HAMDEN – Bioethicist Father Tad Pacholczyk provided a comprehensive overview of end-of-life issues for nearly 100 women religious and laypeople during a two-day bioethics and Catholic social teaching workshop.
It was hosted by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on July 8-9.
“He was outstanding,” said Sister Mary Jane Paolella, a member of the order and one of the workshop’s organizers. She teaches ethical genetic issues at Sacred Heart Academy.
“He covered all of the end-of-life issues we could ever question. I knew he would be clear, concise and intelligible.”
An internationally known bioethicist and neuroscientist, Father Pacholczyk is the director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. After earning a doctorate in neuroscience from Yale University, he did postdoctoral research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Jim Tester, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Southbury, was glad that he attended the workshop.
“It answered so many of the questions I had for a long time about acceptable end-of-life Catholic practices. “I was looking for a good retreat, and this surpassed that,” he said.
Topics ranged from living wills, palliative and hospice care, use of pain medication at end-of-life, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary interventions, cardio-respiratory and brain death, organ donation, the Christian perspective on pain and suffering, and elements of a good death.
“I appreciated his thoughts on the stewardship of the body,” said Sister Deborah Lopez of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, principal of Cathedral Academy Lower School in Bridgeport. “This is how we need to approach these issues for ourselves and each other. We are made in the image of God. That’s a powerful thought. It needs to be at the forefront of discussions on life.”
Father Pacholczyk, who is regarded as one of the church’s leading spokesmen on life issues, based his presentation on the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is often consulted for guidance on moral and religious ethical issues by the bishops and by other policy and health care groups.
The speaker told The Catholic Transcript that he was heartened by the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Hobby Lobby crafts store chain. In the June 30 decision, the justices determined that certain employers with religious objections could not be required to provide contraceptive coverage as mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services under the Affordable Care Act.
“Based on what happened with Hobby Lobby, there’s encouraging news” for a number of pending lawsuits that deal specifically with church-affiliated agencies such as Catholic social services ministries of the church, he said.
“I think the Supreme Court is pretty serious about religious liberty,” he stated. “It’s not going to turn away this basic right we have had as part of our nation’s heritage just because a particular administration would like to turn it away.”
The workshop was one of nine presentations that the congregation’s leadership has been offering over two years for its members. Other topics have included canon law for religious life, Scripture, the Creed, patristics, the sacraments and the spirituality of the order’s founder, Mother Clelia Merloni.