Pope asks for parents’ wishes to be respected in Charlie Gard case

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2017 / 01:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Stepping into a tumultuous legal battle involving a UK couple’s push for a say in the treatment and death of their terminally ill son, Pope Francis has offered his prayers for the child, and asked that the parents’ wishes be respected.

“The Holy Father follows with affection and emotion the story of Charlie Gard and expresses his own closeness to his parents,” read a July 2 statement issued by Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.

“He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”

The statement was made as the tense legal battle between Gard’s parents and the UK officials regarding how and when he will die comes to an end.

At just 11 months, Gard suffers from a rare degenerative brain disease called infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, or MDDS.

With only 16 known cases in the world, the disease causes extensive brain damage. While Charlie Gard does have some brain function, he requires assistance to breathe, has periodic seizures, and is not expected to develop sophisticated mental abilities without treatment.

Gard’s parents were able to raise nearly $2 million in order to take him to the United States for an experimental treatment. Some doctors have been skeptical about the results, however, other patients currently undergoing the treatment have shown significant improvement.

But despite having the funds for the treatment, UK courts have ruled against the possibility, arguing that further treatment would cause harm to Gard. In addition, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the infant is staying, is not required to keep him on life support.

When his parents asked to take their son home to die, their request was denied. Gard’s life support machines were to be turned off Friday, but the courts allowed the parents to have more time with their child before his death.

Pope Francis’ statement follows an earlier response to the case from the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who while arguing for the defense of life at all stages, including during illness, appeared sympathetic to the court’s ruling, saying “aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family” must be avoided.

Not only did the Pope’s statement appear to counter the position previously voiced by Paglia, but on Friday, the day the infant’s life support was initially scheduled to be disconnected, he used his Twitter account to send a clear pro-life message in the infant’s favor.


To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 30, 2017



Reading “to defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all,” the tweet was shared by Burke, who added the hashtag “#CharlieGard,” clearly indicating that the Pope’s tweet was in reference to the infant.

As Gard’s parents continue to spend the remaining time with their son, public debate on the case continues to unfurl, with citizens protesting outside UK parliament.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


  1. How unfortunate that the Pope negated Archbishop Paglia’s statement. That original statement was a masterpiece of the New Evangelization. It showed that we Catholics could accept situations in all their complexity and subtle nuance. It showed that we were not closed-minded, but open and willing to compromise. Now the Pope makes us look like fundamentalists who actually believe the doctrines of their church! That is so embarrassing. I know some atheists and pro-abortionists who were willing to convert to Catholicism after reading Archbishop Paglia’s statement, but who are now backing away because of what the Pope did.

    • Why do you belong to a church, if you do
      not believe in its doctrines?
      Going further if you would promote
      False doctrines that are not in line
      with the church you profess to belong to,
      That constitutes heresy.
      God is this sole giver and taker
      of life, not man. The parents wishes
      Should be respected. It can also be a
      sign of a lack of faith not to believe in
      miracles; this little boy might be healed
      yet, and if not, there is a purpose in
      his life nonetheless. Give all to God.

    • Dear S.M, I venture to say that His Holiness could have been inspired to “contradict” Msgr. Paglia world-friendly declaration after Santa Marta’s phone exchange was invested by a storm of phone calls by Italian lay Catholics asking for a Catholic stance to be taken on the Charlie Gard case.

  2. Death panels? Obamacare?

    That’s what the world looks like when you spend all your energy on bridges not walls, and worshipping the nature and science and … USCCB – you watching this? No.

  3. Paglia is a tool of his internationalist masters. There is more to come from him. It won’t be pretty.
    The pope spoke because of the push back from parents and those who love little children. Had there been no push back there would have been no conciliatory statement from the bishop of Rome.
    Bet on it.

  4. First let me express my prejudice regarding the Pontiff. His occasional orthodox warbling is window dressing to push his AL agenda. Whenever the Pontiff defends life, makes an orthodox statement it becomes ‘News Flash. Headlines.’ That aside it is shocking that the European Union is an ethics forum with power to decide the fate of a compromised infant against the wishes of the parents. Ethically if life saving care is provided in a case that appears futile in restoring a normal status, and poses no threat of exhausting resources it should be permitted at the request of the proxy or proxies, the parents. The parents have the right to seek life saving care in the US. The European Union has absolutely no right to deny them that option. The Union’s argument is their intent to avoid needless suffering. Based on quality of life. That is exactly the rationale of pro mercy killing ethicist Peter Singer Princeton U. And what was formerly the argument of Nazi Philosopher Rosenberg in initiating the rationale that led to the murder of thousands in Germany. Including decorated WW I veterans. How evil slips its way back into the human psyche.

    • Everyone agrees that Charlie Gard is dying. Even the American doctor who invented the nucleoside treatment admits Charlie is terminal, if he isn’t brain-dead right now, he will be soon, and that pulling the artificial life support so as to allow Charlie to die a natural death is “reasonable.”

      Now, the American doctor admits all of this but STILL wants the chance to turn Charlie Gard into a human guinea pig. He admits he wants to experiment on Charlie’s body for at least six months before he allows it to die.

      Looks like the Holy Father agrees with the medical experts about the gravity of Charlie’s condition. He wants the parents to have a chance to be with their son as the artificial life support is pulled and Charlie has the chance to die a natural death, without being poked and prodded by a modern-day Mengele.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.