As Alfie Evans dies under the government of England, the Church of England remains (un)mysteriously silent and invisible.
Alfie is a toddler with an undiagnosed but devastating neurological disease. After his doctors decided that it was best for Alfie to die, the UK Court of Appeals ruled in their favor and against Alfie’s parents. On April 25th, Alfie was barred from leaving the country. Over the past few days, an outpouring of support and prayer has come from all parts of the world, including from the Pope himself and Vatican doctors. Meanwhile, the Church of England and its leadership say nothing.
A STATE CHURCH
How could any church stay quiet on this issue? Simply answered, the Church of England belongs to the State of England. As a state church, the Church of England answers ultimately to the government, a government that has just condemned Alfie Evans to the verdict of a hospital. But is the church’s obligation to the state the only reason for its silence?
A STATE ARCHBISHOP
Currently, the Church of England is led by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Welby rose quickly in the Anglican ranks to become Archbishop after only a short time as a bishop. Soon, Welby will preside over the celebration of marriage. At the same time, he fails to celebrate the life of Alfie Evans.
A writer on ethics, Welby has presided over a divisive time in the Church of England. A 2014 survey of Anglican clergy shows wide diversity of thought on various hot-button theological issues like same-sex marriage, religious pluralism, and the sanctity of life. Twenty-two percent of the clergy believe that the government should legalize assisted suicide. Astoundingly, only sixteen percent of the clergy believe that abortion should be illegal.
Although it is tellingly difficult to find Welby’s views on abortion, this video is somewhat enlightening. Welby cites “complicated circumstances” that can compromise the “ideal” of the sanctity of life. Surely, this hollow ethic of life finds a home in the Church of England’s wider pro-choice zeitgeist. Now, the cold silence of Welby and the state church about Alfie Evans and his “complicated circumstances” becomes less surprising.
A STATE OF SHAME
The very day Alfie was being taken off life support, Welby blithely tweeted:
Congratulations to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the safe delivery of their baby, a brother for Prince George and Princess Charlotte. May God bless them and all of their children with love, happiness and health.
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) April 23, 2018
Following this, Adrian Vermeule, a Harvard law professor, tweeted out:
I went to check if @JustinWelby has said anything about Alfie Evans in the past few days. Here’s what I found:
— Adrian Vermeule (@avermeule) April 24, 2018
Of course, nothing follows that colon.
Quite recently, Welby said that he felt ashamed of the Church of England in its handling of abuse. The Archbishop is ashamed of the church for not protecting children, yet, for Alfie Evans, Welby and his church remain violently silent and dangerously invisible.