Why Rome’s Statement on Charlie Gard Was So Devastating – National Review
Eight years ago, almost to the day, I cowered in a chair in the corner of a hospital room, sobbing uncontrollably. My husband stood stoically a few feet away, hunched over the exam table, gently nuzzling our tiny two-week-old son as, to his piercing shrieks, the technician drew vial after vial of blood.
Whenever I think back about that horrible day, the day we received our son’s diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, my mind replays our frantic newborn’s cry and my horrifying failure as a mother. While those early days were a blur, somewhere along the line I knew, as I can now quip, that I needed to “mom up.” Our son needed me. Among other things, I read, and then reread, and then reread again, a parenting book for those raising a child with a chronic health condition. But it wasn’t until my fifth or sixth turn through that I could read the chapter on dying. While difficult, it was necessary and its advice was necessary: When the time has come, parents must give their children permission to die.
This is what parents of children with terminal or “life-shortening,” — the euphemism doctors use now — illnesses do. While navigating the emotional side, we are also deciding on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis what is best for our children. And we often do this while surrounded by atheist doctors who worship at the altar of science within the broader culture of death.
We need support, and in cases involving a prudential decision, such as the one facing the Gards, we most assuredly do not need an implicit condemnation of our decision. But that is exactly how Archbishop Paglia’s statement read: He first spoke of the need to “accept the limits of medicine and avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family,” and then he stressed the need to help parents “understand the unique difficulty of their situation.” As if the Gards did not understand theirs!
If the Pontifical Academy for Life will not unequivocally support a parent’s right to seek a potentially life-saving treatment for a child, then who will? That is what the statement felt like — a disapproval of their decision — to a parent fighting on a daily basis to do right both by God and by the child with whom He entrusted her.
At least that is how it felt on Friday. But since then Pope Francis seems to have heard the call, and it was a great comfort to read the statement issued by his spokesperson, who said that “the Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the situation of Charlie Gard, and expresses his own closeness to his parents. He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.” I join in this prayer and also pray that in the future, prudence guides statements related to health-care decisions — parents deserve that much. The Gards deserve that much.
— Margot Cleveland is an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame and a regular contributor to the Federalist.