THE PHOTO OP
If there is one thing we have all learned since the humble man from Argentina uttered an odd and Godless “Good Evening” in opening his first official appearance as pope, it is that reasonable observers must not accept at face value any narrative favored by the Bergoglian Vatican. If Pope Francis decides to “spontaneously” marry two people while on board a plane, we all say, “Will we ever hear the rest of the story, I wonder?” and smile wryly at the late-breaking report that the entire thing had, in fact, been carefully vetted beforehand. When a young boy is manipulated into whispering his somehow very politically correct concerns into the Holy Father’s own ear, we recognize and deplore the fact that the poor child is being used as a prop by people who--in the spirit of former President Barack Obama and his Alinskyite coreligionists--don’t believe in letting a good crisis go to waste. But for some reason, the heartwrenching photo of this very same pontiff having his ring kissed by Tom Evans, father of the threatened toddler Alfie Evans, is being gushingly greeted as one of those two times a day when a broken clock tells the time correctly--even by commentators whose circumspection regarding the author of Amoris Laetitia is ordinarily quite reliable.
The discrepancy is palpable, and instructive. Why this sudden, unprovoked demonstration of rank naiveté towards Team Bergoglio, which has already been thoroughly self-discredited? Why shouldn’t papal pronouncements and actions in the Evans case be viewed through exactly the same lens which Pope Francis himself, through sorry experience, has forced us most reluctantly to employ everywhere else? Authentic concern for Alfie and for the many like him, not to mention for the future of the human element of the Catholic Church, compels us to undertake the investigation.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Not that helping the struggling toddler and his heroic parents isn’t the right thing to do. Straightening out a marriage-imitating situation, sacramentally speaking, and comforting a young person who has lost a parent, are also commendable actions in and of themselves. The report that Pope Francis has even specifically charged Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi with seeing to it “that all initiatives be taken to transfer the child to the Bambino Gesù in Rome” was especially heartening,--until word came, very soon afterwards, that such overtures had been utterly rebuffed. As of this writing, Alfie is not only to have his ventilator removed; drugs are to be administered, ensuring that the desired outcome of imposed death results. And if the British government’s brutal attempt to deprive the child of the life-supporting technologies which could keep him alive and growing while other therapies are tried WAS thwarted as a result of the Holy Father’s intervention, no Catholic or other person of good will would be anything but grateful. None of this alters the reality, however, that Jorge Bergoglio’s ballyhooed involvement in Alfie’s situation is aflutter with the red flags we have come to expect wherever papal publicity is concerned. Clearly, Pope Francis has gone out of his way to style himself Alfie’s Savior. But is this really--whatever may come to pass--the case?
THINGS THAT DON’T ADD UP
Pro-lifers have particularly trumpeted the papal observation that only God is the “master of life,” as though there is something wonderfully commendable about the Vicar of Christ on Earth coming such a profound and original realization. But even when Jorge Bergoglio is saying something good, he does so very strangely. Why has no one called into question the Islamic overtones of the expression, “master”? It is, after all, the servants of Allah rather than Yahweh who reduce the fatherhood of God to a cruel and nominalistic authoritarianism. Similarly, no one asks whether there exists a comparable photo of the ring of the Fisherman being kissed by a parent of Charlie Gard’s, if Pope Francis is so committed to the defense of the sanctity of human life in the first place. Presumably, human life was just as sacred way back then. Why intervene so visibly in the Evans case, but in the Evans case alone? And while we’re at it, where was Greg Burke when--only hours after the meeting between Tom Evans and Pope Francis had taken place--the bishops of England shamelessly supported Alder Hey Hospital in its Naziesque determination to deprive the targeted toddler of any chance of a second opinion at all? When on Holy Thursday, no less, Eugenio Scalfari notoriously reported that Pope Francis had denied the existence of Hell, we were treated--at least--to a weak-kneed, watered-down quaver of a qualification from the Vatican spokespeople. But when this egregious episcopal endorsement of imposed eugenic selection hit the news cycle, one of the men in white currently residing in Rome (the one who brooks no foolishness from orthodox Knights of Malta and liturgically traditional Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, that is) apparently weathered a full-on contradiction of his public posture regarding Alfie with the most unflappable equanimity; no correction, or even acknowledgment, was forthcoming from Casa Santa Marta at all.
So there are several good reasons to question exactly how Tom Evans gained admittance to the presence of His Holiness on such short notice at all, and to hope--would it be too much to ask for?--that he might also disclose the secret of his success to Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke some time soon.
GOOD COP, BAD COP
For what, exactly, did the meeting between Tom Evans and Jorge Bergoglio accomplish, or change? It isn’t as though the Holy Father learned from speaking to Alfie’s father in person any information that would have been undiscoverable in the absence of a face-to-face encounter. “You speak well, Thomas, you are defending your son with courage,”  Pope Francis is reported to have responded--which is undoubtedly the case. But why does someone have to “speak well,” in order to prompt the pope to do what lies within his power for the sake of an innocent child? Was Jorge Bergoglio once again the helpless victim of a regrettable lack of “true and balanced information,” preventing him from grasping the acuteness of Alfie’s plight until Tom Evans was compelled to leave his son’s bedside in order to explain it all? No. He wasn’t. In fact, arguably the strangest thing about this whole strange affair is that the death sentence imposed most heinously upon little Alfie Evans is directly founded on the remarks of Jorge Bergoglio himself.
Judge Anthony Hayden, in his decision dated February 20, 2018, cited the November 2017 open letter of Pope Francis himself, to his own repurposed Pontifical Academy for Life, in reaching a “verdict” of imposed death in Alfie’s case. Like so much of the rest of the Bergoglian corpus, the quoted section contains assertions which sound orthodox enough, and do not immediately present a problem to the listener who is not attentive to their precise phraseology and purpose. Upon closer examination, we will see that the letter itself functions much like Footnote 351, in terms of its calculated duplicity. But there is an even more compelling reason to suspect that the anti-life interpretation Judge Hayden gives the Holy Father’s words is the correct one; namely, that the Holy Father himself has never taken the trouble to correct it.
So why didn’t Bergoglio proclaim himself profoundly misunderstood at the time, if--when the necessary photo opportunity finally arose--he was going to position himself on Alfie’s side in the last analysis?
We’re all familiar with the “good cop, bad cop,” dynamic in which two people, seemingly coming from different perspectives, one supportive and the other antagonistic, work together in underlying coordination. The Vatican is comparably manipulating us about Alfie, in order to try and wrench forth our contrived confession that Pope Francis is a bona fide pro-lifer after all. Jorge Bergoglio may thus stand commended for introducing into the life of the Church yet another of his trademark novelties: that of embodying both the “good cop” and the “bad cop” in his own person, at one and the same time.
If someone were to say to you, “I don’t believe in abortion, but I do believe in a woman’s right to choose,” you would reject the euphemism out of hand. “That doesn’t make sense,” you would insist. “To support a woman’s ‘right to choose’ is to support abortion, because abortion is what is being chosen.” Where protecting the lives of the innocent unborn is concerned, the pro-life movement is on the ball. But where end-of-life issues are concerned, you would think we were all born yesterday.
Pope Francis’ statement supposedly defending the sanctity of Alfie’s life is a veritable minefield of anti-life verbal engineering, and nobody is willing to identify, let alone challenge that? “Pope Francis used his traditional Sunday (Regina Coeli) blessing to say he’s praying for British brain damaged toddler Alfie Evans,” is how the Daily Mail reported it on April 19, referring to the Sunday before. “He expressed hope that (Alfie and those like him) would 'always be respected in dignity and cared for in a way suitable to their conditions, with the agreement of family members, doctors and health workers.'”
Dignity? Why say “dignity,” here? This word has long served as the dog whistle for euthanasia in this country; “death with dignity,” is how the standard circumlocution goes. Is it wrong for the Holy Father to point out that Alfie possesses human dignity? No more so than it would be for someone to insist that women have free will. But why not refrain from giving the death lobby a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge, by avoiding the employment, in this volatile and intense situation, of the exact buzzword which that lobby particularly prefers? Unless, of course, the little wink-wink, nudge-nudge is precisely what the Roman pontiff intends to convey.
“Cared for in a way suitable to their conditions”? Campaigning politicians, attempting to please all sides at once, are more specific than that. The orthodox Catholic world, of course, would read into this expression what is factually NOT THERE; namely, a definite and authoritative specification of what that “way” must be. That, in fact, is presumably what Team Bergoglio is counting on us to do, and not to notice we have done it, either.
As for the “agreement” of the stakeholders in the case, it would certainly be a felicitous thing to achieve. But the Holy Father states nothing about what should be done, precisely in cases like Alfie’s in which people do not agree. There is one stakeholder whose perspective has been egregiously omitted; the very one who must be allowed to cast the tie-breaking vote, and that is Almighty God. Bergoglio does refer to Him at other points, but it is interesting that He is left off of the initial list.
For example, the “Pope actually stated that I was right and to let God decide. Not Alder Hey, not the doctors here not any parents either,” is how Tom Evans himself recounted the upshot of his face-to-face conversation with the Holy Father. And it certainly sounds as though no one could argue with that. The important thing to call to mind is what Jorge Bergoglio means by “letting God decide” in the first place.
Post-Amoris, the allegation is that God Himself can tolerate--or even directly will--the infringement of His own perfect Commandments. People engaged in publicly adulterous relationships are said to be doing the best they can, which is all that God Himself can expect of anybody. Perhaps, when Judge Hayden and the Court of Public Opinion decide that death is in Alfie’s “best interests,” Bergoglio’s imaginary “God of Surprises” will simply have to grin and bear it. And who’s to say? The entity which Pope Francis characteristically refers to as “the Spirit”--notably omitting the traditional modifier “Holy”--might actually agree!
Again, it could be objected that, in the open letter to the PAV which Judge Hayden elects to cite, Pope Francis quite explicitly denies that human beings can deliberately shorten another human being’s life, and insists that the act the Church has always condemned as euthanasia can in no way be justified by any of his own remarks. But then again, he also denies that people living more uxorio in second “marriages” without benefit of an annulment are committing what the Church has always condemned as adultery, too. “Does your dog bite?” “No.” “Ouch! He bit me!” “That’s not my dog.”
We should all be familiar by now with the page from the Bergoglian playbook on which doctrine supposedly remains undisturbed, while pastoral practice is given free rein to play out in new, refreshing, and exciting ways. Bergoglio’s deity is no groveling slave to a set of mere rules; not even, mind-bogglingly enough, to ten of His very own.
New, refreshing, and exciting unless, of course, you happen to be Alfie Evans.
Lately, many people have been quite concerned--and rightly so--that Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia may be poised to eviscerate Humanae Vitae itself. Why aren’t we sounding the alarm about that chapter’s implications for the CDF’s 1980eclaration on Euthanasia as well?
“It is my sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard. I am praying for Alfie, for his family and for all who are involved,” tweeted Pope Francis on April 4, to the vociferous and relatively uncritical acclaim of the pro-life community at large. Best not to look a gift horse in the mouth, right? Fr. Roberto Colombo of the Catholic University in Rome notably stated, siding with Tom Evans: “If a ruling intends to justify a further step towards the ‘throw away culture and culture of death’ it ought not to do so by manipulating the Pope’s words, whose meaning, in the context of the Church’s Magisterium, moves in the opposite direction, that is, to the ‘culture of welcome and of life’.” This assertion, however, merely assumes as true the very point which is at issue; namely, whether or not the Pope’s words are intended to be understood “in the context of the Church’s Magisterium.” Considering the source--namely, a pontiff who problematically holds that whatever he happens to think or say automatically counts as “magisterial”--one must realize that even “praying for Alfie” may be an equivocal phrase. A woman’s right to choose . . . what? Praying for Alfie . . . to what?
It is a question well worth appending to the existing, and still unanswered, Dubia themselves. If Pope Francis means his tweets, addresses, photo ops, and remarks to leave no shadow of a doubt about the sanctity of little Alfie’s life, let Jorge Bergoglio himself credibly advance the case that they do not.
WHAT MORE CAN HE DO?
In the aftermath of the photo op with Tom Evans and the attempt to bring little Alfie to Rome, many are contending that Pope Francis himself has done his best, and can be held to no higher standard in this affair. If that were the case, holding his feet to the fire about buzzwords and ambiguities might seem like mean-spirited nitpicking; another uncharitable expression of an anti-Bergoglian animus that’s got to stop somewhere, for Heaven’s sake.
But the Holy Father hasn’t done all he can, in this situation. Not even close.
What more could Pope Francis do? He could denounce the scurrilous statements of his hand-picked head of the repurposed Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who has sided staunchly with Alder Hey. And then, having corrected Paglia’s egregious perspective authoritatively, the Holy Father could remove him, as suggested, from a position for which he is manifestly unfit.
The burden of proof is on those who contend that Pope Francis is on Alfie’s side to explain why Jorge Bergoglio, who has rivaled Madame Defarge in his passion for rolling heads, does not dismiss the current Academy leader posthaste.
What more could Pope Francis do? He could side publicly and in his own most stentorian fashion with the bishops of Brazil, who have qualified their own support of Alfie’s parents with the understanding that supporting his parents means supporting his sanctity of life. At the same time, and as a logical consequence, Pope Francis could disavow the standpoint of the British bishops, who have championed the cause of Alder Hey Hospital without any qualification whatsoever.
The burden of proof is on those who contend that Pope Francis is on Alfie’s side, to explain why Bergoglio does not state that he himself is on the Brazilian side of this divide. After all, he was willing to clarify that the bishops of Buenos Aires were the only ones to guess the Amoris Chapter 8 riddle correctly in the end--wasn’t he?
What more could Pope Francis do? He could insist, rather than merely offer, that Alfie be transferred to Rome--or that the care the child is being denied would be given to him in the absence of any geographical relocation at all. It isn’t as though the medical assistance Alfie requires is available only in Italy. The point is for him to get the treatment and the second opinion his parents are seeking, not the country in which he gets them.
The burden of proof is on those who contend that Pope Francis is on Alfie’s side, to explain why Bergoglio seems to be summoning all the urgency and determination of Willie Wonka protesting the impending demise of one of the naughty children--“Stop! Don’t! Come back!”
NOT ROCKET SCIENCE
It is telling that the Tom Evans photo op took place in the immediate aftermath of the release of Gaudete et Exsultate. For the “Nothing New Under the Sun” files, it should be noted that Bergoglio has taken Cardinal Bernadin’s Seamless Garment out of mothballs with an insistence that defending the right to life is no different from “welcoming” the illegal immigrants of whom the present Holy Father seems inordinately fond. It isn’t rocket science, in other words, to figure out why the Bergoglian Vatican might want to inflate its pro-life credit score artificially, at this particular moment in time.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me about a hundred thousand times, and the blame must sadly be placed somewhere else entirely. Pope Francis has indeed projected an image of being a benevolent champion of Alfie Evans and the mentally or physically challenged, but let’s face it; by Bergoglio, we’ve been burned before. And in this case, at the very least we encounter yet another case of Peronist self-contradiction, for which conduct the purpose reliably turns out to be misdirection. It may indeed be unfortunate that we ordinary Catholics have to filter our own Holy Father’s words and actions through a hermeneutic of anti-life suspicion, but whose fault is that? On the evidence, and as disciples of Jesus Christ and authentic witnesses to the sanctity of lives like little Alfie’s, we would be positively remiss if we did not.
 “The First Words of Pope Francis: ‘Good Evening!’” by a Staff Reporter at the Catholic Herald, March 13, 2013 (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/03/13/the-first-words-of-pope-francis-i-good-evening/), accessed April 22, 2018.
 “In-flight Nuptials: Pope Didn’t Glide Over Church Requirements,” Catholic Philly dutifully reports (reposting an article by Cindy Wooden of CNS, January 23, 2018 at http://catholicphilly.com/2018/01/news/world-news/in-flight-nuptials-pope-didnt-glide-over-church-requirements/), accessed April 22, 2018. At the same time, The Irish Times gets to gush that the Holy Father’s actions were “impromptu” (as per “Pope Performs Impromptu Mid-Flight Marriage Ceremony,” (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/offbeat/pope-performs-impromptu-mid-flight-marriage-ceremony-1.3360159), January 18, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018. A first-class example of the Holy Father getting to have his public relations cake, and eat it, too.
 See, for example, Christopher Ferrara’s outstanding analysis published in The Remnant itself, “Pope Francis: A Pelagian Lutheran” (https://www.remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/3857-pope-francis-a-pelagian-lutheran), April 19, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 “Alfie Evans’ Dad Flies to Rome, Pleads with Pope Francis to Save Son’s Life,” by Dorothy Cummings McLeon and Diane Montagna (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/thomas-evans-flies-to-rome-pleads-with-pope-francis-to-save-alfie2), April 18, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 “Pope Francis Takes First Steps to Bring Alfie Evans to Rome,” by Diane Montagna (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-opens-diplomatic-channels-to-transfer-alfie-evans-to-rome), April 18, 2018; accessed April 22, 2108.
 “Chemical Suffocation? How Alder Hey Doctors Want Alfie Evans to Die,” by Lifesite News staff (https://www.lifesitenews.com//news/chemical-suffocation-how-doctors-want-alfie-evans-to-die); April 22, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 “Pope Francis Appeals for Alfie Evans: The Only Master of Life is God,” by Deborah Castellano Lubov (https://zenit.org/articles/pope-appeals-for-alfie-evans-the-only-master-of-life-is-god/), April 18, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 “Catholic Bishops in England Issue Shocking Statement Defending Hospital Yanking Alfie Evans’ Life Support,” by Steven Ertelt (http://www.lifenews.com/2018/04/18/catholic-bishops-in-england-issue-shocking-statement-defending-hospital-yanking-alfie-evans-life-support/), April 18, 2019; accessed April 22, 2018.
 Cummings McLeod and Montagna, ibid.
 “Pope Francis Makes Strange Apology to Chilean Bishops for ‘Grave Errors’ in Sex Abuse Case,” by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-makes-strange-apology-to-chilean-bishops-for-grave-errors-in-s); April 11, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 “Judge Cites Pope as Baby’s Life Support Withdrawn,” by the staff of the Catholic Herald (http://catholicherald.co.ukwww.catholicherald.co.uk/magazine-post/judge-cites-pope-as-babys-life-support-withdrawn/); March 1, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 “Pope Francis 'Looked Me in the Eye and Told Me I was Doing the Right Thing' Says Alfie Evans' Father after He Returns from Rome and Continues Fight for His Brain-damaged Son,” by Diane Apen-Sadler and Martin Robinson (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5635629/Alfie-Evans-father-said-Pope-Francis-told-doing-right-thing.html#ixzz5DRRrHDGh); April 19, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 See “Pope Francis Tweets Support for Alfie Evans,” by the Catholic Herald staff (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/04/05/pope-francis-tweets-support-for-alfie-evans/); April 5, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
“Vatican Academy for Life President Sides with Judge in Alfie Evans Case,” by Diane Montagna (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/vatican-academy-for-life-president-sides-with-judge-in-alfie-evans-case); March 12, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 See, for example, “Authentic Confusion over Pope Francis’ ‘Authentic Magisterium,’” by Father Brian W. Harrison, O.S. (https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/authentic-confusion-over-pope-francis-authentic-magisterium); December 19, 2017; accessed April 22, 2018.
 See, for example, “Catholic Mother Says Vatican Archbishop Should Be Fired for Justifying the ‘Killing’ of Alfie Evans,” by Diane Montagna (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/mother-offers-archbishop-paglia-a-filial-correction-on-the-alfie-evans-case); March 21, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
 “Brazilian Bishops Express Their Support for Alfie Evans in a Video and Public Letter,” by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brazilian-bishops-express-their-support-for-alfie-evans-in-a-video-and-publ); April 21, 2018; accessed April 22, 2018.
"Finally, there is the conservative and traditionalist Catholic blogosphere and media, which descends like a flock of Furies on the degeneracy and heresy at Catholic schools."
Editor’s Note: This excellent talk was delivered here in St. Paul at April Argument of the Month. We’re grateful to Dr. Russell for allowing us to reproduce it here. Many thanks to our allies at the AOTM for their kind permission, as well. MJM
I want to thank Michael Matt, The Remnant, and the Argument of the Month Club for having me up here to chilly St. Paul. It is good to be back in Viking country with my fellow Scandinavians and Germans. I want to talk a little bit tonight about what Catholic higher education should be and what Catholic higher education actually is as well as how Catholic education got to the state into which it has now sunk. But I also want to talk a little bit about what my experience, as well as the experience of friends and colleagues, has been studying and working at both secular and Catholic institutions of higher learning. There is a certain sense in which personal experience and one’s own personal thoughts mean nothing; if my already ominously-frequent use of the first person singular pronoun has not already hinted, portions of my talk are going to sound a lot like Rod Dreher’s hyper-confessional blog posts. However, having had revelatory conversations with parents as well as prospective employees of Catholic universities, I have found that sharing many of the things that I have seen personally and have heard of have had a positive and sobering effect on people's desire to either attend or work at these schools.