Catholic Free Press

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  • Apr
  • 18

Bishop addresses role of palliative care

Posted By April 18, 2013 | 1:05 pm | Lead Story #2, Local

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – The laity are to evangelize and transform the culture, Bishop McManus told healthcare professionals who asked about living their faith at work.
He spoke at the ninth annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics and Spirituality Conference, held April 10 and 11 at the College of the Holy Cross.
It was sponsored by Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, whose ministry includes the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge.
The conference concluded with Mass, preceded by a panel during which speakers responded to participants’ written questions.
Bishop McManus said he chose the panel’s topic, “To Live and Die with Dignity: The Role of Palliative Care,” because of the misconception that the Church demands that every possible means be used to keep dying patients alive. In reality, the Church’s approach is more nuanced, he said. It includes palliative care, which doesn’t necessarily cure patients but attempts to keep them comfortable.
The bishop said he thought one reason “we” narrowly defeated the “Death with Dignity” act was because “we” educated people about palliative care. In last fall’s election voters defeated this ballot question, which would have legalized physician assisted suicide in Massachusetts, by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.
He noted that Christ the King Parish held a novena to St. Joseph, patron of a happy death, and said, “I have no doubt that that prayer helped our success.”
Answering a question about what people can do besides pray when legalization of physician-assisted suicide is attempted again, the bishop spoke of education to form consciences and the formation of coalitions.
“In the Catholic Church our strongest method of educating is through our parishes,” he said. “The most widely read piece of Catholic literature is the parish bulletins.”
Morphine is abused now, and would be more so if physician assisted suicide was legalized, said Dr. Mark Rollo, family physician in Fitchburg. He said using morphine to alleviate pain is morally licit, even if it hastens death, but it is not morally licit if the intention is to hasten death.
After physician-assisted suicide was passed in Oregon, good hospice care deteriorated significantly, he said, but here good hospice care is available. Good palliative care will help keep physician assisted suicide and euthanasia away, he said.
A questioner wrote about working in a non-Catholic hospital with members of different faiths, and asked how to bring the faith there and about deciding who should be on the ethics commission.
Bishop McManus said when St. Vincent Hospital was sold to a for-profit company, the Diocese arranged to have even non-Catholic committee members support the hospital’s Catholic identity and mission.
He urged the questioner, if working for a non-Catholic hospital, to join the ethics committee if invited. Catholics must intelligently and civilly articulate Church moral tradition, based on natural law, he said.
Responding to a question about whether it is moral to work in an institution that is not following Catholic teaching, Dr. Rollo said that is his job description.
“It’s a blessing to be in a position when you can evangelize” about the culture of life, he said.
“The role of the laity is to evangelize and transform the culture,” Bishop McManus added. “We’ve clericalized the laity,” thinking that lay ministry is being a eucharistic minister, which is fine but secondary.
“You can’t scream,” said Father Kazimierz Chwalek, the Marin Fathers’ provincial in the United States and Argentina. “You can’t do some violent act: ‘I’m going to prevent this.’” But Catholics must give sound reason why something is unacceptable. If outvoted, at least they tried.
Audience members applauded a question asking why priests don’t preach about the cultures of life and death.
Father Mark Yavarone, an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and professor of bioethics and Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, said that’s taught in some parishes. Sometimes he preaches about it and people are grateful, though one or two walk out, he said.
He said sometimes priests feel they don’t know enough and don’t have time to study a topic, or may be afraid – not good reasons. He suggested praying for priests and gently reminding them to preach about this.
“I want to thank you for being one of those priests,” Dr. Rollo said, and listeners applauded.