The death of baby Alfie Evans last Saturday in England is a tragedy for the world. It is, above all else, a tragedy for his family. We, as a caring Christian community, should not cease to pray for this young man and his parents.
Just as we have prayed for recovery and peace for little Alfie, who suffered so much in his very short life, so too must we pray for his parents and indeed for all involved in the care of sick children.
There are so many issues at play in the events of Alfie’s life. From the question of the rights of parents over the rights of the state (which, in many ways, was sadly the central debate) to questions of palliative care and end-of-life issues to matters of international citizenship to deeper, more existential questions like the suffering of innocents, we cannot forget that this fierce little drama involved more than just concepts, as important as they are, but people, especially a very young mother and father, and a suffering toddler.
We can debate, and we should, after knowing fully the Church’s teachings on end-of-life issues. We can see in this issue the growing secularization of Europe in general and the United Kingdom in particular. We can read the reports of the prayer vigils and the protests in Rome, in Poland and in Liverpool.
We can question the wisdom of a national health plan and a single-payer system that takes so much authority away from the parents of a child.
But no one should question the motives of the doctors and health care workers who, from all reports, did everything they could to help little Alfie.
Pope Francis, who had met with the baby’s father, personally appealed for prayers for the child and said he would support treatment of the child at the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has defended of the actions of the hospital, saying that everything “humanly possible” was done to help Alfie. Even doctors from Bambino Gesu said a positive outcome probably was not likely.
Above all else, we need to stop and mourn the death of a little boy who suffered so very much in his life and pray for the consolation of a young couple who wanted to do everything and anything to preserve the life of their little boy.