The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, released a statement Thursday regarding the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the imminent death of ten-month-old Charlie Gard:
The matter of the English baby Charlie Gard and his parents has meant both pain and hope for all of us. We feel close to him, to his mother, his father, and all those who have cared for him and struggled together with him until now. For them, and for those who are called to decide their future, we raise to the Lord of Life our prayers, knowing that “in the Lord our labor will not be in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement today that recognizes above all the complexity of the situation, the heartrending pain of the parents, and the efforts of so many to determine what is best for Charlie. The Bishops’ statement also reaffirms that “we should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life, including the removal of nutrition and hydration, so that death might be achieved” but that “we do, sometimes, however, have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs.”
The proper question to be raised in this and in any other unfortunately similar case is this: what are the best interests of the patient? We must do what advances the health of the patient, but we must also accept the limits of medicine and, as stated in paragraph 65 of the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family. Likewise, the wishes of parents must heard and respected, but they too must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation and not be left to face their painful decisions alone. If the relationship between doctor and patient (or parents as in Charlie’s case) is interfered with, everything becomes more difficult and legal action becomes a last resort, with the accompanying risk of ideological or political manipulation, which is always to be avoided, or of media sensationalism, which can be sadly superficial.
Dear Charlie, dear parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates, we are praying for you and with you.
The language used in the statement is deeply chilling. The way Paglia describes the situation, one might think the decision to end Charlie Gard’s life was an unfortunate, but ultimately unanimous one. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Charlie’s parents raised over $1.6 million, and fought tooth and nail against the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the U.K. courts, and ultimately the ECHR to be granted the right to take their son to the United States where they could get him an experimental, but potentially life-changing treatment.
Paglia’s statement is also thickly coated in the unsettling collectivist mentality that led to the ECHR keeping Gard’s parents from doing what they believed was best for their own son:
… what are the best interests of the patient? We must do what advances the health of the patient, but we must also accept the limits of medicine … the wishes of parents must heard and respected, but they too must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation and not be left to face their painful decisions alone.
We must help the patient; we must accept the outcome; the parents should be consulted, but they “must be helped to understand” that the state makes the ultimate and therefore correct decision. “Orwellian” is too kind a term for this language.
The parental agency and autonomy of Chris Gard and Connie Yates was stripped away by the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the U.K. High Court, The U.K. Supreme Court, and the European Court of Human Rights, and replaced by the “wisdom” of the high-minded collective.
Paglia’s statement reveals, in stark fashion, how European ethics have corroded the moral rectitude of the Catholic Church — a church that used to stand boldly for life.
Adding insult to injury, Pope Francis tweeted the following on Friday:
One must wonder if Francis is in disagreement with Paglia over the Charlie Gard ruling, or if this was simply an unfortunate timing error on the part of the pontiff. Regardless, the dissonance between the statement by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the tweet from Pope Francis is significant.
The new think of modern Europe won a meaningful battle against the old values of the Catholic Church this week.