On July 24, Chris Gard and Connie Yates ended their fight for experimental treatment to try to save their son’s life. They announced, through their lawyer, that the clock had run out on all possibility of help for the baby’s condition. The damage was done. Death won.
The Charlie Gard case is sodden with indecencies that extend beyond the sorrow of it. On its pain, everything that could be said has already been stated. Much serious thought has been given also to the larger framework: the tyranny of a statist bureaucracy that denies parents their rightful freedom to try—at their own expense—to save the life of their child. Without intending to, this case tore the mask off the leering face of single-payer health care. And the specter of creeping infanticide—and its twin, euthanasia—could be fathomed in it if not seen.
Still, something else remains to be noticed: the virtue-signaling that has become a kind of pornography, air-brushing out the falsity of conspicuous altruism. The personal tragedy of the Gard family and their dying baby elicited a spectacle of hypocrisy and grandstanding from Rome to DC. There is no need to repeat here the details of the case. You are all familiar with them. So let us head straight to the hypocrisy.
The Vatican Reveals Its New Priorities
This high-profile case was an opportunity for the Vatican to affirm the nobility of human life, however impaired, and to defend the primacy of parental authority in determining the best interest of their child. It was an exquisite moment to decry the depravity of the designation of life-unworthy-of-life. Lebensunwertes Leben.
Instead, the Vatican—increasingly globalist and collectivist in temperament—used the opportunity to display solidarity with the European Court of Human Rights (EUCHR). The Pontifical Academy for Life intoned piously about the limits of medicine and “acting humanely in the service of the sick person.” In this instance, that meant letting the infant die. As Wesley Smith noted, the decision that Charlie was better off dead was “a value judgment, not a medical one.”
Had the Academy entered the case on the Gards’ behalf five months ago, before deterioration had had accelerated, the baby might have been treatable. But the Academy’s interest was not in saving a child or guarding parental authority. It was intent on taking advantage of the publicity surrounding the case to establish itself as a friend of the EUCHR.
Ed Morrissey, at Hot Air, asked: “Since when has the Vatican Pontifical Academy For Life suddenly put its trust in the abortion- and euthanasia-supporting secular medical consensus of the EU?” The answer: Since it aligned itself with EU initiatives on migration and climate change. In a recent interview with papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, Cardinal Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Academy, admitted to broadening its agenda. Abortion must no longer be considered apart from issues concerning the environmental and the death penalty. The Academy must not remain “stuck in a fortress raising the flags of a few principles.”
This Baby Matters, But These 10,000 Don’t
But did Pope Francis not rebuke the Academy by offering to bring Charlie to the Vatican’s children’s hospital? No, not at all. Francis’ touted gesture was an act of damage control. The Academy’s statement had elicited howls from all over. Francis stepped in to protect his brand. He covered his flank and deflected damage to his public persona. This was a good-cop/bad-cop game played out in the media to veil the cynicism at work.
Paglia, an unsavory choice for any ecclesial position, was appointed by Pope Francis last August. Francis knows his man. Paglia assumed office with free rein to staff the Academy as he saw fit. It suited him to appoint, among others, Nigel Biggar, a pro-abortion Anglican theologian and—in that Orwellian term of the day—ethicist. The appointment occasioned no complaint from Francis who, in a 2016 interview for Corriere Della Serra, praised Emma Bonino as one of Italy’s “forgotten greats.”
Hardly forgotten, Bonino is the country’s leading advocate and one-time practitioner of abortions and a hero to the Italian Left. Vatican-based journalist Marco Tosatti commented on her invitation to celebrate World Refugee Day 2017 from the pulpit of an Italian church: “One assumes that now, after having helped deprive this country of an enormous number of human beings, Bonino will be able—in church—to push for a nice ethnic replacement program in Italy.”
When the life of a single British infant comes to the attention of a pontificate able to discount the 10,000 Italian lives personally ended by Emma Bonino, the odor of hypocrisy is too rancid to ignore.
We Love Celebrity Babies. Veterans, Not So Much
The case’s celebrity status prompted President Trump to follow the pope’s lead in offering to intervene on the infant’s behalf. It was an easy crowd-pleaser that drew the expected hurrahs from the public. (“America is great again!”) New York Presbyterian Hospital entered the race with an offer of its facilities or a shipment of experimental drugs. The House of Representatives capped the competition by voting on an amendment to a Homeland Security spending bill that would grant permanent residence to the Gard family to facilitate Charlie’s treatment here.
Forgive me, but the spree of sentimental grandstanding was nothing to cheer. Look at me, I care! No, look at me; I care too! Meanwhile, all around us are nameless sick and dying doomed to dust and ash in total anonymity. How many beds has New York Presbyterian or Columbia University’s Herbert Irving Pavilion set aside for, to take only one example, elderly servicemen languishing until a lax and callous Veterans Health Administration processes their applications to be placed on a waiting list for care?
Trump’s showboating, however gaudy, was less objectionable than the spasm of ostentatious sympathy that stirred the House Appropriations Committee to vote as they did. Extravagant sincerity mimics moral obligation in order to substitute for it. Any obligation Congress thinks it has to baby Charlie is a figment of media hype. However, our congressmen really are obliged, by dint of their office, to concern themselves with the 2015 Inspector General’s Report that gave an appalling glimpse into bureaucratic failure at the VA:
Nearly a third of all veterans waiting to be enrolled in the VA’s benefits system died before the VA got to their applications.
Of the 847,882 veterans awaiting enrollment in the benefits program, 238,657 veterans with pending applications died before the agency could grant them healthcare benefits, a 2015 review found.
The Congress that welled up with sympathy for images of little Charlie Gard, with his stuffed animal beside him, is the same Congress that reneges on its promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Yet the Affordable Care Act was intended from the get-go to pave the way for a single-payer system. That is the very governmental monopoly over health care that left Charlie Gard deteriorating without treatment during five months of red tape and litigation.
Media-induced responses to Charlie Gard illustrate the degree to which publicity penetrates the conscience of our betters. While it overflows with emotion for a distant baby catapulted into celebrity for his catastrophe, Congress ignores the cruelty of a broken pledge to its own constituents. On a greased pole from citizens to subjects, voters are consigned to a bureaucratic health care system from which their representatives are exempt.
Each one of us is Charlie Gard now. It is only a matter of time.