Integral Alfie

The death of Alfie Evans is a terrible reminder that if we’re serious about integral ecology we should be championing life in a unified fashion

Alfie Evans, the British toddler suffering from an apparent neurological illness, died this morning, days after his life-support systems had been turned off at the orders of an English court.

The tragic affair continues to arouse a strong and growing response around the globe—even if some news outlets have been less than dedicated to reporting what’s happening.

Particularly vocal was Pope Francis, who has been cheered these past weeks by conservative Catholics for supporting Alfie and his parents, Kate and Tom. The pontiff had gone so far to offer treatment for the child at the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome—if only the British courts would have allowed it.

Catholics around the world joined the pontiff in championing Alfie’s dignity. They’ve reminded the world that the brand of Utilitarianism employed by British medical and legal systems is a form of savagery that all people of good will should reject.

There’s been a great deal of analysis about all this, most especially this fine piece in First Things by Fordham’s Dr. Charles Camosy.

What you and I should stress within all this analysis is the consistent theme of integral ecology within Pope Francis’ eco-encyclical Laudato Si’—a theme that courses strongly throughout his pontificate, as it had through his predecessors.

"When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble…" Laudato Si’, 117

With this reminder of the integral nature of everything, I’m hoping that out of this tragedy comes healing within the Church—which for too long has been embroiled in ideological warfare. After all, if conservative Catholics are praising Pope Francis for his defense of Alfie, shouldn't we all be learning something?

That lesson, of course, is that Catholics on the left and on the right more often than not are fighting the same war for life, albeit on different fronts.

Against us is our ancient enemy, who distracts us—who tempts us to fight internally, so that we may lose the greater war—the real war of defending reality, as Pope Francis reminds us.

Just a year ago, I wrote two pieces seeking to bridge the left-right divide. In the post Conversations with Conservatives, I wrote this:

[S]ome of the best conversations we can have with our conservative Catholic brothers and sisters will be at “their” events. “Their” fundraisers for pro-life groups. “Their” gatherings in front of abortion clinics saying the Rosary. “Their” talks and planning meetings about issues like abortion, marriage, religious liberty, and so on. Because, after all, those should be our issues, too.

In other words, let “them” get to know you as a friend and fellow fighter in today’s important battles, not just eco-advocacy. Let them get to know you as a person. You’d be surprised how, in time, your new friends will trust you about other matters, like climate change.

The war is raging around us, my brothers and sisters. Justifications for what happened to Alfie Evans are the same used to defend abortion, euthanasia of the elderly and infirmed, and so many more evils—including, yes, ecological destruction.

The question for us, then, is this: In the wake of Alfie’s death, are we Catholics finally going to come together and champion our common, connected causes? Or will we continue to let the enemy of Christ sow division and discord among us, and in so doing win battle after battle in the war for life?

Let us pray for the wisdom to consider this question with care and for the strength to act boldly, and in a united, integral fashion.

May Saint Michael the Archangel pray for us, and may Mary, Undoer of Knots, hear our prayers!

Photo: Flicker/

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.