In her silence Indi was asking only for love
A reflection by the Undersecretary of the Department, Prof. Gabriella Gambino, on the case of little Indi Gregory
Published in L'Osservatore Romano is a reflection by Prof. Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, on the story of little Indi Gregory, the eight-month-old girl with a serious mitochondrial pathology who died in an English hospice.
© L'Osservatore romano - Like other children before her, little Indi was the victim of a legal system that is indifferent to an innocent and fragile human being’s right to continue living. In her silence, she was asking only for love, connection and care. And yet, the right to life is the essence and the foundation of ius, of the right itself of any normative system that intends to regulate coexistence among people, starting with the principle of justice. It is the starting point for any coherent discussion on world peace.
How then is it possible that such a small girl became tangled up in the rigid and intricate mesh of a legal network before which anyone becomes powerless: a formal, positivist right, capable of trapping human beings and of relentlessly deciding to anticipate their death according to arbitrary criteria of wellbeing and quality?
In Indi’s case, we have the impression that we are experiencing the nth failure before a death that was inflicted in front of everyone’s stunned eyes. But what to do in a world where medicine and the law sometimes seem to have become devoid of their own ratio, human beings and their intangible life, that objective and real asset that the “throwaway culture” tries to relativize?
The raison d’ê t re of medicine is duty of care and assistance, that of the law is the duty to guarantee co-existence, that is the life of every person. They imply an awareness that we are like others in our fragility and that we are with others in our vulnerability, a vulnerability which no technique or any human decision can ever take away from us.
Indi’s condition and that of many other patients like her, is that of being in a radically asymmetrical situation in which nowadays, a dynamic of power over human life can forcefully insinuate itself: a condition which in any law-abiding state would always imply the stronger one’s duty and promptness to protect the weaker one, despite any condition, and not a commitment to discuss the value of their life. Taking responsibility for others when they are vulnerable does not mean making decisions on whether their life is worthy, but rather never overstepping the limit in which one gives humanum, that is, preserving human life. This is the ultimate condition of the existence of rights, an authentic right, established firstly from respect for each person.
In such a case, we can tangibly see that there is a need and an urgency for the Church to develop adequate and widespread pastoral care to accompany families: to be close to families that have to make daily choices that imply a reference to the truth and to the goodness of human life. We have to create places where a mother can go when she finds herself alone and lost before a prenatal diagnosis, after being told that it is better to abort the sick baby to “give” herself a chance of having a healthy child in the future; where honest advice can be given to a couple, when their son is born ill and the world around them suggests suing to be able to ask for compensation for that uninformed child, for not having been aborted; places where couples who cannot have children can turn to, in order to be well informed without being left alone, while elsewhere they are told that it does not matter if in order to have a healthy baby they have to produce a dozen human beings in vitro, select them, freeze some and throw the others away; and where medicine that is truly at the forefront can always offer alternatives that respect human life up to natural death. Because the “throwaway culture” also acts this way: by modifying our propensity to protect life with solutions that are apparently better able to satisfy our desires and our more natural needs, like the wonderful one of generating and transmitting human life.
When the Magisterium of the Church invokes a culture of life from conception to natural death, it intends precisely this in practice: being able to accompany her children in these difficult choices in which each one has to be able to find themselves, in the knowledge that they have made themselves an instrument of life, truth and love of the Father towards all those who have been entrusted to them. This should also be true for physicians who help families make decisions, for the families of all patients and for the judges who are called on. In protecting life, the Church is Mother and her teaching is clear and solid with regards to the duty each of us has to be a custodian of human life.
Medicine has evolved, situations and choices may be more complex, but as Christians we well know that a life, even when it is uncomfortable and costly, always deserves love, connection and care. After all, only love is capable of giving us back to ourselves. In difficult times, it is able to restore the unity of a suffering person, allowing human beings around them to unite in that value, which is mankind itself, and its dignity. No one can ever be reduced to a “d e s i re of”, or “an interest in” or “a capacity to”. Every human being is a person and that’s it. By this virtue alone, they should be protected, safeguarded and loved without any ifs, ands or buts. The cry that the weak raise to others is the voice of their inestimable dignity. And it speaks of love, the meaning of their existence. Mother Teresa knew this well. She cared for the least ones without asking herself if they deserved her care or not, and like her, many other “normal” saints, fathers and mothers who accept to relate daily with the fragility of their loved ones, without asking themselves if it is worthwhile. This is also part of the sense of humanity to which Pope Francis invited us at the Angelus last Sunday — what is needed to rebuild peace. Indi’s family became a symbol of contradiction at a time in which there are attempts to devalue the family with regards to its anthropological strength. And yet those bonds of powerful love have shaken the world. With her precious life, Indi has put consciences in turmoil and is now asking each person to take action to strongly proclaim the beauty and precious value of human life. With her story, she tried to shake the thanatological culture of post modernity, and up until the last moment, she told us that fragile life is great in its capacity to create relationships of love. We have to have the courage to make this truth shine before all forms of lies and distortions of the value of human life.
Under-secretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life
14 November 2023
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