Alfie was diagnosed with a rare, neurodegenerative disease. Their parents wished to take him for experimental new treatment offered by foreign medical centers like the Vatican-run Bambino Gesú Hospital in Rome. But British courts and the European Court of Human Rights ruled against them.
Sadly, his was not the only such case. We should remember what happened last year with Charlie Gard, who suffered from mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS) and was legally prevented from receiving medical assistance in New York. Equally concerning is the case of Ashya King, a young British child afflicted with a brain tumour whose parents were arrested, charged with child cruelty and jailed for allegedly abducting their own child from an NHS-funded hospital they believed had failed him and having him treated in a Spanish cancer facility. In March, they announced that the treatment left Ashya cancer-free.
All those cases, which have been described as part of the “culture of death,” demonstrate an undeniable truth: When the State accrues a certain level of economic power and authority, it prevents parents from exerting their overarching right to raise their own children. Ultimately, the ever-growing State threatens not just freedom and flourishing, but also human dignity itself by deciding who enjoys the most essential right: life from conception until natural death.
We should be wary of the serious risks of encroaching on parents’ authority that inevitably follow the State’s accrual of excess tax revenues and new powers, especially control over education and health care.
The State exists to guarantee natural rights such as life, liberty, and property. The steady growth and expansion of welfare states, apart from leading to tax increases and higher debt levels, is eroding values such as charity, the individual and local community’s sense of responsibility for their neighbor, a long-term mindset, and individual responsibility. But the fateful consequences are not only related to a friendly attitude towards “social policies.”
Family is the last unit of resistance against the interference of bureaucrats. Their ties of affection interfere with central planners’ purposes and strategies. It is within those bounds that immortal values are transferred from one generation to another and children learn the principles of human flourishing.
During the Soviet rule, Bolsheviks saw that natural institution as a "bourgeois" institution so they first instituted no-fault divorce and abolished distinctions between children born within or outside wedlock. Marx and Engels ultimately planned to have children raised by the State. Their overall philosophy gained a fresh audience in Europe during the events of May 1968, and among those who are still inspired by it today.
In these tragic cases, we are seeing the consequences of the secular State eroding a religious framework – Christianity in this case – and replacing it with the government. Government, when ruled by politicians seeking to centralize their power and economic decision-making, endangers all our liberties. The government sees ill children, the elderly, and the vulnerable as “charges of the State” to be managed, where families see cherished family members to be loved and saved.
We should be wary of the serious risks of encroaching on parents’ authority that inevitably follow the State’s accrual of excess tax revenues and new powers, especially control over education and health care. As Pope Saint John Paul II emphasized, the answer is subsidiarity: the principle that higher order communities should not interfere in the internal affairs and problems of those of lower order. That is what is understood as the principle of subsidiarity.
When parents lose their authority, freedom retreats and humanity is diminished. Strong and sound families and intermediary institutions are an essential piece of a flourishing society.