All posts tagged: medicine

An Academic Program for Exploring the Divine Healing Touch in Medicine

The greatest challenge facing the academic health center community is to restore the marriage between humanistic concerns and scientific and technical excellence in health care delivery practices. —R.J. Bulger, The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2000 I came across this quote from Bulger in his article “The Quest for a Therapeutic Organization” while teaching an undergraduate seminar at the University of Michigan, where I am currently a faculty member in the School of Medicine. Bulger’s words so moved me that his declaration has since become my professional mission statement. Bulger’s choice of words like “restore” and “marriage” invokes a sense of something sacred which has been broken. “Humanistic concerns” bring to mind a sense of the divine’s presence in mankind, which has been long forgotten. The undergraduate seminar I taught was called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Themes of Medicine in the Old and New Testament.” The title of the course was taken from Psalm 139 where David expresses awe for his maker, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my …

Medieval Rites and Contemporary Dying

Medieval Rites The scribes lived over 700 years ago, but their documents give us insight into the monastery’s practices when a brother became seriously ill: The leader of the community, the prior, came to the brother’s sickbed to hear his confession. The others gathered and processed to the infirmary with oil for anointing, incense, the communion host, a cross, and candles. They assembled in the room, singing antiphons and psalms as their sick brother was anointed. The gathered brothers sang songs of petition, using words from the Gospels: “Lord, come down to heal my son before he dies,” and songs of hope: “Jesus said to him, Go, your son lives.”[1] After the anointing, the brothers arranged a schedule so that at least one person remained always at his bedside. Prayers were said for him at the daily public Mass. If the brother did not regain strength, but instead seemed to be nearing the end of his life, the entire community gathered again. In their brother’s presence, they sang a litany, naming members of the heavenly …

Aiming at the Death of Disabled Children

As much of the world, including Pope Francis, has been focusing on the case of little Alfie Evans, a similar case—that of Charlie Gard—obviously looms in the background as precedent. The case, which exploded on the scene in the middle months of 2017, divided many Catholic thinkers. A good summary of different views can be found in this piece by Tobias Winright of Saint Louis University. A poor summary, unfortunately, can be found in the most recent issue of Theological Studies in an article by John Paris, SJ, Michael P. Moreland, and Brian M. Cummings. Indeed, these authors decided to lump together the views of Prof. Jana Bennett and myself with those offered by Breitbart News. As one might imagine, the article fails to wrestle with our views in any serious or sustained way. Aiming at the Death of the Disabled Prof. Bennett and I are committed to the fullness of the Catholic tradition on medical treatment. Indeed, my dissertation and first book argues that taking Catholic Social Teaching seriously means substantially expanding what could …