PINELLAS PARK, Fla., March 29 -- An unrealized act of religious defiance stirred emotions Tuesday outside Terri Schiavo's hospice, where demonstrators prayed for what they called "a miracle" as the brain-damaged woman entered her 12th day without food or water.
Their hopes are now squarely focused on Atlanta, where lawyers for Schiavo's parents late Tuesday night asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to rehear the case, four days after saying their efforts in the federal courts had ended. George Felos, the attorney for Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo, told CNN that the filing "is some sort of last-minute desperate move."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, with Terri Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, called the case "one of the profound moral and ethical issues of our time." He said he was not allowed to visit Schiavo to help administer Holy Communion.
(Steve Nesius -- AP)
Schiavo's religion -- she is a Roman Catholic -- has always been a significant aspect of the seven-year legal battle between her parents and her husband, on such issues as whether her feeding tube should be reinserted to her husband's plans to have her remains cremated. Her faith was so entwined in the legal fight that a judge issued an order dictating the exact number of times -- once -- that she could receive Holy Communion after her feeding tube was removed March 18.
But Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski, who gave Schiavo her last authorized Holy Communion on Easter, announced Tuesday that he had tried to defy the order during an afternoon visit to her hospice room. Bobby Schindler, Schiavo's brother, said the three police officers in the room warned Malanowski that he would be arrested if he followed through on plans to place a drop of consecrated wine on Schiavo's lips.
Holy Communion is one of four steps in the Catholic sacrament for the dying. Malanowski said he was able to perform the other three: granting absolution for sins, anointing the forehead and performing an apostolic blessing. He performed all four on Easter but said Schiavo should have the right to receive Holy Communion every day.
Supporters of the Schindlers accused the courts of infringing on Schiavo's religious freedom, saying, as they have before, that "God's law should supersede man's law."
"What court really has the authority to tell someone they can't have a religious rite?" said Paul O'Donnell, a Franciscan friar who has been a constant presence at the side of Schiavo's mother, Mary Schindler.
Michael Schiavo, who has said his wife would not want to live in the persistent vegetative state that court-appointed doctors say she slipped into after a heart attack 15 years ago, made no attempts to counter the religious-freedom arguments.
His sister-in-law, Joan Schiavo -- who testified that Terri Schiavo would want to be disconnected from her feeding tube -- told police in Philadelphia that a man drove up to her home and threatened to kill her if the brain-damaged woman dies. Another alleged threat led to the arrest last week of a North Carolina man who is accused of offering $250,000 to kill Michael Schiavo.
Late Tuesday, Mary Schindler made a one-sentence plea to her son-in-law and his girlfriend, Jodi Centozone, saying, "Michael and Jodi, you have your own children -- please, please give my child back to me."
Earlier in the day, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson said he was denied permission to enter Woodside Hospice and participate in administering Holy Communion to Schiavo. Jackson, a civil rights activist, called the Schiavo case "one of the profound moral and ethical issues of our time." While he was speaking, a man burst through a security line and almost reached the hospice's front door before police tackled and arrested him.
The appearance of Jackson, who arrived at Woodside Hospice in a white stretch limousine, set off a commotion on the two-lane, dead-end street. He was trailed by dozens of reporters as he held Mary Schindler's hand and walked from one television network tent to another for on-air interviews.
Jackson came to the hospice at the request of Schiavo's mother, who saw him arguing her side on television. His appearance presented a political juxtaposition: a lion of the liberal left taking up a cause that has been primarily supported by the conservative right.
Jackson said he called several Florida legislators in hopes of renewing efforts to pass a law that would force the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube. The legislature recently refused to pass such a law, and few observers give Jackson's effort much hope. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has said he is out of legal options to intervene, and efforts to lobby Congress to reenter the case appear to be going nowhere.
But first lady Laura Bush, speaking to reporters in Washington before her trip to Afghanistan, said, "I just feel like the federal government has to be involved. It is a life issue that really does require government to be involved." She said she and the president have living wills but did not disclose their provisions.
Schiavo's father, Robert Schindler, again urged lawmakers to intervene. "We still have her. It's not too late to save her." He said his daughter "is failing."
Schindler spoke on a street that runs past small shops and leads to a fenced trailer park. The heavy security presence is complicating life, and death, for hospice residents and their families.
An elementary school next to the hospice is temporarily closing and sending its students to other schools because of concerns about buses navigating the narrow, clogged street. Frustration was beginning to show. A van slowed as it passed the media clump Tuesday afternoon. The sign in its window said: "Our children can't go to school because of you. Go home!"
Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.