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Statement on Baby Alfie

Given at Priests for Life Press Conference, April 26, 2018

Fr. Frank Pavone


April 26, 2018
   
 

Brothers and sisters, thank you all for joining us, the Priests for Life pastoral team, for a time of reflection and prayer on the situation of Baby Alfie Evans, the child in the UK who is being denied by Alder Hey hospital and the court system in the UK from released to his own parents who have arranged to give him alternative care with other doctors and treatment facilities.

We at Priests for Life are involved in this case not only because our ministry is dedicated to defending the right to life and educating people worldwide about that right, but also because the family of Baby Alfie reached out to me directly some time ago to help bring attention to the world about this situation. We are speaking today just for ourselves and not officially for the family or any other institution. But we know our convictions represent those of tens of millions of concerned people all over the world.

We are greatly encouraged by the outpouring of public sentiment around the world in favor of Alfie, his rights, and the rights of his parents. We are encouraged by those who have responded to our action alerts to put pressure on the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool and the public officials involved in this case; we are encouraged by the massive activism in Alfie’s favor on social media and also by the world leaders who have spoken out, including our Holy Father Pope Francis who on multiple occasions now has spoken in Alfie’s favor.

Above all, we are encouraged by the love and courage shown by Thomas Evans and Kate James, the parents of Alfie, who are simply trying to love and care for their son. Their steadfast commitment to the life God has entrusted above all to them reminds me of the same kind of steadfast commitment shown by Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader, parents of Baby Joseph, and by Mary and Bob Schindler, parents of Terri Schiavo.

Seven years ago, Baby Joseph’s parents reached out to me to help them save their son who was also being denied basic treatment by a Canadian hospital. With the help of countless others, we were able to transfer that child to a hospital in the United States and he got the care he needed.

And over 15 years ago, the family of Terri Schiavo reached out to me to help them save their daughter who was being denied basic treatment in Florida and who, though her life was not threatened by any disease, was forced by court order to be starved and dehydrated to death.

In all three of these cases, we saw parents simply trying to love and care for the children God gave them – not seeking the spotlight, nor seeking conflict, but simply being faithful to the call to love, while those institutions on which they should be able to count for help instead abandoned them and their children.

And we are painfully aware that countless other families face these crises, but their cases are hidden in the shadows and never come to the light of day or the knowledge of the public.

To all such families, we say today that we stand with you and for you and are ready to fight for the lives of the children you love.

When medical complications arise, and loved ones are afflicted with various forms of weakness, disability, and disease, we must unite with a clear affirmation articulated best by Saint John Paul II in “The Gospel of Life.” He wrote, simply, “Life is always a good! … It is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory

Life is always a good. While there is such a thing as a worthless treatment, there is never such a thing as a worthless life.

Many are saying of Baby Alfie, as they said of Baby Joseph and as they said of Terri Schiavo, that their condition is irreversible, that their brain is too badly damaged, that there is no hope of any kind of recovery.

But life is always a good. We all know many people who have incurable conditions, diseases and disabilities. Does that mean we just throw them away?

If we cannot cure, we can still care. If we cannot heal, we can still love. A person who is damaged is still a person, fully in possession of his or her rights, and fully deserving of our loving care.

In his first tweet about Baby Alfie, Pope Francis said,

“It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard. I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.”

And that is exactly what we do when someone is afflicted with a devastating disease. We “compassionately accompany” them. We do not abandon them. We do not dismiss them.

And we do not re-define them. As happened in the other cases I mentioned, some people call Baby Alfie a “vegetable”. Even medical and legal professionals throw around the term “semi-vegetative state” or “brain-dead.”

First of all, these terms have no meaning. They are not precise or formal medical terms and have no specific medical definition.

More fundamentally, a human person is never anything but a human person. People do not become vegetables, and they never lose their right to life.

Some will dare to go so far as to question whether a person whose brain is damaged is even still human. Who are we, who is any of us, to make such a judgment? When some humans start saying other humans are no longer human, that is the worst king of discrimination, and is indeed the basis for oppression, genocide, and holocaust.

In Baby Alfie’s case, there have been various doctors and judges who have issued opinions. We respect the medical and the legal professions. But we ask them to stick to their own respective specialties. A doctor is to issue medical judgments and a judge is to issue legal judgments.

But neither is to issue a value judgment.

Yet that is exactly what is happening here. The powers that be are saying there is no point in further treatment for this baby.

That is a value judgment, and is beyond the competence of both the doctors and the judges. We respect your professions, but you are not God.

The value of a person does not change with their medical condition.

The Alder Hey hospital has pointed out that in this process, the hospital and the parents of Alfie could not come to an agreement as to what should be done for Alfie. Hence the courts got involved.

But the question is, why does there have to be any agreement between the hospital and the parents?

The hospital is entitled to its opinion, but it should not try to impose that opinion on the parents.

Parents should always be free to choose an alternate doctor or treatment facility for their child.

And as for what is in “Alfie’s best interests,” nobody has a monopoly on determining that. The courts must cease pretending that only they know what is in the best interests of a child.

They can have their opinion, but they do not own the child.

Baby Alfie does not belong to the court, he does not belong to the doctors. He belongs to God, who has entrusted him to the care, above all, of his parents.

That is why Pope Francis once again tweeted about Baby Alfie just the other day in these words

“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

Brothers and sisters, as I said at the outset, we are greatly encouraged by this immense solidarity to which our Holy Father refers, and we ask today that it increase. Gather around us now in prayer and action. Spread the word about this case to others. Express your outrage to the authorities, and your loving solidarity to Alfie’s family.

We have given you a vehicle to do all these things at ProLifeCentral.org where you can find a prayer campaign and action alerts to send messages to those in authority.

Let’s be clear. Our efforts in these cases cannot always counteract the violence of death. But our efforts can always counteract the silence. That is what we ask you to do along with us today. Raise your voices! And let those who try to impose death on little children and trample the rights of their parents know that they cannot get away with that without facing a worldwide outrage, and an immense solidarity which will only get stronger by the day as we advance a true culture of life.

   
 
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