what does Christ think of the easy-money boys who do none of the work and take all of the gravy? And how does he feel about the fellows who wear hundred-and-fifty dollar suits and diamond rings, on your union dues and your kickback money? And how does He, who spoke up without fear against every evil, feel about your silence?

You want to know what's wrong with our waterfront? It's the love of a lousy buck. It's making the love of the lousy buck - the cushy job - more important than the love of man! It's forgettin' that every fellow down here is your brother in Christ! But remember, Christ is always with you - Christ is in the shape up. He's in the hatch. He's in the union hall. He's kneeling right here beside Dugan. And He's saying with all of you, if you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me! And what they did to Joey, and what they did to Dugan, they're doing to you. And you. You. ALL OF YOU. And only you, only you with God's help, have the power to knock 'em off for good."

Well, Jesus Christ was in that grim, confining hospice room in Pinellas Park, Florida, when Terri's eyes were sunken, her pallor pronounced, her breathing fast and labored, her skin as parched as desert sand, her tongue swollen. And He was there everytime Michael Schiavo conferred with his attorney George Felos. Christ was there in Judge George Greer's courtroom and in the man's private offices when he wrote up each and every denial of another of the Schindlers' motions. Christ was in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court itself, when men in black robes refused to review Terri's case. Christ stood beside the unctuous George Felos when he held that ghoulish news conference yesterday and spoke bold-faced lies about how serene and beautiful Terri looked before her death, her arms wrapped around a stuffed animal, her hospice room filled with bouquets of roses. And Christ was a witness to the scurrilous language used to heap abuse on His own -- those who believe in Him and are His creations.

Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary; but it took place right there in that miserable death chamber of a room in which Michael Schiavo ordered Terri's brother and sister to leave before Terri took her final, fitful breath yesterday morning, her spirit passing from this Earth. Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calgary; but it has taken place in every abortion mill in this country and the world over, as well as in every hospital bed or incubator where someone deemed "no longer viable" has had his or her life "euthanized" to eliminate yet another "needless burden" on society.

Theresa Maria Schindler Schiavo's death was a crucifixion and Jesus' words should echo in the minds of the nihilists who have rationalized it and dismissed its implications.

And He's saying with all of you, if you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me!