Honoring Terri Schiavo: Schindler Family Spiritual Adviser Fr. Frank Pavone

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 6, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Follow-Up" segment tonight, about 800 people turned out for a memorial service honoring Terri Schiavo (search) last night in St. Petersburg, Florida, even as her husband, Michael, is reportedly seeking police protection because of death threats.

With us now, Father Frank Pavone, an adviser to the Schindler family, who gave the homily at the memorial service last night. What did you tell the folks?

FATHER FRANK PAVONE, SPIRITUAL ADVISOR TO SCHINDLER FAMILY: Well, Bill, first of all, I told them that so many people around the country are with them, around the country and around the world, that we're in solidarity with them, we grieve with them.

And we're also determined, with them, to see that something like this never happens again. I told the people especially in the light of our Holy Father's teachings that we have to go forth from that church and build the culture of life, that we have to understand that life doesn't lose its value when it's injured, when it's frail like Terri was, when you're unable to communicate. That doesn't mean you're not a human being, and we have to — we have to make sure this doesn't happen again.

O'REILLY: So it was a pro-Life sermon based on your experiences in this.


O'REILLY: I was saddened. This made me really sad. I said in a "Talking Points Memo" there were no winners in this story. None. Everybody lost, and I do believe that.

And it was so bitter and so hateful. You know, we just reported Michael Schiavo, like him or not, I mean, people are — I believe it -- people want to kill him. How did it get to that point?

PAVONE: Well, Bill, we're talking here about not just the family feud. We're talking about a man who took an innocent woman who was not dying, and this is something many still don't realize. She had no terminal illness, and she was dehydrated to death.

Now that, in itself, is enough to cause all the bitterness that we've seen. And furthermore, her death has been mischaracterized and the family knows it.

I was with Terri for three or four hours before she died, right up to about 10 minutes before her death. Now George Felos (search) and Michael Schiavo (search), they want to say this was a peaceful, gentle, merciful death. Bill, in all my years as priest I have never seen anything so horrifying or agonizing as the way she died.

O'REILLY: Yet the doctors say she didn't feel it, because I mean, obviously, the physical changes were horrifying and agonizing.-- But the doctor said her brain was incapable of feeling pain. We'll know when the autopsy comes back.

One of the things that disturbed me about this whole situation was that there was contention about what Terri Schiavo herself wanted.

PAVONE: Right.

O'REILLY: You see, there is no excuse on this earth if Terri Schiavo didn't put forth that she wanted not to be kept alive, then she shouldn't. I agree 100 percent with your position...

PAVONE: Right.

O'REILLY: ...that she should not have been killed.

PAVONE: Right.

O'REILLY: But if she did indeed tell her husband don't keep me alive, as I've told my family, all right, then the husband had a right.

PAVONE: Well, it's one thing to say, "Don't keep me alive." It's another thing to say, "Kill me." Because we understand that there are circumstances in which treatments become worthless. But what we're saying Bill is there's no such thing as a worthless life. Now Terri, again, was not dying of any terminal illness.

O'REILLY: She was not dying. That's correct.

PAVONE: So the judgment is not is this treatment now necessary to keep her alive. The Catholic Church does not say that we have to use every and any means, always to keep someone alive.

O'REILLY: If Terri had said in writing, "I don't want to be kept alive by a feeding tube," she would have died in the good graces of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church wouldn't condemn her for that. As far as I know. Right?

PAVONE: Well, the problem here is that we can't predict the future, so we don't know...

O'REILLY: If I have a living will — I do have a living will — and I say I don't want a feeding tube. All right? If I'm brain damaged, I don't want it. I'm not going to Hell.

PAVONE: You're saying you would want to be — not want to be fed?

O'REILLY: I would want to be taken off the feeding tube if my brain is not functioning, which some people say it isn't functioning now! -- But I don't want to want to make light of the situation. But the Catholic Church doesn't say that you have to be kept alive by these kinds of methods if you're not— if you are not cogent.

PAVONE: It depends on the circumstances.

O'REILLY: Right. But she wasn't cogent. She didn't know what was going on...

PAVONE: Well, that's disputable, you know. I...

O'REILLY: This was a ruling by the state of Florida.

PAVONE: Well, the doctor wasn't there in the room with me when she responded to my prayers.

O'REILLY: Did she have a doctor (ph)?

PAVONE: No, no, you don't need a doctor to know when somebody is responding to you. I prayed over her. She responded. I put my hands on her head and she closed her eyes. I finished the prayer, she opened them again. She smiled. She laughed.

O'REILLY: All right. But the doctor appointed by the state of Florida, who had no dog in the hunt, said...

PAVONE: Right.

O'REILLY: ... the woman's not going to — and we'll know by the autopsy when it comes back.

Now, did you ask — did the family request a Catholic funeral with the body at the church? Did the family request that?

PAVONE: The family very much wanted to honor their daughter, their sister, in the way that Catholics normally do, have the funeral, have the body, bless the body, bury the body. And as we know, Michael said he wanted the body cremated. And uh...

O'REILLY: Couldn't it have been cremated after the Catholic mass?

PAVONE: Exactly. Absolutely. I don't see any reason in the world...

O'REILLY: And he didn't want that, then?

PAVONE: He did not allow that.

O'REILLY: See, now that — that disturbs me, because again, I said that a greater good would have been for Michael Schiavo to step aside, say, "I tried to uphold my wife's wishes..."

PAVONE: Right.

O'REILLY: "... but her family wants to care for her and for the greater good, I'm going to do that."

But did he — you've got to tell me this. Did he just say "No, you can't have the Catholic mass with the body"? Did he say that?

PAVONE: You know, in my discussions with the family from the time I first got to know them, it wasn't even a question any more. It was like...

O'REILLY: No, he didn't say that to you.

PAVONE: He didn't — I have never communicated with...

O'REILLY: Because I don't want to condemn the man...

PAVONE: Right.

O'REILLY: ... but there is no reason why they couldn't have a Catholic funeral mass with the body and then cremate the body.

PAVONE: Exactly. Exactly.

O'REILLY: But you're not telling me that he didn't say that to you directly.

PAVONE: He did not say it to me directly, but the family clearly understood that this was out of the question.

O'REILLY: Do you feel bad for Michael Schiavo?

PAVONE: Oh, I certainly do. In fact, Bill, I've reached out to him publicly in many of my public statements, inviting him to repentance and also inviting him to sit down and discuss the matter reasonably.

O'REILLY: Why does he have to repent, though, if his wife did tell him she didn't want to be kept alive that way?

PAVONE: Because what he did was inhumane. Even if somebody says... There are certain things that we can request that are simply not right. We know when somebody is depressed, when they ask for their life to be ended, what we do is we deal with the depression, we treat the person. We help the person. We don't just...

O'REILLY: Yes, well, this is — this is an extraordinary — would you want to be kept alive that way? I mean, 15 years without really being cogent in any way, shape or form? Would you want to be kept alive?

PAVONE: Well, again, we don't know how — how aware she was.

O'REILLY: I'm asking you, Father, if you'd want to be kept alive for 15 years, not knowing what's going on.

PAVONE: Oh, I certainly would not want to be starved. I think — the point is I can think of a lot of people that I wouldn't want to live like. I wouldn't want to live in poverty. I wouldn't want to live with mental disability, but that doesn't mean I can kill myself or allow someone else to kill me.

The bottom line is, that doesn't mean my life is less valuable. I think that's really the — that's really the deep problem here.

O'REILLY: It's a theoretical thing, but I do think that the Catholic Church, once again, if you have a living will and you say please do not keep me alive if I'm brain dead or my brain is not functioning, it isn't a sin to do that.

But anyway look, it was a sad story, and I hope the Schindler family... Are they OK?

PAVONE: Well, they're doing remarkably well.

O'REILLY: All right.

PAVONE: And again, they appreciate your concern and the concern of all your viewers.

O'REILLY: All right. Because we — we want everybody to try to get back to their normal life now and stop the bitterness and stop the hatred. Right?

PAVONE: Exactly.

O'REILLY: You've got to pray for everybody in this case.

PAVONE: We sure do.

O'REILLY: All right, Father. Thanks for coming on.

PAVONE: Thank you.

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