Archbishop Michael Miller
VANCOUVER – Catholic doctors have to be not only intelligent and compassionate, but also courageous.
Moral Courage in the Practice of Medicine, was the topic of the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians Societies' annual conference, held here April 27-28.
"More than ever before, it is imperative that Catholic health-care workers, above all physicians, seek the support, fellowship, and learning opportunities which will help them practise their profession imbued by their faith and the richness of Catholic moral reflection," said Archbishop Michael Miller.
Miller was speaking at the conference's Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral April 28 concelebrated by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa.
"In all you do, I pray that the following of Christ, whom the Gospels present to us as the Divine Physician, will always be at the heart of your practice of medicine," said the Vancouver archbishop.
The purpose of the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians Societies is to infuse Catholic morality into the medical system.
Miller said there is a close link between practising medicine and the virtue of charity to which Christ calls us. "But your charity must be complemented by another virtue: the moral virtue of courage or fortitude."
Catholic physicians, he added, are "squarely within the orbit of the moral order." He quoted Pope Pius XII stating that doctors cannot dissociate from the principles of ethics and religion.
"As a Catholic physician within the wider context of contemporary society you face very thorny situations and decisions," Miller said. The proper use of courage, he said, is necessary to navigate the complicated matters within the medical system.
"Our Western world is held in thrall to what the Holy Father once called, in a famous address given just before he entered the conclave which elected him pope, the 'dictatorship of relativism.'"
The archbishop noted that forcing religious health-care workers to keep their mouths shut is "an undemocratic way of buying harmony among citizens of a free society."
Catholic physicians shouldn't be forced to lead a double life, he said. "Religious believers have as much right as anyone else to function in their profession according to their beliefs; likewise, religious institutions have as much right as non-religious ones."
The archbishop said Catholic health-care workers must respond courageously to any attempt to compromise or impose ethical values that go against their faith. "Canada needs engaged, articulate, well-formed Catholic physicians endowed with a strong critical sense vis-a-vis the dominant culture and with courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church's participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future."