LONDON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leading British prelate is justifying the death of Alfie Evans, citing Catholic teaching.
Following international outrage and disappointment from thousands of supporters, Cdl. Vincent Nichols of Westminister slammed, in a visit to Poland on Sunday, those who "sought political capital" from the sick British toddler's death "without knowing the facts."
"It's important to remember Alder Hey Hospital cared for Alfie, not for two weeks or two months but for 18 months, consulting with the world's top specialists — so its doctors' position that no further medical help could be given was very important," Nichols insisted. "The Church says very clearly we do not have a moral obligation to continue a severe therapy when it's having no effect, while the Church's catechism also teaches that palliative care, which isn't a denial of help, can be an act of mercy."
But this palliative care offered to Alfie led to the removal of his basic care, including food and water. He suffered for hours without hydration and 36 hours without nutrition before receiving a little milk prior to his death.
Pope St. John Paul II taught that food and water ought to be provided even if it's artificially administered. "The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural end still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.)," affirmed the late Holy Father.
And Abp. Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool — also highly criticized for his handling of Alfie's case — offered condolences to the parents while again praising the "staff at Alder Hey for their professional care of Alfie." His statement was issued on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
McMahon, who would not travel four miles to anoint the sick infant, undertook the effort to travel all the way to Rome Wednesday to complain about Fr. Gabriele Brusco, Alfie's chaplain, questioning his presence at the hospital. Brusco was expelled from Alder Hey following McMahon's Rome visit.
An internal memo from the archdiocese of Liverpool was leaked on April 16, in which an auxiliary bishop offered support "to doctors and staff" of Alder Hey even though the bishops had "not met with the parents who, it is understood, are not Roman Catholic."
But Tom Evans, Alfie's father, affirmed in a letter to McMahon on April 15 that he and Alfie were "baptized and confirmed, and I'm looking to you as my shepherd and to the Holy Father as the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth."
The memo also said the hospital is acting "in the best interests of Alfie" and describes Alder Hey as "a center of excellence" while including statements from the hospital and Liverpool police concerning past peaceful protests outside the hospital.
Nichols told the Polish Church's news agency, KAI, Sunday that most of the doctors and nurses at Alder Hey were Catholics who were "deeply hurt" by the protests, and expressed satisfaction that Tom Evans and Kate James, Alfie's parents, reached "agreement and harmony" with the hospital.
It's very hard to act in a child's best interest when this isn't always as the parents would wish — and this is why a court must decide what's best not for the parents but for the child. Wisdom enables us to make decisions based on full information, and many people have taken a stand on Alfie's case in recent weeks who didn't have such information and didn't serve the good of this child.
But this is contrary to the support received internationally from Pope Francis, who helped, alongside the Italian government, in securing medical air transportation from Alder Hey to Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome and granting the sick toddler Italian citizenship. Others expressing concern were American and Brazilian bishops, Polish president Andrzej Duda, Polish deputy prime minister Beata Szydło and Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.
The most senior Catholic cleric in England and Wales further justified Alfie's death, citing the difference in the socio-political climate in the United Kingdom as opposed to Poland, saying, "Our task here [in England] is to find ways of reaching out to society, so the Church's voice can be heard in a multi-faith setting, where many people do not adhere to any faith. When we discuss the Church's doctrine here, we must often construct a dialogue on arguments about society's common good."
Poland, on the other hand, has a "great yearning" to "propagate and reveal the Christian identity," affirmed Nichols.