The Catholic archbishop of Westminster has suggested that some people who campaigned in the case of Alfie Evans, the child who died last week after a protracted legal battle over his treatment, “used the situation for political aims”.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the most senior Catholic cleric in England and Wales said it was right for a court to “decide what’s best, not for the parents, but for the child”.
He was speaking amid mounting criticism of Christian organisations that intervened in the case. Before Alfie’s death, Pope Francis said he hoped “suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted”.
The Christian Legal Centre represented the family in Alfie’s final days, and pro-life activists demonstrated outside the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool where Alfie was treated.
But Catholic bishops in England also came under fire for defending the hospital. The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries said bishops should “hang their heads in shame” after they said “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”.
On a visit to Poland this weekend, Nichols said: “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.”
Speaking to the Polish church’s Catholic information agency, KAI, he 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.
“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.”
Alfie was taken off life support on 23 April and survived for a further four days. He suffered from a rare degenerative condition that left him in a semi-vegetative state for more than a year.