Australian Catholic bishops have approved the establishment of a Catholic Medical Association of Australia – a national body to give support and a voice to Catholic doctors in an increasingly secular culture.
The request for a national body came from doctors wanting to highlight what Catholic teaching brings to healthcare, especially around issues such as euthanasia.
Bishop Robert McGuckin, Chair of the Bishop’s Commission for Canon Law, said the national association will assist Catholic doctors, “so they may more easily confer on issues which touch the whole of Australia”.
“My thanks to the mediocs for taking this initiative,” he said.
Spearheading the push for a Catholic Medical Association of Australia was Victorian Dr Eamonn Mathieson.
Dr Mathieson said the primary functions of the national body will be to provide much needed support to Catholic doctors who often feel “isolated” and to simplify communication with other health care organisations.
“The whole idea is to have a single voice,” he said.
“It will provide doctors a means of community and fraternal support and a means of communicating with other medical bodies within Australia and internationally.”
Dr Mathieson and his state counterparts are in the early stages of formulating the objectives of the new body, which was approved at the bishops plenary meeting late last year.
Currently, several states of Australia have local Catholic doctor’s guilds which represent themselves at international medical conferences. A national body will give a unified voice and allow Australia to be a recognised voting member at the Fédération Internationale des Associations de Médecins Catholiques.
“There are examples of Catholic Medical Associations all around the world,” Dr Mathieson said. “Australia’s a bit unusual in being fairly under-represented in the international environment.”
Dr Catherine Crowley, a senior lecturer at the Notre Dame School of Medicine in Sydney, and a clinical practitioner, said doctors have long wanted a national association.
“It’s been planned for some time now and obviously issues such as euthanasia highlight the value and importance of a national body,” said Dr Crowley, who is a member of the Medical Guild of St Luke in Sydney. She hopes the initiative will greatly benefit Catholic doctors.
“Hopefully they will feel more supported and encouraged in their daily practice and continue to strengthen their understanding of the wisdom and dignity Catholic teaching brings to healthcare.”
Retired West Australian surgeon Dr Michael Shanahan has been advocating for a national federation for Catholic doctors for two decades.
Dr Shanahan said a national body will “promote and support the spiritual lives of its members as Catholic doctors” and “support Catholic doctors to clarify and integrate the Catholic principles in their practice of medicine.”
“Unless they are spiritually active as Catholics then they are not likely to be motivated otherwise.”
For further information contact the Medical Guild of St Luke in Sydney: [email protected] or 0404073266