Alfie, the British State and the Heavenly Kingdom

Today, April 27, 2018, also marks the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the U.K.’s 1967 Abortion Act.

Tom Evans, Father of Alfie Evans, holds a photograph of his son as he speaks to media outside Alder Hey Children's Hospital on April 26, 2018 in Liverpool, England.
Tom Evans, Father of Alfie Evans, holds a photograph of his son as he speaks to media outside Alder Hey Children's Hospital on April 26, 2018 in Liverpool, England. (photo: Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

Alfie lives on. 

Not yet two years old — his birthday is May 9 — his life story is a strange clash of parental love with the medical establishment backed up by the full force of the legal power of the State. 

In the midst of the multiple court hearings and judicial decisions refusing travel, one wondered why Alfie could not leave England for Italy? 

The Liverpool hospital where he was being treated said that, medically, they could do no more for him. They were willing to send him home to die, so why would they not let him go to the Eternal City to live if just for a short period? And if he made it to Rome, who knows, maybe the Holy Father would have come to bless him for the journey ahead. To Alfie, perhaps, this might have meant nothing, but to his grieving parents that would have meant a great deal. 

The Italian State sent a military air ambulance helicopter, fully equipped with the necessary medical equipment, to take Alfie back to Rome. There he would have been placed in the aptly named Bambino Gesù Hospital. For this little Catholic child there would have been no better place to rest in these final hours. 

Why does the British State continue to insist on holding this child? 

In the week that saw excited coverage in the British media following the news of a Royal Birth, there was a great deal less coverage here than in some quarters of the foreign press of the fact that that was also the day that Alfie’s life support was switched off. The Royal baby’s health will be monitored and nurtured by the best doctors and facilities in the land. Alfie’s family come from a different strata of society. In Alfie’s case, the machines were turned off; he was not expected to live. 

But live on he has — an ongoing embarrassment to the hospital. The child struggles for life. In the face of all they have been told by the medical experts, the love of his parents help Alfie to continue to breathe in this last struggle in the hospital room where he is being held. 

Tom Evans, Alfie’s father, is a young man. He is only 21 years old. He is, by his own admission, not an educated man. And yet he has shown a remarkable tenacity in fighting to save Alfie. He has shown courage in the face of those in authority who, he says, have made him feel that his opinion is worthless. He has challenged the medical and legal establishments and their views on dying children. 

Evans has done something else, though. He has made us think about current British attitudes to children. Why are some births met with fanfares, others quietly ended? The day that Alfie’s life support was switched off was also the day that the first U.K. buffer zone around an abortion facility came into place, preventing peaceful prayer vigils taking place. Today, April 27, 2018, also marks the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the U.K.’s 1967 Abortion Act. It was on that date that the killing of unborn children was legalized. 

Pope St. John Paul II coined the phrase: a Culture of Death. That is, a culture formed and shaped by warped ideologies that produce evil actions and that have dire consequences for all. One cannot but help feel that in the case of Alfie Evans there is something of the shadow of the Culture of Death lurking in the background. Whatever the medical procedures at the hospital that led to the decision to turn off Alfie’s life support machine, the relentless ways that have been employed to prevent the child leaving for Rome appear bizarre and disturbing. It is as if his life is now deemed meaningless and so must be concluded swiftly. Yet the child’s life continues to have meaning, simply by virtue of his living, but also for his parents and many others watching the final hours as this scenario unfolds.

Hemingway was once challenged to write a short story in just six words. He composed the following: 

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Alfie will never wear the baby shoes bought for him. He will never run into his mother’s arms or be thrown to the heavens by the arms of his father. He will never make his First Holy Communion. His life will end in a hospital bed while medical staff are waiting for that bed to be vacated. 

Alfie’s life has not been in vain though. He lived; he is a son; he has a mother and father; he has been baptized. Unlike many in this United Kingdom, there are some who continue to believe that it is not up to a hospital to decide when a child’s earthly life is over, nor is it for a court of law. It is for the Father of us all to decide the appointed hour for those to enter his heavenly kingdom. 

Alfie’s hour may be coming very soon, but it is not a “meaningless death.” Nor does it matter what the judges have written about which jurisdiction he must be held in to die, for they cannot hold him from his true homeland. That is a place where all tears will be wiped away and where, to such as Alfie, was made the promise: “Theirs is the Kingdom.”