The very good news I learned at the CMA conference is that the parish priest has allies. The CMA, with a generous grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute, has begun a program called, “Holy Alliance: Serving the Divine Physician.” The purpose of the Holy Alliance Initiative is to develop a priest-physician buddy system so priests can have rapid contact available for medical questions. Faithful Catholic doctors stand ready to educate parish priests about the science underlying difficult medical/moral issues so that they can preach and teach with confidence. And priests can refer parishoners with doubts or difficulties to these same physicians. The priest does not have to stand alone, and can point parishoners who may need a level of expertise beyond what could be expected of a parish priest to a skilled expert who is also a faithful Catholic.
At the same time, CMA intends the Holy Alliance to be a two-way street. Priests can offer guidance to doctors regarding the moral practice of medicine. Faithful Catholic doctors will be glad to know that they can refer patients in need of moral guidance, spiritual direction and the sacraments to faithful priests who are conversant in medical/moral issues.
When I write or speak in public, I never want people to respond with, “Well, that’s nice” or “How interesting!” I prefer to have people respond with, “What should we do right now?” Right now, it’s time for us to start pairing priests and doctors. The faithful need the authentic teaching of the Church regarding medical/moral matters given to them by priests, especially in preaching, spiritual direction, marriage preparation, and in the confessional. Catholic doctors need to be taught, encouraged and held accountable by priests to ensure that their medical practice is a moral medical practice, in harmony with the natural moral law, good science, and the magisterium of the Church. If we pair doctors and priests via the Holy Alliance Initiative, everybody wins. And then we can begin to get out of the medical/moral muddle we presently find ourselves in.
So, now what? Start by asking for more information about the Holy Alliance Initiative by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell the Catholic doctors you know that help is on the way, and solicit their aid as you seek allies for priests. Tell your priests about the great teaching and preaching you are expecting to hear from them once they are paired with faithful Catholic doctors, and solicit their aid as you seek allies for Catholic doctors.
And then? Then let everyone here know about what’s happening as you follow through on your plan to grow the Holy Alliance between priests and doctors. Leave comments in the Comments section of this column, and help us all to keep track of the progress and challenges you meet.
When I write next, I will discuss authentic Catholic community and its counterfeits. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Father Robert McTeigue, S.J.is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. A professor of philosophy and theology, he has long experience in spiritual direction, retreat ministry, and religious formation. He teaches philosophy at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, FL, and is known for his classes in both Rhetoric and in Medical Ethics.