Vivamus molestie gravida turpis
“While the world changes,
the cross stands firm.”
- St. Bruno
I complained in 2015 that villains were leaking out of C.S. Lewis’ fiction and getting jobs at the Vatican. The latest escapee is mealy-mouthed John Wither, the death-dealing bureaucrat with a heart of styrofoam from That Hideous Strength. Now a real-life clone of Wither is leading the Vatican’s once-prophetic Pontifical Council for Life.
You might remember Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, that Council’s new president, for his taste in religious art. As Catholic art historian Maureen Mullarkey documented, Paglia is best known for hiring a gay activist artist to decorate his cathedral with homo-erotic nudes.
But Paglia just distinguished himself in moral theology. He’s signing on to the death sentence that British and European courts have issued for little Charlie Gard. As Daniel Payne of The Federalist sums up this tragic case (in a pointed and lucid moral analysis worth reading slowly and carefully):
The baby, Charlie Gard, has been terminally ill since his birth, unable to move his limbs or breathe on his own.
His parents wish to bring him to the United States for a long-shot experimental treatment. The courts object, believing Charlie should be allowed to die “with dignity.” The European Court of Human Rights declined to hear an appeal, effectively sealing the boy’s fate.
Against the backdrop of this barbaric abuse of judicial authority, the Catholic Church—the world’s greatest defender of the right to life, and long a moral bulwark against state intrusion into the rights of the family sphere—has decided that the courts in this case are basically right.
The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life yesterday released a statement that waffles between limp-wristed equivocations and outright willful ignorance of church teaching. If this is where the Vatican now makes its stand, then the most vulnerable members of society — which is to say all of us, at some point — are in trouble.
Indeed. I wrote here just weeks ago about Pope Francis’ decision to sack most of the members of the Vatican’s pro-life powerhouse. Then replace several of them with openly pro-choice thinkers. Now we see the outcome: The institution that ought to be the last line of defense for the sanctity of human life is reduced to nattering inanities.
So many issues come together in the case of Charlie Gard. Let’s go through them one by one.
The Catholic church follows natural law in seeing that parents have the first, second, third, and fourth claim to crucial decisions about their children. Even intolerant Catholic states in past centuries that persecuted “heretics” rarely tried to interfere with non-Catholics teaching their religion to their children. Think about that. The Inquisition wouldn’t tear children away from parents for the sake (it thought) of their eternal salvation. That is how basic the parent/child bond really is. We know that by natural reason. Only parents who deprive their kids of basic human rights like food, education, or medical care, deserve to be pre-empted by the state. And even then with great care.
In Charlie Gard’s case, the state is turning the natural order on its head. It empowers panels of doctors, medical bureaucrats, and international lawyers to rip Charlie from his parents’ loving care. Because they want him to live. But the state wants him to die.
As we all know, Britain has a National Health System. It rations care. Since we live in a fallen world of limited resources, some rationing must happen. In freer societies like ours, the government ensures a basic level of care for the truly needy. We expect people with means to make their own arrangements for insurance.
So we shouldn’t be shocked if either the British National Health Service or some private U.S. insurer opted not to pay for a long-shot experimental treatment for a child. Charlie’s parents don’t have an unlimited claim on the resources of their neighbors.
But that’s not at issue here. Thanks to an international grassroots fundraising campaign the Gards have found donors. They’re willing to cover all the costs of flying Charlie to America and offering him this treatment that might save his life. But the British authorities, backed up by the European Union and now the Vatican, have ruled that Charlie’s parents cannot try to save him. Instead he will be left to die slowly of hunger and thirst. His parents won’t even get to take him home to die. Like poor abandoned Terri Schiavo, he must wither away in a sterile hospital bed, surrounded by strangers.
Why would a government deny parents who have found the money the chance to try to save their child’s life? What possible motive could be at work?
The only one I can think of is this: They resent the slightest hint of private initiative. Many on the British left resent the fact that wealthy people can “opt-out” of NHS care. (They hire private physicians, or fly to the U.S. for care.) Such “privilege” offends their egalitarian principles — which are nothing more than a prettified version of the deadly sin of Envy. Remember that the man consumed by Envy would rather trash your car than steal it. He’s consumed, finally, by hatred for the Good. Like Satan glaring at innocent Adam and Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Private choices also flout socialists’ hunger for control. For a society of termites to whom they can play at being Queen. Bureaucrats in China didn’t care whether the peasants could afford to feed more children. The state would cull them anyway, to serve its infamous One-Child Policy. Rich or poor, all must be treated exactly alike. Likewise, Stalin’s thugs who collectivized agriculture in Ukraine didn’t worry about which farmers’ seed corn or milk-cows they were seizing. The socialist impulse despises such distinctions. That’s what people mean when they complain about “inequality.” It is all that they mean.
In the socialists’ hive vision of an ideal society, individual initiative counts for nothing. No, less than nothing. It is an irritant. A pesky reminder of human dignity and freedom — two causes that socialists have written off as lost, or dismissed as ugly vestiges of “bourgeois” Christian morals.
Such antiquated ideas must be expunged. And people like Charlie Gard are eggs we must break for the omelet.
Vivamus molestie gravida turpis