Latin Mass Society

Chairman's Blog

23/05/2018 - 15:58

Ember Saturday Mass in Oxford

High Mass for the last day of Pentecost Week, Saturday 26th May, to be celebrated by Fr Daniel Loyd, Parish Priest, at Holy Rood, 38 Abingdon Road, Oxford OX1 4PD. (The church has a car park.)

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21/05/2018 - 13:03

Dominican Vigil of Pentecost: photos


Last Saturday the Dominicans of Oxford celebrated the Vigil of Pentecost according to their ancient books, which means that the Mass proper is preceeded by four Old Testament readings. It was accompanied by the Schola Abelis of Oxford. The celebrant was Fr Richard Conrad.


Pentecost is one of the great festivals of the Church's year. Perhaps because it falls on a Sunday, I think we tend to take it for granted. But it's ancient Vigil, which reprises the Vigil of Easter, and Whit Week which follows it, once made it stand out. As well as the subsequent sequence of Sundays being called the 'Season after Pentecost'.


An unexpected feature of the Mass on Saturday was the presence, in the congregation, of a number of members of the Council of the Association for Latin Liturgy, who happened to be having a Council meeting in Oxford later in the day. The ALL broke away from the Latin Mass Society in 1969 when some members wanted to promote the Novus Ordo in Latin, but we enjoy friendly relations with them today.


Liturgy has to be experienced, not read about; photographs and recordings can give only the vaguest sense of what it is like.


I feel there is something especially serene about the Dominican Rite, and the chants have a distinctiveness which gives them (to those used to Roman chants) a slightly unexpected, even weird, quality which makes them fresh. I noticed this particularly with the Litany of the Saints which, though very simple, required constant effort on the singers part if it were not to turn into the Roman version. It was a privilege to assist at this Mass.






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18/05/2018 - 13:51

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos: RIP

Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos died yesterday. He deserves our prayers.

He was President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei over the period of the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, obviously a very important time for those attached to the Traditional Mass.

In the photograph below, he is blessing delegates at the Foederatio Universalis Una Voce during the General Assembly of 2013; below that he is celebrating Mass for them in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of St Peter's in Rome in 2011. That was the first time a Cardinal has celebrated the ancient Mass in St Peters since the liturgical reform.

There is an obituary of him on Rorate Caeli.



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17/05/2018 - 11:21

This Saturday, pray to save the 8th and avoid the Royal Wedding media build-up

The only things on the TV and radio on Saturday morning will be journalists interviewing each other about how they feel about the afternoon's Royal Wedding, and pictures of bored crowds.
Instead of that, why not pray that Ireland does not abolish their constitutional protection of the unborn? This will be the intention of the High Mass for the Vigil of Pentecost, celebrated according to the ancient Dominican Rite, which includes the 'prophecies' mirroring the Vigil of Easter. 
Never has the Holy Spirit been more needed in the Church and in our society. Join us at the Oxford Blackfriars, 10:30am on Saturday 19th.

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16/05/2018 - 10:00

Summer 2018 Mass of Ages available

In this issue: • Paul Waddington reports from a very successful Priest, Deacon and Server Training Conference • Cardiff University Chaplain, Fr Sebastian Jones, writes about the pre-Reformation chapel of St Teilo in Fagan’s National Museum of History • Lucy Shaw reports on the second Guild of St Clare Sewing Retreat • Tyburn Convent Relic Chapel – Joseph Shaw writes about the Sung Mass celebrated there as part of the CMA’s recent conference • Looking ahead to the LMS Latin Course in Boars Hill, Oxford

See more.

Read it online.

Order a copy direct from the LMS.

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15/05/2018 - 10:03

Celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit in Oxford

A series of four High and Sung Masses in Oxford will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostoles at Pentecost.

Saturday 19th May: Vigil of Pentecost: 10:30am High Mass in Blackfriars
This was formerly regarded as such an important occasion the liturgy reprised the Vigil of Easter. The Dominican Rite High Mass will do exactly that, with four 'prophecies' (readi
ngs from the Old Testament) before the Epistle and Gospel of Mass. Accompanied by the Schola Abelis.
Blackfriars, St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LY

Sunday 20th May: Whitsun (Pentecost Sunday): 12 noon Sung Mass, SS Gregory & Augustine's.
Also: 8am Low Mass, Oxford Oratory
SS Gregory & Augustine's, 322 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 7NS
The week after Whitsun is 'Whit Week', like the week after Easter each day has a high rank and ordinary saints' days cannot be celebrated. It is also an 'Ember' Week, with an extra reading on Wedneday and a set of prophecies on the Saturday.

Low Masses are celebrated:

Wedneday 6pm, SS Gregory & Augustine
Friday 12:15pm, Holy Rood, Abingdon Road
Friday 6pm, SS Gregory & Augustine

Saturday 26th May: Whit Saturday, the Ember Saturday of Pentecost: 11:30am, High Mass in Holy Rood, Abingdon Road. Accompanied by the Schola Abelis.
Holy Rood, 38 Abingdon Road, Oxford OX1 4PD

Sunday 27th May: Trinity Sunday: High Mass in Holy Trinity, Hethe, for the Patronal feast of this historic church north east of Oxford. With polyphony from Cantus Magnus under Matthew Schellhorn.
Hardwick Road, Hethe, OX27 8AW Click here for a map

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10/05/2018 - 15:41

Pearls, swine, and the Via Pulchritudinis at the Met Gala

Belshazzar punished for his profane use of the Temple's sacred vessels.

Reflecting on the business of the A-lister fund-raising banquet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a number of apparently contradictory thoughts spring to mind. In no special order, here are some quotations which may, to a greater or lesser extent, be relevant.

Pope John Paul II Ecclesia in Europa (2003) 60. ‘Nor should we overlook the positive contribution made by the wise use of the cultural treasures of the Church. These can be a special element in the rekindling of a humanism of Christian inspiration. When properly preserved and intelligently used, these living testimonies of the faith as professed down the ages can prove a useful resource for the new evangelization and for catechesis, and lead to a rediscovery of the sense of mystery. … artistic beauty, as a sort of echo of the Spirit of God, is a symbol pointing to the mystery, an invitation to seek out the face of God made visible in Jesus of Nazareth.’ (link to where I quoted this before)

The Congregation for Divine Worship: 'Any performance of sacred music which takes place during a celebration, should be fully in harmony with that celebration. This often means that musical compositions which date from a period when the active participation of the faithful was not emphasized as the source of the authentic Christian spirit are no longer to be considered suitable for inclusion within liturgical celebrations.' (Concerts in Churches, 1987).

Louis Bouyer, on the liturgy: 'What shall we give others if we have nothing left ourselves?'

Matthew 7:6: 'Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turning upon you, they tear you.'

('nolite dare sanctum canibus neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos ne forte conculcent eas pedibus suis et conversi disrumpant vos.')
The cultural treasures of the Church obviously include vestments, even if Pope John Paul II did not have them uppermost in mind. The Vatican museums are stuffed with impressive vestments, and vestments are found also in the other great museums of the world, of which (let us not forget) the 'Met' is one of the greatest. There is more than a little irony is attempting to use these treasures as a form of evangelisation after having removed them, for practical purposes, from the daily life of the Church, as Ross Douthat has pointed out. But this irony is a well-established one, as the quotation from the Congregation for Divine Worship document shows. Yes, it says, the great treasures of Catholic art--in this case, music--of some of which, indeed the world is in justified awe, are no longer suitable for use in the liturgy, and for that very reason it makes sense to show them off in a desacralised context: in this case, in concerts in churches; in other contexts, in museums.
Actually, this argument is not really coherent. If the Church's patrimony of music and other art is unsuitable for the liturgy, because it fails to foster genuine participation or gives rise to an unhelpful or theologically misguided impression of God and our relationship with Him, then it will not succeed any better outside the liturgical context which, presumably, added a great deal of context to it. In point of fact the late Cardinal Mayer, under whom that CDW document was produced, was a liturgical conservative and a great friend of the Traditional Mass. What he, and later Pope John Paul II, was trying to do was to scrabble out some conceptual space for the preservation of the Church's cultural patrimony about whose intrinsic value he was in no doubt, without undertaking a suicidal frontal assault on the assumptions of the entire liturgical reform. This approach, which was anticipated also by Pope Paul VI, was the argument of the 'Via pulchritudinis', the 'way of beauty'.

It is no surprise, in this context, that it was the two biggest liturgical conservatives of the Papal household, Archbishop Ganswein and Mgr Marini the Papal MC, who were key to the organisation of the Met's special exhibition of Vatican vestments. Did they have misgivings, in advance, about these items becoming the backdrop for a get-together of the American cultural elite and the inspiration of costumes which included some in poor taste, and others which were downright scandalous? I do not know, but I am sure they were thinking, like Cardinal Mayer, that if these items were not going to see much, if any, liturgical use, they might as well be allowed to exercise their considerable evangelising power as museum pieces on a fresh audience. This was not a project of liturgical progressives, for all the involvement, at a later stage, of Fr James Martin SJ and Cardinal Dolan.

That is not to say that we are obliged to agree with Ganswein and Marini. The Gala dinner aspect of the event puts it into a somewhat different context from the usual lending of items by one museum to another for a special exhibition. The consternation of Catholic conservatives at seeing Rihanna and others desporting themselves in what could be described as mocking mimicries of liturgical vestments has been huge. It is little comfort to remind ourselves that it could have been much worse, and that the celebrities, with a very few exceptions, did not take the opportunity to engage in calculated defilement of the sacred. The general tone of the event, and the presence of Cardinal Dolan as a guest of honour, was no doubt helpful. But the question remains whether allowing this use of these vestments was an instance of casting pearls before swine.

What does this idea mean? What Christ is talking about is the separation of the sacred and the profane which is intrinsic to the very idea of the sacred. The sacred is what is set apart: God is sacred because he is set apart from us, and items used in His worship are set apart from profane use. Catholics at the coal-face of the kind of liturgical restoration of which Ganswein and Marini approve become uncomfortable about the idea of trade in sacred things, which indeed is in some cases ruled out by Canon Law, even if in other cases it is a necessary fact of life. It's not that they wouldn't want people to see them; it is rather that they are set apart for a sacred purpose, and should be used for that purpose and not for profane purposes. It is necessary for us to recover this instinctive discomfort about seeing, say, real vestments being used in a theatrical performance, or even in a museum, if we are to recover the sense of the sacred as a whole. You can't nurture the sense of the sacred without doing the spadework of the conceptual and practical separation of the putatively sacred from the profane.

Liturgical conservatives will naturally recognise the subtle evangelising power of the liturgical items displayed in the Met and the V&A, but wouldn't necessarily want these collections to exist at all, in an ideal world. It's not appropriate: this stuff should be in churches, and it should be being used, if it is in a condition to be used. Then we would see, what of course to some extent we do see, the far greater evangelising power it has when plugged into its proper liturgical context.

He loved to kneel down on the cold marble pavement, and watch the priest, in his stiff flowered vestment, slowly and with white hands moving aside the veil of the tabernacle, or raising aloft the jewelled lantern-shaped monstrance with that pallid wafer that at times, one would fain think, is indeed the "panem caelestis," the bread of angels, or, robed in the garments of the Passion of Christ, breaking the Host into the chalice, and smiting his breast for his sins. The fuming censers, that the grave boys, in their lace and scarlet, tossed into the air like great gilt flowers, had their subtle fascina- tion for him. 
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey.

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05/05/2018 - 09:29

Excommunication of SSPX faithful: LMS Press Release

In light of recent events in the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, I'm reposting this from November 2014




Bishop Semararo


COMMENT: letters from the Bishop Semeraro of Albano, Italy, and then from Bishop Sarlinga of Zárate-Campana in Argentina, have declared that the lay faithful who receive the sacraments from priests and bishops of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) are automatically excommunicated, and would need to go through a process authorised by the bishop to be readmitted to communion with the Church (i.e., not simply confession). The Latin Mass Society holds no brief to defend the position of the SSPX, which is canonically irregular, but feels it necessary to point out that these letters are not just ill-considered but have potentially very serious pastoral consequences. They imply that anyone who has ever been to Mass said by a priest of the SSPX is not welcome in the churches of these dioceses. This conflicts not only with the ‘opening of hearts’ requested by Pope Benedict XVI as a prelude to a healing of these divisions ‘in the heart of the Church’, but equally with the emphasis on mercy of Pope Francis.
CANON LAW BRIEFING: In light of canonical advice from our National Chaplain and Canonical Adviser, Mgr Gordon Read, the Latin Mass Society would like to clarify some canonical principles in relation to the recent statements of Bishop Semeraro of Albano, Italy, and Bishop Sarlinga of Zárate-Campana in Argentina, lest misunderstandings spread to dioceses around the world.
Bishop Sarlinga

1. Basing a canonical argument on the assumption that the Society of Pius X (SSPX) has no canonical status in the Church and that its priests are suspended following ordination without dimissorial letters, it does not follow that to seek the sacraments at their hands is an act of formal schism on the part of the lay faithful.

a. Such a conclusion conflicts with the lifting of the excommunication of the bishops of the SSPX by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009: it would be incongruous for the legislator to lift the excommunication of the bishops while imposing or maintaining it on the lay faithful to whom they minister.
b. It also conflicts with the provision in canon law for the effects of suspension or excommunication of a priest to be lifted when someone approaches the priest subject to the penalty in order to receive a sacrament (canon 1335).
2. Excommunication by adherence to a schism can only be incurred where there is both a schismatic intention and an external act (canon 1321).
a. It is clear therefore that excommunication is not incurred by those seeking the sacraments at the hands of priests of the SSPX without a schismatic intention.
b. Were a member of the lay faithful to incur excommunication by a schismatic intention, this would be a matter of the private forum (the confessional), and not the public forum.
c. Those under the age of sixteen cannot in any case incur a penalty (canon 1323.1); this would apply to those under this age who received baptism or confirmation.
3. The attitude of the Holy See has always been that lay faithful who receive the sacraments from priests of the SSPX are not excommunicated. Examples are as follows.
a. In 1991 Bishop Joseph Ferrario of Honolulu declared six lay Catholics excommunicated on grounds of schism for having procured the services of an SSPX bishop to administer confirmation. These appealed to the Holy See which, though Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declared the decree invalid because their action, though considered blameworthy, did not constitute schism.
b. On 5th September 2005, the Holy See, through the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, affirmed that ‘the faithful who attend the Masses of the aforesaid Fraternity are not excommunicates, and the priests who celebrate them are not, either—the latter are, in fact, suspended.’ (Protcol n.55/2005, signed by the then Secretary of the PCED, Mgr Camille Perl)
c. On 27th September 2002, quoted and reaffirmed on 18th January 2003, the Holy See, through the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, stated that ‘In the strict sense you may fulfil your Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the Society of St. Pius X.’ (Letters signed by Mgr Camille Perl).
Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, in a letter to his diocese dated 14th October 2014, declared:
The Catholic faithful cannot participate at Mass, neither request and/or receive Sacraments from or in the Society. Acting otherwise would mean to break communion with the Catholic Church.
Therefore, any Catholic faithful who requests and receives Sacraments in the Society of Saint Pius X, will place himself de facto in the condition of no longer being in communion with the Catholic Church. A readmission to the Catholic Church must be preceded by an adequate personal path of reconciliation, according to the ecclesiastical discipline established by the Bishop.
Bishop Semeraro is coincidentally the Secretary to the Council of Cardinals set up to advise the Pope. Albano is the location of the Italian headquarters of the SSPX.
Bishop Óscar Sarlinga of Zárate-Campana in Argentina, in a letter to his diocese dated 3rd November 2014, declared:
-It is not licit for the Catholic faithful to take part in the celebration of Mass in these conditions, neither to request nor to receive sacraments from the priests of the aforementioned "Society of Saint Pius X", including in private places turned into places of worship, without excluding, in case of obstinacy, also the ferendae sententiae penalties that may apply, according to the ecclesial spirit and that of protection of the faithful.
- In the case of the rupture of ecclesiastical communion by the above-mentioned founded motives, in order to be later readmitted to the Catholic Church, a personal path of reconciliation (and eventually of removal of the canonical censure) will be required, according to the discipline advised by the Holy See and the [diocese's] own, established by the diocesan bishop.
The Latin Mass Society, founded in 1965, promotes and supports the celebration of the Traditional Mass and sacraments (Extraordinary Form, Vetus Ordo) within the official structures of the Church and with the permission and cooperation of the bishops and the Holy See.

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04/05/2018 - 15:14

Alfie and parental rights

One positive aspect of the debate about the Alfie Evans case - and heaven knows there are plenty of negative aspects - is the way that the rights of the parents came into focus. Over the last several decade the rights of parents have been eroded in every area of family life and every area of law: in education, in child safeguarding, and in healthcare. There has been some push-back on the role of the secret Family Courts and the Social Services recently, and this may have helped to draw attention to the rights of parents in the Alfie case as well.

Children who are too young or too ill to consent or withhold consent for medical treatment must not be deprived of medical treatment just for that reason. It has always been the case, and it remains the case, that parents are able to consent, or withhold consent, on their behalf. The same is true of children's property: parents act a trustees and can consent or not on behalf of their children in relation to property owned by their children. It is an obvious legal doctrine and a very necessary one. If you take your child to hospital for treatment, you will be asked to sign special forms giving consent to the treatment. Sometimes you have to sign over and over again as treatment goes on.

An attitude has developed, however, among some in the medical, legal, and political establishments, which regards this as a tedious and unnecessary rigmarole. Once a child is under the care of a qualified doctor, it would be wrong for the parents to refuse to consent to whatever treatment or lack of treatment the doctor thinks is appropriate. There is something slightly creepy about a doctor or social worker asking a parent to sign a form handing over the legal right to do something and simultaneously whispering that, if the parent doesn't sign, there'll be trouble. A lot of parents are getting this creepy impression.

Much as the criticism by Americans of the UK's 'socialised' medicine is irritating to us here, on this they do have a point. In private medical practice, getting a second opinion is the most natural thing in the world. Private doctors don't have the feeling of ownership over their patients which the National Health Service has developed. The idea that a patient might fail to take his pills, or might take his problems to a quack, may be distressing to a private doctor, but his first instinct is not to call the police. But that is exactly what is increasingly happening in the NHS.

No doubt people will rush to point out that Alfie Evans ended up with multiple 'second opinions', and his parents were able to argue the case for their preferred option at considerable length in a court of law. But there is something surreal about these courtroom arguments. Mr Justice Hayden was called upon to the assess the testimony of multiple doctors. He has to consider their qualifications and experience. He had to weigh up the pros and cons of various plans for treatment or non-treatment. His decision was that, though he found it was overwhelmingly probable that further treatment would not cause Alfie any suffering, the possibility that it might do so made it, on balance, not the right thing to do, given the limited upside of the proposed treatment.

But Mr Justice Hayden has no medical expertise. Why on earth was it up to him? What, to use a legal term, is his locus standi, his standing or relevance to the question? As the law stands it is up to a judge to determine the 'best interests' of a child if a doctor does not want to accept the decision of a parent or guardian. This would make sense if a doctor, or any other bystander, was intervening in a case which looked like abuse. But Hayden made it clear that Alfie's parents were not only devoted to their child's wellbeing but were extremely well informed about the medical facts. It also emerged, in the court proceedings, that the parents' preferred option would have been regarded as reasonable by the medical establishments in Italy and Germany. Ok, so we can disagree with the parents, and with the foreign doctors. But simply disagreeing with another person's carefully-considered opinion, in the light of competent medical advice, about the best interests of their child, should not entail calling in the strong arm of the law.

So I'm not saying that the rejection of the treatment proposed by the Bambino Gesu was, in itself, an unreasonable judgement to make. I'm just asking how we've come to the position when this judgement is being made, not by parents, and not by doctors, but a judge sitting in court.

The only way to justify what happened is to say that, not that parents can be overruled where they are clearly harming their child, but that the have no role to play in decision-making at all. Indeed, in one of the most worrying aspects of the judgement, two of the doctors quoted seemed to be of the opinion that the fact that Tom Evans and Kate James were Alfie's parents made them less competent to influence decision-making about Alfie's care, not more:

these reactions are very difficult to separate especially for parents. (para 21)

It may also be difficult for the parents to understand, but in my opinion there is little if any to offer. (sic: para 22)

Now obviously parents, like everyone else, can be effected by their emotions and can succumb to irrationality. But it is their very visceral attachment to their children which is the guarantee of their concern for their children's welfare. Justice Hayden's amateur psychoanalysis of Alfie's parents, a pastime to which he frequently returns in his judgement, is not only patronising and unprofessional, but spectacularly misses the point. Parental concern for a child is the proper and appropriate attitude for a parent of a sick child, and parental insistence on the child's welfare is the proper and appropriate principle to guide his care.

To fend of the inevitable retort, that some parents lack this concern: yes, and that is negligent or abusive and the law can deal with such cases without removing parental rights altogether. The blindingly obvious feature of this case is that we are not dealing with such a situation here.

Hayden quotes a previous judgement setting out pithily the current legal situation in England and Wales: 'the sole principle is that the best interests of the child must prevail and that must apply even to cases where parents, for the best of motives, hold on to some alternative view.' (para 49) At the risk of repeating myself, this takes for granted that we are talking about the 'best interests of the child' as determined by a court of law, as opposed to as determined by parents, or even as determined by the child's medical team. (Courts can, at least in theory, rule in favour of parents and against doctors, as well as the other way round.) It is a statement of the legal principle that parents are in the last analysis mere onlookers in relation to their children's health. To different extents this has attitude already been applied, by parallel, to children's education, their sexual lives, and their psychological well-being. The logic of this principle is that parents are not parents but mere biological pathways for the production of wards of the state.

Most parents most of the time, in Britain in 2018, have not been deprived of their stewardship of their children's wellfare. At present this kind of reasoning is only wheeled out where a serious conflict has developed between parents and some state agency. But the legal principle is becoming well-established and its extension to wider and wider areas of life is just a matter of political and legal will. Should this happen the state may begin to notice a disengagement by parents, a disinclination to invest in their children, and a disinclination to have children. They may find their final victory over the family is a hollow one.

This is the last of a four-part series on the Alfie Evans case. See also:

Alfie vs. the System
Alfie and the Natural Law
Alfie and end of life care

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03/05/2018 - 17:02

Alfie and end of life care

I have been reading the key legal judgement of the Alfie Evans case: a long document, but an interesting one. It emerges, for example, that Mr Justice Haydon, whose judgement it is, is not able consistently to use an apostrophe correctly. But another piece of poor style struck me more. Reporting the views of one of the doctors, Haydon remarks that, in this doctor's view, 'Alfie’s prognosis is futile.' (para 25).

Literally, this means that the prognosis this doctor had made was a waste of time: it wasn't going to achieve anything. On the contrary, of course, the prognosis was not futile: Haydon found it very useful. What he actually meant, presumably, was that the prognosis for Alfie was poor, and yet I think Haydon wanted to convey more than that by his strange use of the term 'futile'. He wanted to convey the idea that it was Alfie's continuing life which was, in some sense, futile.

It is common enough to say that medical treatment is futile, and this phrase is also found in the judgement. But we should be alert to what is going on in even this phrase. Futility is a property of means in relation to a given end. It is futile to try to build a house out of rice-paper. It is futile to defend oneself against an assailant with a rubber sword. Those means chosen to those ends are not going to do the job successfully. Continued artificial ventilation, food and water was not going to restore Alfie to health. Nor, on the balance of probability, were the treatments offered by the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome. This does not make them absolutely futile, however, since there may be another possible goal to which they could be effective means. This is the prolongation of Alfie's life. This runs into the objection, however, that on Haydon's view such as life as Alfie has was itself futile.

One might assume that this would mean that Alfie's life was characterised by suffering, but on this topic Haydon got himself into a muddle. The doctors agreed that Alfie was very probably not capable of any kind of perception or sensation, including suffering. It is a key component of the judgement that Alfie was not responding to stimuli, apart from spinal reflexes; much space is occupied by this issue. According to Haydon, it follows from this that Alfie's life is not worth prolonging. But when it came to the plan to move him, it is the possibility that Alfie could feel pain which is suddenly given salience. If this possibility is a serious one, however, then Haydon's determination that Alfie could not derive any positive comfort or pleasure from his parents and others is called into question. You can't have it both ways.

Similarly, Haydon seems confused about what Alfie's quality of life might be. In a remarkable paragraph, he rejects the view of the 'Guardian', the state-appointed lawyer who is supposed to argue on behalf of Alfie, that 'his life lacks dignity' (para 54). To his great credit Haydon not only visited the hospital but took in what he witnessed: 'The atmosphere around Alfie was peaceful, dignified and though some might find it surprising for me to say so, very happy.' Despite this, however, Haydon decided that it was best if Alfie's earthly existence should not be prolonged, even by his being fed.

Those who care for the dying in hospices take a very different view. They understand that the people they care for are dying, but also that this is a stage of life with its own value and importance. What we do for people at this stage in their lives expresses our valuation of them as human beings. We recognise their inherent dignity by treating them with dignity. This does not cease to be the case if they are unconscious, even if they are not to regain consciousness. Their lives remain important because they are important. They may not be able to do very much, but that is not even the beginning of a justification for us to take aim at what they do have left, life itself, and take it away from them.

Care of the dying is not about prolonging life at all costs. When we say that we are referring to the cost of suffering, consciousness, medical resources, and money. Treatments which will not modify a disability or restore function or health are futile, when they aim at those goals and fail to deliver. If, however, we are going, like the currently debased English law, to lump feeding and hydration in with medical treatments, we must be careful about how to use this word 'futile'. It is not the intended function of food and water, under normal circumstances, to restore health; it is their function to nourish a living person. In some cases they do indeed become futile, as means to this end, in the care of a dying person, but this does not appear to have been so with Alfie.

Haydon reports a phrase of Tom Evans which he did not appear to understand. It was that when other possibilities are exhausted, 'Alfie should be allowed home to die “when he decides to”.' (para 40). His father wanted him to die a natural death. It's not much to ask.

His continued life, the precious days or weeks he might have spent in the dignified and happy atmosphere Haydon described, would not have been without value. The extraordinary lengths England's medical and legal establishment went to in order to deprive him of them are an indictment on the whole nation.

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