The Catholic Church Abandons Pope Saint John Paul II's Culture of Life Because It May Offend Authority

This is an undated hand out photo of Charlie Gard provided by his family, at Great Ormond Street Hospital, in London. The parents of a terminally-ill baby boy lost the final stage of their legal battle on Tuesday, June27, 2017 to take him out of a British hospital to receive treatment in the U.S., after a European court agreed with previous rulings that the baby should be taken off life support. (Family of Charlie Gard via AP)

By the time you read this, 10-month old Charlie Gard will probably be dead.

This morning, his doctors–and I say that in the sense that Mengele and Sievers and Brandt were doctors–unplugged him from the life support system that had kept him alive. His parents had wanted to take him to the United States for an experimental treatment that offered a faint hope of curing or mitigating a deadly mitochondrial defect. To facilitate this treatment, his parents raised $1.7 million via GoFundMe. This would cover his medevac expenses and Britain’s National Health Service would not be out of a dime. This would be a no-brainer in a civilized nation, but in neo-pagan Great Britain, the idea that a child might survive when the doctors wanted him dead was just a bridge too far. The doctors went to court to prevent the parents from having a say in the care of their own child:

Great Ormond Street Hospital went to the courts with this question: Was it legal, and in Charlie’s best interest, for the hospital to remove the child from life support — even against his parents’ wishes?

In a ruling in April, Justice Nicholas Francis of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice wrote that there was “unanimity among the experts from whom I have heard that nucleoside therapy cannot reverse structural brain damage.”

“Transporting Charlie to the USA would be problematic, but possible,” he added. “Subjecting him to nucleoside therapy is unknown territory — it has never even been tested on mouse models — but it may, or may not, subject the patient to pain, possibly even to mutations. But if Charlie’s damaged brain function cannot be improved, as all seem to agree, then how can he be any better off than he is now, which is in a condition that his parents believe should not be sustained?”

Francis wrote it was “with the heaviest of hearts but with complete conviction for Charlie’s best interests” that he decided the hospital could withdraw treatment, except for palliative care, to let Charlie “die with dignity.”

The distraught parents went to the European Court of Human Rights who, to use the old idiom from the rat pit: “Drop it, dead ‘un.” The didn’t see a problem with either depriving the parents of the final say in the care of their child or with strangers deciding to kill a child that had no relation to them. It isn’t like these doctors don’t have empathy:

While this process may shock the conscience, it doesn’t faze the intellect. Europe is not only dying via a demographic death spiral, it is energetically killing off the unborn and the elderly and the infirm in what seems like a calculated program of cultural suicide.

What is shocking to the conscience and the intellect is the response of the Catholic Church, which marks how far from its moorings it has slipped under the misguided and borderline heretical maladministration of Pope Francis. This statement was issued by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.

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.

This is a monument to Doublespeak that would have George Orwell smiling. This was a chance for the Church to give a clear and unambiguous message on the sanctity of life and the primacy of the family and the fact that we are God’s children and not numbers in a government ledger or some bureaucrat’s spreadsheet. But under the leadership of Pope Francis (Pope Clement XIV was really onto something when he outlawed the Jesuits), that would be too much to hope.

Michael B. Dougherty hits this one out of the park.

The patronizing tone. The bald acceptance of the will of doctors as being superior to the will of parents flies in the face of Catholic theology and social teaching. The idea that parents can’t be trusted to make the decision about whether a treatment is disproportionate is insulting. And as to burdensome, being left to die is rather burdensome as well. The argument used here could easily be used to support abortion or euthanasia. This is our Dred Scott. Our Plessy v. Ferguson.

This is a retreat from the culture of life that flowered under Pope Saint John Paul II. It is to be expected. Under Pope Francis, the Church has begun to jettison those teachings of Christ which the worldly find to be déclassé or perhaps even a bit weird. The Pope has muddied the waters on homosexual behavior to the point where there are many faithful Catholics who honestly believe he has endorsed it. He has come within a hair of redefining the Christ-given sacrament of marriage–one man, one woman, for life–into an acceptance of divorce and remarriage. It looks like reverence for life is just the latest casualty in his search for relevance and favorable newspaper headlines.