Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said he believes everything possible was done to help Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old boy who died last weekend from an undiagnosed and incurable degenerative neurological condition.
The cardinal criticised people who "sought political capital" from the tragedy "without knowing the facts".
During a visit to Poland on Sunday, the cardinal said: "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. 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. Rational action, spared of emotion, can be an expression of love; and I'm sure Alfie received this kind of care."
The Cardinal was speaking after arriving in Gniezno as a Papal legate for the sixth centenary of Poland's primatial see. He told the Polish Church's Catholic information agency, KAI, on Sunday that most of the doctors and nurses caring for Alfie Evans were Catholics, who had been "deeply hurt" by accusations levelled against them, and said he was pleased the child's parents had finally reached "agreement and harmony" with Liverpool's Alder Hey 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,æ Cardinal Nichols told KAI. "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. Unfortunately, there were also some who used the situation for political aims."
Extensive Polish media coverage of the case of Alfie Evans, who died early last Saturday, five days after having his life-support treatment withdrawn, provoked protests outside the British Embassy in Warsaw and mass petitions, signed by 245,000, to the Queen and Alder Hey. Polish Church leaders staged special Masses in support of the child, while a Catholic lawyers' group, Ordo Iuris, demanded enquiry by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
In his KAI interview, Cardinal Nichols said he detected a "great yearning" in Poland to "propagate and reveal the Christian identity", but added that the situation was different in Britain. "Our task here 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," said the Cardinal, who preached to Poland's Catholic bishops at Sunday's main cathedral Mass. "When we discuss the Church's doctrine here, we must often construct a dialogue on arguments about society's common good."
Pic: Cardinal Nichols in Poland for the jubilee of the 600th anniversary of the institution of Primate of Poland. Pic shows him (centre) at vespers © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk