Bishops of England and Wales comment on Alfie Evans case
The statement from the Bishops follows a meeting between Pope Francis and the father of Alfie Evans in Rome
The Catholic Bishops’ of England and Wales have issued a statement on the case of Alfie Evans, the gravely ill toddler whose medical treatment is subject to a high profile legal battle.
"Our hearts go out to the parents of Alfie Evans and our prayers are for him and with them as they try to do all they can to care for their son. We affirm our conviction that all those who are and have been taking the agonising decisions regarding the care of Alfie Evans act with integrity and for Alfie’s good as they see it. The professionalism and care for severely ill children shown at Alder Hey Hospital is to be recognised and affirmed," the bishops said.
The bishops defended the hospital, saying that the "public criticism" of their work is "unfounded as our chaplaincy care for the staff, and indeed offered to the family, has been consistently provided."
Referring to the offer from the Vatican's Bambino Gesu to care for Alfie Evans, the bishops said that in cases where "crucial decisions in conflicts of opinion have to be taken" it is up to the hospital to give British courts the medical reasons for an exception to be made.
The statement concluded: "With the Holy Father, we pray that, with love and realism, everything will be done to accompany Alfie and his parents in their deep suffering."
The statement from the Bishops of England and Wales follows a meeting between Pope Francis and the father of Alfie Evans in Rome earlier today.
Thomas Evans saw the Pope on Wednesday morning at his Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. Francis later mentioned Alfie during his weekly general audience gathering in St Peter's Square.
"The only master over life is God," the Pope said asking for a moment of silent prayer to respect the life of all people, especially "little Alfie Evans."
The toddler's parents are fighting legal rulings that allow Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool to withdraw life support from their child and have sought to have him treated in Italy. The 23-month old is suffering from a rare, undiagnosed neurological condition and has been in hospital since December 2016. The boy's parents, Mr Evans, 21, and Kate James, 20, have recently made another application to the Supreme Court.
The couple, from Liverpool, have so far lost cases in the high court, court of appeal, supreme court and European court of human rights.
In previous cases, medical specialists have said that Alfie is in a “semi-vegetative state” and that further treatment would be futile. But, the child’s parents say that they have seen improvements in the boy's condition and want to move him to the Vatican's Bambino Gesù hospital where they believe he will receive better treatment.
Last Sunday the Pope called for prayers for Alfie and Vincent Lambert, a 41 year old who was severely injured in a car crash in France leaving him a quadriplegic. Doctors in Rheims want to remove "ordinary means of life support" while parents insist he can breath unassisted and his internal organs are working. Both cases have ignited debates about euthanasia and end of life care.
Describing them as "delicate, very painful and complex" cases, Francis told pilgrims in St Peter's Square last weekend that treatment should be agreed by "family members, doctors and health professionals."
Meanwhile, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called for dialogue between the Alder Hey hospital and the Alfie's parents so that "life is not reduced to a legal dispute."
He said that the parents had worked for the good of their child in different ways, and that the case was a "terrible tragedy."
The archbishop added: "Alfie cannot be abandoned, Alfie must be loved, as should his parents."
Both the Pope's remarks and the archbishop's represent the vision of this papacy on complex life issues. Rather than turning a case into a battle over ideas, or re-stating Church rulings, Francis' approach is to show compassion to a family while underscoring the bottom line principle of valuing and protecting life.
Church teaching says the no-one should be deprived of the "ordinary means" to preserve life such as food, water and medical care, although the catechism points out that "Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate."
PICTURE: Thomas Evans meets Pope Francis ©PA