Catholic Medical Quarterly

The Journal of the Catholic Medical Association (UK)

Building knowledge. Building faith. Protecting the vulnerable.

Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 63(3) August 2013



Report by Steve Brennan FRCP, Secretary of the CMA

CMA Symposium FlyerThe CMA's Annual Symposium was hosted by our Kent branch. "Opening the door of faith" embraced both the difficult questions to which we are asked to provide answers, as well as some really good discussions around living our faith as healthcare workers. The weekend was very well attended and we had really positive feedback about the meeting. The speakers included Neil Addison from the St Thomas More Legal Centre as well as the pre-announced program.

Announcing the Year of Faith in his encyclical “Porta Fidei” in 2011, Pope Benedict reminded us that “Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us”. The Symposium took up this theme, and we started with Dr Mike Delaney, a London GP, who spoke about the key messages of Porta Fidei, which emphasized the link between Faith, Charity and Love as we seek to live in the “Desert” of modern society where “No Belief” is almost a religion. The “Party Culture” has developed into a “Broken Society”, where in some ways the NHS had to “pick up the pieces”, rather than the Churches. As Catholic Health Workers, we are called to “Radiate the Word of Truth”, by our Care and Compassion.

Robert Hardie followed with a masterful exposition on the work of St Francis as it applied to “Prayer in a Medical Life”. As a lay Franciscan, he learned to appreciate how all of Creation is to be venerated; we are all brothers: “Brother Sun & Sister Moon”, the “Divine Artist”. Prayer has the power to heal, more prayer gives more power; layers of prayer pass through petition, surrender, love of others, to being One with Jesus. He noted that one of our Patrons, St Elizabeth of Hungary, was a member of the 3rd Order of St Francis. St Francis was told to “Go and repair my House”. We have to try hard to become “Alter Christus”, “Another Christ”. The Church is always trying to balance the profane with the holy, and we are the Church.

Photo of 2013 CMA SymposiumSister Siobhan O’Keefe spoke movingly of the Care of people living with Dementia, taking us through her “Petals of Prayer”, with its alphabetical lay-out: “Ask and you will receive”, “Be not afraid”, “Christ yesterday, today & forever”. We need to be with our patients as they are now, caring for their basic needs, and keeping them as active as possible, helping them to keep living, using “old” memories to maintain activities, preventing agitation, by relieving symptoms and avoiding boredom. We must treat them Tenderly, and gain their Trust. They often pray a lot, and will remember the Hymns of their youth quite easily.

We were delighted to welcome Neil Addison to our conference. Neil Addison is a barrister who works for Christians in trouble with the Law through the St Thomas More Legal Centre. He had been able to help students, nurses and doctors who had found difficulties following their consciences in matters of abortion, especially discussing the levels of “cooperation” we face. He quoted an interesting South African case where it was recognized that the State should not force people to go against their consciences, if at all possible.

Fr. Tim Finegan gave us some examples of questions asked of him, usually concerning suffering, the devil, confession, sex before marriage, and contraception. He then explored the ways in which we can seek to answer such difficult questions. Are we the “condoning generation”, especially on Abortion? We must answer with simplicity and patience, being truthful and  honest. Don’t “Win an argument and lose a Soul”. Fr Finegan emphasised how the Family is the bedrock of Society.

Conference cakeDr Josephine Treloar spoke of difficult pregnancies and how we can (and have) supported women though those pregnancies. When scanning finds an abnormality, abortion will so often be the outcome, even up to term. But despite that there are still many mothers and families, with great courage, who prefer to keep their child, and we must provide the care and compassion needed. In such circumstances, mothers who are supported to bring their child to birth, even if it dies soon after, report very positively upon that experience. For those whose babies die before birth and are still-born, there are still real benefits reported by mother.

There were also workshops and a beautiful talk on medical aspects of miracles. We saw case histories and X-rays of extraordinary cures that have occurred in Lourdes.

There was much to deepen and strengthen our faith. After our hectic day, we saw a little more clearly how we can bear witness to our Faith in our daily NHS work. Clearly this is not done by “Preaching” the Gospel, but rather by  “Living Our Faith”, as Christ and St. Francis show us.

Along with excellent food, we even had a conference cake hand-made by a young delegate at the conference! After a five course banquet, we closed with night prayers retiring to bed with many extra graces.

We will announce details of our 2014 annual conference as soon as we have them.

Dr Steve Brennan, FRCP

For more reports of meetings, visit the CMA website at