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After White Mass . . . Physicians’ Dinner Told That Threats To Health Professionals Still Loom

October 30, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — The assault against the conscience of Catholic medical workers will continue despite Barack Obama’s departure from the presidency, but seeing the practice of medicine as dedication to a vocation is good for the physician’s own welfare, not just the patient’s.
These two themes were struck by two different speakers at a dinner following the annual White Mass for medical professionals of the Catholic Physicians Guild of Phoenix on October 21.
The guild’s vice president, James Asher, D.O., recalled that at the group’s 2016 White Mass, many attendees feared the seemingly likely result of the upcoming November national election.
A widely shared expectation was that radical pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would defeat proclaimed pro-life Republican Donald Trump, but Trump cruised to victory in the Electoral College.
However, Asher said in his prepared talk, while the actual result provided a feeling of relief, “I believe it would be prudent to regard what happened as a respite, not a solution to the growing threats against our faith, morals, and consciences.
“We thus have been given an opportunity to gain strength for the onslaught that is surely being prepared, and surely on the way,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sr. Mary Diana Dreger, MD, of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, Nashville, told attendees that seeing medicine as a calling or vocation could protect against physician burnout.
If one decides to “leave everything else behind” and “write the Lord a blank check with your life” to do “whatever He wants,” this advances not only the good of others but practitioners’ “own personal good,” Dreger said.
The nun-physician entered her Dominican congregation in 1989, completed her residency in internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2004, and is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt. She wore a nun’s habit at the dinner, not worldly clothing.
Jesus wanted His followers’ joy to be complete, enjoying happiness both here and in Heaven, she said.
Illness is a physical evil, she said, but “God has created us to be whole, to be healthy.”
There’s a difference between Catholic and secular health care, Dreger said, asking if Jesus was “healing people along the way just because He’s a nice guy?”
Answering herself in the negative, Dreger said people were “knocked out” by the effects of sin, and Jesus came both for their salvation and physical reintegration.
The 6 p.m. White Mass, lasting nearly an hour, was celebrated by Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted in the chapel of the downtown diocesan headquarters, followed by a catered dinner with wine down the hall. Some attendees said it made for a more pleasant evening to have both events in the same building than driving from Mass to a restaurant location.
Stained-glass windows in the chapel depict 20th-century saints, including Italian physician and mother Gianna Molla. Nearby on an easel set up for the Mass was a large photo of Molla holding an infant.
Asher, the local guild’s vice president, told the diners there’s a “solid reason why I believe these threats (to conscience) will not go away” — the willingness of too many Catholic medical practitioners to acquiesce in “this ever-growing culture of death.”
U.S. Catholic physicians’ guilds collapsed with dissent against Pope Paul VI’s issuance of the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968 opposing contraception, Asher said, and opposition to it “continues unrelentingly.”
This resistance, Asher said, at least partly explains “why there was such relative calm among so many people identifying as Catholics” when the Obama administration “began to dismantle our First Amendment rights” to religious freedom with its immoral mandates.
“It appeared to me that most practitioners were fully prepared to adapt to whatever the government required in order to continue their practices a year ago, and I believe they remain so now,” Asher said.
Health-care practitioners can’t see the moral evil in birth control, nor of the continuum through promiscuity, sexually transmitted disease, abortion, sexual aberrations, “assisted suicide” and other evils, he said.
Catholics are called upon to accept the magisterial teachings of the Church, including in their professional lives, Asher said.
“We live in confusing times within the Church, but we must not model our lives nor our practices after those claiming to be Catholic who nevertheless routinely cooperate with evil, basking in what appears to be ecclesiastical impunity,” Asher said. “God is merciful, but He is not stupid.”
He urged membership with the national Catholic Medical Association (cathmed.org) as a means of spiritual and moral formation, education, enrichment, and advocacy.
Following up to Asher, Tom Shellenberger, MD, president of the local physicians’ guild, said that if Catholic medical professionals “could just reclaim our territory,” what a tremendous influence this could be on public policy.

A Sacramental View

Dreger became active with the Catholic Medical Association in 2006 and is a member of its national speakers bureau, having presented more than 100 talks in the U.S. and Canada, according to her fact sheet.
She told the dinner that the general common good wants citizens to be healthy, but Catholic health care specifically looks to God as the Creator and realizes that people didn’t create themselves into their own image. “God wrote into us what our human nature is. . . .
“We have a sacramental view of the world,” Dreger said, citing a comment by British Christian apologist C.S. Lewis that next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, “your neighbor is the holiest object” presented to a person.
Catholics have an understanding of the redemptive nature of suffering while they strive to relieve suffering, she said, but not to eliminate the suffering person.
“God can’t keep His eyes off you. That’s how much he loves you,” Dreger said.
Patients “give themselves to us. They entrust their lives to us,” which is awesome, she said, drawing a parallel with the Eucharist being given to Its recipients.
Everyone is meant for Heaven, Dreger said, adding that “that patient you can’t stand” may be meant to be next to you in Heaven.
Catholic health care is to serve the poor, she said, while the Church’s mission is salvation.
This might recall Mother Teresa’s observation that her nuns weren’t social workers.
However, their work resounded in the world more than worlds of government programs.

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