Bringing a culture of life to medicine


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT —Working in the medical field can mean long hours for health care providers, impacting them and their families, said Bishop Thomas Zinkula. But the practice of medicine is about love and healing he told medical professionals during the White Mass Oct. 21 in Christ the King Chapel on the St. Ambrose University campus.

Anne Marie Amacher
Dr. Clem Cunningham, a retired physician from Illinois, talks with Dr. Kathleen Raviele after her presentation Oct. 20 on “Bringing a Culture of Life to the Practice of Medicine.” She spoke after the White Mass on the St. Ambrose University campus in Davenport.

The bishop reflected on the movie “The Green Mile,” in which an inmate, John Coffee, has the power to heal. He even heals a correctional officer and the warden’s wife. “But healing wears him out,” the bishop said. Jesus was a healer, too, and paid the price for his healing power. Bishop Zinkula noted that Jesus was never too tired to help others. Everyone has challenges and weaknesses, but all can find power in the Holy Spirit, the bishop continued.

After Mass, Dr. Timothy Millea, president of the St. Thomas Aquinas Guild of the Quad Cities, a chartered guild of the Catholic Medical Association, welcomed attendees to a presentation at the Rogalski Center on campus. Dr. Kathleen Raviele, a Natural Family Planning OB/GYN practitioner from Georgia spoke on “Bringing a Culture of Life to the Practice of Medicine.” She served as Catholic Medical Association (CMA) president in 2008.


In her talk, Raviele said the CMA was founded in 1932 to foster fellowship, spiritual growth and bioethical training for Catholic physicians. It has collaborated with several groups including the National Catholic Bioethics Center, American College of Pediatrics and Christian Medical and Dental Association.

She spoke at length about the legalization of abortion, noting that abortions are performed most often in the first trimester (83 percent) and with the first pregnancy. The estimated number of illegal abortions in 1972 was 586,760. By 1978, five years after abortion was legalized, an estimated 1,157,776 abortions were performed in the United States. By 2008, the figure peaked at an estimated 1,210,000 abortions. Raviele believes the number of abortions is underestimated by 15 percent.

She pointed out that reporting is voluntary in most states and three states — California, Maryland and New Hampshire — do not report abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization with ties to Planned Parenthood, provides many of the statistics to the CDC. Standards for reporting complications of abortions — such as future preterm births, mental health issues for the mother, an increased risk of breast cancer and maternal death — are not required.

Raviele said that women can change their minds about abortion. If they use choose medical abortion (abortion pills), the effects can be reversed, provided the woman has not taken the second abortion pill. If she has taken RU-486, but not misoprostol, she can be given progesterone throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. “There is a 53 percent success rate. About 300 babies were saved as of the end of 2016,” Raviele said.

She emphasized the value of marriage and family. Marriage, as a sacrament, is a source of grace for a couple. She also spoke about homosexuality. Every person should be treated with respect for their personal dignity, she said, but Catholic physicians cannot support homosexual “marriage,” transgender surgery or make referrals or perform assisted reproductive technologies.

Medical professionals are encouraged to help with Catholic marriage preparation, learn how to manage female problems and infertility according to church teachings and to support Courage and Encourage programs for families and their loved ones who identify as homosexual.
Raviele said the treatment of fertility in a culture of death emphasizes contraception until couples are “ready” to have children and sterilization once they have the number of children they desire. That same mentality applies to infertile couples, who are encouraged to do anything to get pregnant as long as science allows it. “The response of the Catholic physician is ‘I have something better for you.’”

Natural Family Planning offers a number of choices to monitor and interpret a woman’s natural biological markers for fertility, she said. The information can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Artificial birth control, on the other hand, can result in side effects such as heart attacks or loss of a new life. She also reviewed moral and immoral treatment for fertility issues. Moral treatments include surgery for adhesions, endometriosis, fibroids and repair of fallopian tubes. None of these treatments interfere with the conjugal act, she said.

In conclusion, Raviele quoted from Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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