A group dedicated to offering a Catholic voice in the public square has spoken out on behalf of Alfie Evans and his parents, as the court battle surrounding the toddler continues.
“It’s confusing and disappointing to see the Catholic leadership in the U.K., both the bishops and lay leaders like Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices U.K., abandon Catholic social teaching and split from the Pope by defending the government instead of Alfie and his family,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association.
“The Church has long been the first and only voice to speak out for truth and defend the vulnerable. True to that legacy, the Pope spoke out in defense of Alfie Evans and the fundamental human rights of his parents to do all they can to save the life of their child.”
In an April 26 statement, McGuire thanked Pope Francis for his leadership and called on UK Catholics “to join him in standing for Church teaching.”
The Catholic Association, a group that is “dedicated to being a faithful Catholic voice in the public square,” voiced support for the parents of British toddler Alfie Evans, who has been at the center of a months-long court battle.
Just shy of two years old, the young boy is in what physicians have described as a “semi-vegetative state” due to a mysterious degenerative neurological condition that doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, England have not been able to properly diagnose. He has been hospitalized since December of 2016.
Although Italian officials have granted Alfie citizenship and a Vatican-linked hospital has offered to take the toddler for further diagnosis and treatment, UK courts have repeatedly refused to allow the transfer, ruling that it is not in the child’s best interest.
With permission of the court, but against the will of Alfie’s parents, the hospital earlier this week removed Alfie’s ventilator and withheld food and water from the child.
Although the toddler was only expected to live for a few minutes, he was able to breathe on his own for a number of hours, until doctors administered oxygen and hydration. They later administered nutrition as well, after the boy went almost 24 hours without food, according to Alfie’s father.
Local Archbishop Malcolm McMahon has defended the hospital, saying that it has done “everything humanly possible” for Alfie. UK commentator and co-founder of Catholic Voices Austen Ivereigh also defended the arguments of the courts on Twitter.
Pope Francis, however, has been outspoken about supporting the child’s parents.
The pope, who met with Alfie’s father last week, has offered public prayers for Alfie and his family several times, including at a general audience and in several Twitter posts.
“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” he said on Twitter Monday.
Rallies in support of Alfie’s parents have been held in London, Washington, D.C., New York, and other locations in recent days.
“The Catholic faithful along with citizens of good will around the world have rallied and stood with the Pope and with Alfie and his parents in defending their rights and defending the beauty of Catholic social teaching — which expressly condemns exactly what the U.K. government is doing: denying Alfie’s parents their rights to what is best for their child and forcing the child to suffer in his last moments,” McGuire said in her statement.
“The parents of Alfie Evans have a natural right to accept the Vatican hospital’s offer to try to extend the life of Alfie and provide more humane car,” added Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy advisor for The Catholic Association. “Baby Alfie and his parents should not be prisoners of a British hospital.”
“The failure of the British Catholic Bishops and so-called leaders like Catholic Voices of England to recognize these simple and basic truths is disgusting and shameful,” she continued. “We urge all faithful Catholics to stand with Pope Francis, who called on the British government to allow Baby Alfie’s parents to seek the alternative treatment that has been generously offered.”