The media that so often report Pope Francis’ every word (or what they think are his words) are staying quiet as the pontiff intervenes in the case of U.K. toddler Alfie Evans.
On Monday, Britain’s Court of Appeal refused permission for parents Tom Evans and Kate James to transport their son to Italy for medical treatment. Suffering from an unknown degenerative neurological condition, 23-month-old Alfie Evans is staying at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital as his parents battle to keep him on life support.
“Transferring our stable son MAY be a risk???” Tom reacted in a Facebook post. “But removing is life support and letting him suffocate and die isn’t???????!!!!!! Where’s the logic in that?”
While online media and Fox News are beginning to pick up the story, the three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) have yet to cover the little boy’s plight during their morning and evening news shows.
On April 11, high court judge Justice Anthony Hayden supported a hospital plan to withdraw Alfie’s life support. His decision came after a high court ruling in February that the hospital could halt treatment against the parents’ wishes.
But Alfie’s parents plan to continue appealing the British court system to keep their son alive – and they have placed their hope in a Vatican-owned hospital, Bambino Gesù, which has agreed to admit Alfie. Alfie has also captured the attention of Pope Francis. Catholic media reported Wednesday that Tom met with Pope Francis and begged him to “save our son” and “plead for asylum.”
His plea didn’t fall on deaf ears. Tom wrote that, afterwards, the pope asked Bambino Gesù “to take Alfie as soon as possible” and that the hospital president, Mariella Enoc, called him with the news that “she wants to take Alfie as soon as tomorrow.”
If that wasn’t enough, during his weekly audience Wednesday, Pope Francis asked for a moment of silence and prayer for Alfie.
“I would repeat and strongly confirm that the only master of life from beginning to natural end is God!” he said. “It is our duty, our duty is to do everything to protect life.”
Pope Francis first drew attention to little Alfie on April 4, with a tweet.
“It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard,” the pontiff wrote. “I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved.”
Again, earlier this week, Pope Francis mentioned Alfie during a Sunday address.
“We pray that every patient is always respected in his dignity and treated in a way that is appropriate to his condition, and with the agreement of family members, doctors and other health professionals, with great respect for life,” he stressed.
Alfie also boasts supporters on Facebook, with the group “Alfies Army” of more than 235,000 members – and protesters outside Alder Hey.
But Alfie’s hospital is standing by its decision. On Friday, it released a statement insisting that no more could be done for the toddler.
“At each stage of the legal process,” it read, “the courts have agreed with the treating team and the independent expert advisors instructed by the Trust and the family that Alfie’s condition is irreversible and untreatable.”
“All treatable conditions have been diagnosed,” it added. “All the experts agree that it will not assist Alfie to subject him to further tests in order to identify a diagnosis.”
An earlier statement argued that “continued active treatment” was not in Alfie’s “best interests.”
But his parents disagree. On Thursday, his mother, Kate, asked on Facebook, “How sad is it that someone can tell you where and when your child is going to die?”
In his remarks to Pope Francis, Tom added that “When Alfie shows me and his mum any sign of suffering or dying, we will enjoy every last moment with him, but Alfie has not yet shown us he is ready to go, so we continue to fight just as he shows us to.”
The case comes less than a year after the case of Charlie Gard, a British baby diagnosed with a rare genetic condition. Initially, the networks kept silent on his story, until both Pope Francis and President Trump tweeted about him.
Methodology: MRC Culture searched for “Alfie Evans” in Nexis transcripts of ABC, CBS, NBC morning and evening news shows from April 1 to April 17. MRC Culture watched the morning news shows on April 18.