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On fatherhood, brotherhood and Alfie Evans

Homily by Fr Armand de Malleray at St Mary’s Warrington on the 4th Sunday after Easter – On Fatherhood, brotherhood and Alfie Evans. 29 April 2018.

New: direct link to the 14:58 min video here.

“Every perfect gift is coming from above, coming down from the Father of lights… for of His own will has He begotten us in the word of truth… You know, my dearest brethren.”

Dear Friends,
What is a parent? What is a father? What are brethren? I would like to reflect with you today on parenthood, fatherhood and brotherhood. On the link between fatherhood and brotherhood. Essentially, there can be no brethren unless there is a father.

Today, like millions of people of every faith and none, you may feel that our little brother Alfie Evans was unjustly treated. He died yesterday in Liverpool. Adults in power said that Alfie should die where and in the manner they decided. They prevented Alfie’s parents from taking him to another hospital, or even to die at home in their arms. They refused to provide basic support such as oxygen, and for a while, water.

An innocent child died. The point is not to accuse anyone. Perhaps, Alfie would have died soon anyway, perhaps. Although, nobody can assure that. What has been put to death though, is parenthood. Parenthood has been killed. Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, were denied the most fundamental right. The right to secure basic support for their child, such as oxygen, and the right to choose where he would die; if death was near.

If parents failed to meet their child’s basic needs, such as oxygen and water, then the State or some other institution could intervene, and takeover the responsibility from them. But not the other way round. When parents want their child to breathe and drink, no one has any right to prevent them. Oxygen and water are not a medical treatment. They are basics of life. If you invite a friend to stay in your home (not in a hospital), and you don’t provide oxygen and water, your friend is not going to enjoy his stay very long. It has nothing to do with illness. It is good manners.

Parents have an inalienable natural right to protect the life of their children, body and soul. Such a right is not granted by the State. Parents have this right by the very fact that they gave life to that new human being, their child. The Alfie Evans ruling denied this obvious truth. Lord David Alton of Liverpool, wrote about it: “Every parent has a fundamental right – and I would say duty – to fight for and care for the child to whom they gave life.” Pope Francis surely agreed, actively supporting Alfie’s evacuation to Italy.

But the legal and medical establishment have ruled otherwise, against immense pressure from all over the world. By doing so, the legal and medical establishment have killed the natural understanding of parenthood. That is, a father and a mother who share primary responsibility for the life of their child, because they have given him life.

Not without significance, the judge at the centre of the Alfie Evans case, Justice Hayden, has co-authored a book titled Children and Same-Sex Families, a legal handbook described as a guide for those “who provide advice and support to same-sex families.” With the best of intentions, how could Justice Hayden understand that the natural right of Alfie’s parents upon their child takes precedence? The very word proves it: “parent” comes from the present participle of “parere”, that is, “to bring forth, to give birth to”. Whatever their good intentions, two men (or two women) never did conceive and give birth to a child. They are not “parents.”

Against natural evidence, “parents” in modern Britain have become a social and legal construct, not a natural reality anymore. Like marriage, family, gender and personhood, parenthood is now defined by the State, not by nature anymore. If the interests of the State change, then the definition of parenthood will change as well. But when any institution ignores God’s law as embedded in nature, the tendency is to claim always more control over bodies and souls.

The truth is, there are no parents left in modern Britain. But if there are no parents, how can there be any brethren? Living in peace together, with mutual respect, in a brotherly way, is possible only if all acknowledge a common father, whether at home, or in town, or as a people. The State may not call itself father, yet, but the Alfie Evans tragedy should make everyone understand that the State has taken the place of the natural parents. George Orwell’s Big Brother is not a fiction anymore.

The cruel irony is that, on St George’s day, when Alfie’s parents were denied the right to take him out of hospital, another young couple, William and Kate, walked out of another hospital, with their little boy. The entire nation rejoiced when watching the happy Cambridge family. It would have been a beautiful statement if the Royal baby had been called Alfie, as one of his several names. Why was the nation rejoicing for Prince Louis? Many newborn boys were taken home by their parents that day. What about him? Because a dynastic birth embodies filiation and the natural transmission of life, and we humans love it! Prince Louis is son of William, son of Charles, son of Elizabeth, daughter of George, etc.

“Every perfect gift is coming from above, coming down from the Father of lights… for of His own will has He begotten us in the word of truth… You know, my dearest brethren.”

Thankfully, far above the blindness of many, and above the malice of some, there is a Father indeed. It is God the Father “Of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:15). Fatherhood is the main relationship which shapes our identity. Fatherhood expresses our origin and guarantees our identity. The original sin committed by Adam and Eve was a denial of God’s fatherhood. They denied that God was willing or competent to foster their best interests. By turning away from God, they fell under the power of created beings.

Denying God’s fatherhood brought about three consequences.

1. Divorce between Adam and Eve: mutual trust turns into accusation. Tenderness turns into domination.

2. Divorce between mankind and nature: Adam and Eve lost their peaceful dominion over nature. No more stewards of the material world, men must sweat and fight against nature, against viruses, against tsunamis, earthquakes and tornados to keep alive. Nature is not a divine gift anymore; it has become man’s chaotic re-creation.

3. Divorce within man, between his two main faculties. Our intellect designed by God to know the truth turns blind to truth and imagines deadly fictions and lies. Our will-power designed by God to desire the good is allured by selfish interests, sensuality and pride. Intellect and will do not work in harmony anymore, but ignore each other or compete with each other.

So, dear friends, what can we do?

Practically, we can try and get better laws. We should also commit more actively to the pro-life cause. But supernaturally, the only way to secure peace as among brethren, in modern Britain as in all times, is to come back to God the Father. Because our filial relation to God as common Father conditions our mutual relationship as brethren, as fellow citizens. If we truly care for what happened to Alfie and his parents, then we should examine how we do as children of God. If we wished the British medical and legal establishment acted as brothers to us citizens, and to natural families and natural parents in particular, then we must become better sons, daughters, children of God, of the Father of lights.

If we wished oxygen, water and food had been given to our little brother Alfie, then let us check that we make good use of God’s grace, the oxygen and water of our souls. Let us become more hungry for the divine food God offers us, that is, His Body, in the Holy Eucharist. Let us revive our filial connection with our loving Father God, through sacramental absolution for our sins.

Lastly, let us offer our difficulties and sufferings, small and big, in sacrifice for all our fellow citizens – with and without the establishment – to discover the joy of being children of light. We ask this, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of all men, but especially of the more vulnerable ones.

[You can watch this homily on http://livemass.net/ > Warrington > Sunday – Starts 35:00 – ends 49:00]