VATICAN CITY – The Vatican pressed its campaign to keep Terri Schiavo (search) alive Tuesday, saying that removing the brain-damaged American woman's feeding tube amounted to capital punishment for someone who has committed no crimes.
In a front-page editorial, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano (search) criticized a U.S. federal judge's refusal to order the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube.
"She has no possibility of being 'restored' to a 'normal' life. Therefore Terri Schiavo must die," the editorial began. "This is ... the absurd and terrifying reason" for the judge's decision, it added.
The decision by U.S. District Judge James Whittemore (search) came after feverish action by U.S. President George W. Bush and Congress on legislation allowing the brain-damaged woman's contentious case to be reviewed by federal courts.
The tube was disconnected Friday on the orders of a state judge, prompting an extraordinary weekend effort by congressional Republicans to push through unprecedented emergency legislation Monday aimed at keeping her alive.
A top Vatican official, Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, also criticized the ruling, saying it legitimized a "cruel" death by hunger and thirst for Schiavo. Sgreccia, who heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio that he hoped the ruling wouldn't be repeated in other cases.
"It's not euthanasia in the literal sense of the word," Sgreccia said. "It's not a good death, it's a death provoked by a cruel act. It's not a medical act," Sgreccia said.
"I confirm the moral judgment doesn't change, because it remains an illicit and serious act — even more serious since it appears the decision over who lives and who dies has become a question for a court," Sgreccia said.
In its editorial, L'Osservatore Romano said Whittemore had condemned Schiavo to an "atrocious death: death from hunger and thirst."
"After all, Terri's destiny appears not unlike that of many men and women who in the United States get capital punishment for their crimes," said the paper.
"But Terri has committed no crimes, if not that of being 'useless' to the eyes of a society incapable of appreciating and defending the gift of life. Of any life," said the paper.
The Holy See is opposed to the death penalty.
Schiavo suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago. Her husband says Schiavo told him that she wouldn't want to be kept alive in a vegetative state. Her parents say she needs treatment and another opportunity for life.
The Vatican paper's remarks reflected earlier comments from several Vatican prelates over the case. For the Catholic Church, euthanasia can never be allowed as only God has the power to decide over the life and death of a human being.
Pope John Paul II has strongly condemned euthanasia throughout his 26-year pontificate.