Conscience and Catholic Health Care


Dr. Bill Mueller and Dr. Jose Santos were guests on “Catholicism Live!” today. They are members of the Catholic Medical Association and are reviving the Catholic Physicians Guild in San Antonio.

Below is a great outline provided by Dr. Mueller explaining the purpose of Catholic Medical Association and some points on why Catholics need to be concerned about the Health Care Reform:

What is the Catholic Medical Association (CMA)?

Catholic Medical Association – an organization formed to uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine.

Two ways to participate: National membership in the Catholic Medical Association AND/OR Local membership in the San Antonio physicians guild


  • To uphold the principles of the Catholic faith in the science and practice of medicine
  • To assist the Church in the work of communicating Catholic medical ethics to the medical profession and society at large.
  • To support Catholic hospitals in faithfully applying Catholic moral principles in health care delivery.
  • To enable Catholic physicians to know one another better and to work together with deeper mutual support and understanding.

Who can be a member?

  • Anyone with an interest in being a part of an organization that strives to practice the vocation of medicine in the image of Christ, the divine physician.
  • Physicians, dentists, nurses, allied health professionals, clergy, religious, anyone interested in integrating Catholic principles into health care.

What is the history of the Catholic Medical Association?

  • Local guilds began in 1912 as a way to educate physicians in Church doctrine related to the practice of medicine.
  • National organization formed in 1932 formalized relationship between local guilds.
  • By the mid-1960’s, CMA was the 6th largest medical association in the US with over 100 guilds and 10,000 physician members.
  • In 1968, the organization fractured after disagreement over Humane Vitae and the use of contraception.
  • In 1997, the organization was renamed, affirmed its support of the magisterial teachings of the Church, and definitive steps were taken to support physicians through local guilds.
  • The organization’s goal is to form guilds in every state, diocese, and parish in North America to serve, form, and teach Catholic physicians.

Dr. Santos and Dr. Mueller are working to establish a San Antonio Physician’s Guild of the CMA.

Goal: Monthly meetings to…

  • Support, educate, and encourage those interested in promoting the authentic practice of Catholic medicine.
  • Work with the Archdiocese to pursue authentic Catholic medical care in the San Antonio area.
  • For example, working with Converging Roads program to provide local expertise and resources in diocesan effort to promote Catholic medical ethics.
  • National Organization: Annual meeting in Springfield, Illinois in October.

CMA position on health care reform:

  • The Catholic Medical Association supports meaningful health-care reform that is based on sound ethics and economics.
  • The CMA is particularly concerned about two significant ethical issues related to the current debate over health care reform:
  • Respect for the conscience rights of health-care providers
  • The conscience rights of health-care providers are not adequately addressed in any current legislation.
  • Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (H.E.L.P.) Committee voted against an amendment that would have prohibited forcing health-care providers to perform or participate in abortion.
  • This issue is very timely, since the department of Health and Human Services canceled a Conscience Protection Rule earlier this year and has not announced what will replace it.
  • In a July 2 interview, President Obama promised a ‘robust conscience clause.’ The CMA believes it is time to deliver the text of that conscience clause and make conscience protection an integral part of any health-care reform legislation.
  • Potential for a mandate to finance and provide abortion.
  • White House officials and the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee have refused to exclude abortion from health-care legislation.
  • The House Tri-Committee bill never mentions the word “abortion, but most analysts think that, without explicit exclusion, abortion will be mandated by the Secretary of HHS and/or by the courts.
  • According to CMA president Dr. Louis Breschi, “Few people realize that, as things stand, abortion could be a required benefit in all health insurance plans, and it would be subsidized not only in health-care premiums, but also through taxation. This unjust mandate must be excluded.”

Other CMA statements about the national debate on health care reform:

  • While health-care financing and delivery systems in the United States suffers from significant flaws impacting cost and access, which have accumulated over the years, the entire system is not broken. Reform legislation should address specific issues; not on replacing or overhauling the entire health-care system at one time.
  • While attention is rightly paid to the socio-economic aspects of the crisis in health care and delivery, it is essential to acknowledge and respect the fundamental ethical principles at stake. Above all, it is necessary at this time to ensure that any national health-care reform legislation provides respect for human life (e.g., by not funding or mandating abortion as a “health-care benefit”) and respect for the conscience rights of health-care professionals (e.g., providing nothing less than the current protections in federal and state law—and preferably more).
  • Health-care reform legislation must respect the integrity of the physician-patient relationship. This means that people should be free to choose physicians and health insurance coverage which accord with their values and needs. This also means that physicians must not be prevented—by the force of government regulations—from respecting their patients’ privacy or from offering the attention and treatments patients require based on the physician’s professional judgment.
  • Ancillary (but significant) Issues. Any health care reform legislation must be carefully monitored to ensure that interest groups do not take the opportunity afforded by comprehensive legislation to insert provisions that harm the dignity of individuals or the family or that inappropriately serve the agenda of a particular group or ideology.

Go to the Catholic Medical Association website for more:


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