VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican pressed its campaign to keep Terri Schiavo alive yesterday, saying that removing the brain-damaged American woman's feeding tube amounted to capital punishment for someone who has committed no crime.
In a front-page editorial, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano criticized US District Judge James Whittemore's refusal to order the reinsertion of Schiavo's feeding tube and disparaged a ''society incapable of appreciating and defending the gift of life."
It 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," the paper said.
''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."
The Holy See has maintained that there is virtually no justification for the death penalty.
The decision by Whittemore came after feverish action by President Bush and Congress to pass legislation allowing the brain-damaged woman's contentious case to be reviewed by federal courts.
''She has no possibility of being 'restored' to a 'normal' life. Therefore Terri Schiavo must die," the L'Osservatore editorial said in its interpretation of the judge's ruling. ''This is . . . the absurd and terrifying reason" for Whittemore's decision.
The feeding tube was disconnected Friday on the orders of a state judge, prompting a weekend effort by congressional Republicans to push through emergency legislation Monday aimed at keeping her alive.