Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Hopes are rising for critically ill Charlie Gard after a New York hospital offered to ship an experimental drug to the UK to help treat the 11-month old baby.
The New York Presbyterian hospital and Columbia University Irving medical center also offered to admit the 11-month-old if legal hurdles could be cleared, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Register has learned that the Vatican-run Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital is considering a new therapeutic plan that could allow Charlie, currently being cared for at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, to bypass legal obstacles and be taken to Rome.
Later today, President Donald Trump will raise the matter during talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 Summit in Germany.
Both Trump and Pope Francis have sent messages of help and support over the past week which, according to a spokesman for Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, had given them hope.
"President Trump has a very good understanding of the whole case and he did not make an off-the-cuff tweet," the spokesman said, while Connie Yates told Sky News that both the Pope and Trump “are traditional men who believe in the family. They believe in our case and understand why we believe it is right to continue fighting so hard to save Charlie."
Charlie, who suffers from a very rare form of mitochondrial disease that leads to muscle depletion and brain damage, has been at the center of a lengthy legal battle involving his parents who want to take him to the US for experimental therapy, and doctors at GOSH who believe nothing more can be done to save his life.
The hospital was to have switched off Charlie’s life support on June 30 but prolonged it after a public outcry. No one is certain whether or not Charlie feels pain, GOSH has said.
Charlie’s parents have raised nearly $2million for experimental life-saving treatment.
The Pope said on Sunday that Charlie’s parents should be able to “accompany and treat their child until the end” and the Bambino Gesu offered to care for the boy but was prevented from doing so due to legal reasons in Britain.
Earlier this week Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the founding president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, had strong words in support of Charlie and his parents, calling the rulings against the parents’ wishes the “pit of barbarity.”
Asked for his views on the case which has led to protests in London and Rome against state interference in parental rights, the Italian cardinal said: “We have come to the end of the road of the culture of death.”
“It is now public institutions, the courts, who decide if a child has, or hasn’t, the right to live — even against the will of the parents,” he said, adding: “We are the children of institutions, and we owe our lives to them? The poor West: it has rejected God and his paternity and now finds itself entrusted to bureaucracy! Charlie’s [guardian] angel always sees the face of the Father (cf. Mt 18:10).”
Cardinal Caffarra exhorted the authorities to “stop it, in the name of God. Otherwise, I say to you with Jesus: ‘It would be better for you if a millstone were hung round your neck and you were cast into the depths of the sea.’ (cf. Lk 17:2).”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said Thursday it was a “deeply tragic and complex” case for all involved, but that he believed it was right that decisions continued to be led by “expert medical opinion, supported by the courts, in line with Charlie's best interests."
But the Italian medical association Scienza & Vita (Science and Life) has rejected that position, also held by GOSH and subsequent court rulings.
It recognizes “clinical situations in which the insistence on practicing medical and surgical interventions and treatments is not reasonable, or because it is totally irrelevant to the support of a life that is now ending, or because they are the cause of unnecessary suffering.”
But it adds that Charlie’s illness “is not terminal,” nor are ventilation, feeding and artificial hydration “so hard for him to recommend suspension” as the rulings state.
Why, then, the association asks, should a “seriously ill child be killed in advance of taking away the care he needs?”
“The justification for the irreversible death sentence inflicted upon Charlie is that this would be his ‘best interests,’” it continues, but behind this decision is “a mental attitude that is polluting the roots of medical practice, legislation and widespread sentiment: the idea that human beings, with a low quality of life, have a lower dignity and worth than others, and that it is unreasonable to waste on them valuable resources that could be destined elsewhere. It is the ‘throw-away’ culture of which the Charlie case has become a tragic symbol.”
A large number of people in Italy take a similar view, and further protests and prayer vigils are being organized. A second demonstration took place last night outside the British embassy in Rome, and others are planned outside Downing Street.
Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of Trieste, Italy, and a former Secretary at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said this week that the Charlie Gard case is, in fact, a move to “apply euthanasia” and this “can not be accepted.”
He added that the case is “devastating because the implementation of the judgment would undermine the very foundations of Christian humanism and would open a path to a radical departure from our civilization.”
“Charlie Gard needs the affection of his parents, the commitment of doctors to assist him, and the prayers of Christians, not sentences that decree death,” he said. “Death by the state is a horrifying ideological invention.”