Converging Roads Medical Conference to discuss the intersection of morality, medicine and health care ethics

Medical professionals from the Archdiocese of Denver and from across the state are invited to join a regional conference offering continuing education for healthcare professionals which equips them to practice the highest ethical and medical standards of their professions.  

For the first time, the St. John Paul II Foundation, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Denver, Centura Health, and SCL Health, are bringing the Converging Roads Medical Ethics Conference to Denver. The Converging Roads Conference will take place on Saturday April 10, 2021 from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Risen Christ Catholic Parish. To ensure everyone’s safety and to follow all standard safety protocols, participants will have the option of joining the conference in-person or virtually.  

“So many health care professionals are passionate about their work and care deeply about serving their patients, but many feel besieged by the many evolving cultural and scientific developments,” said Arland K. Nichols, President of the St. John Paul II Foundation. “And all this happens in a rapidly changing environment with respect to medical reporting, laws, and remuneration. They want to serve families and patients well, but they are now confronted with a host of new expectations that they often haven’t had time to think through yet. That’s where we come in, and why we named the conference series Converging Roads, the point where health care ethics and medical advances meet and move forward.” 

With the theme “Ethical Challenges in Health Care: A Practical Approach,” this year’s conference aims to provide continuous education deeply rooted in the Hippocratic and Catholic ethical tradition with various presentations from Catholic leaders and medical experts.  

“We help professionals to understand the issues, and we give them tools to think through the multiplying ethical challenges in a careful and systematic way, “Nichols added. “Families are relying on them to not only know their core practices, but to be able to advise them on the best and most morally sound way forward.”  

This year’s keynote speakers include Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, who will be presenting on the “Rights of Conscience and Religious Liberty in the Midst of Consumer Driven Medicine”; Sarah E. Hetue Hill, PhD, who will be talking about “Proportionate and Disproportionate Care: When Medical Decision-Making is Shared Responsibility”; Paul Hruz, MD, PhD on “Gender Dysphoria in Children and Adults: Science and Ethics,” among others. There will also be a presentation focused on “The Duty to Care When Facing Personal Risk” which will dive into some of the everyday realities that our health care professionals are facing with the ongoing pandemic.   

“Those who actively participate in the conference will leave with a clearer view of the principles that we, as Christians, bring to the art and practice of medicine and how these principles can be applied in their everyday work of healing and counseling,” Nichols said. 

Participants will have the opportunity to earn up to SEVEN credit hours of continuing education for both online and in-person attendees. The conference will conclude with a vigil Mass celebrated by Archbishop Aquila, followed by a reception for those attending in person.  

“I would like to invite and encourage any health care professional who is looking for an enriching and educationally stimulating event, to join us on April 10,” Nichols concluded. “I have no doubt that our expert faculty will provide new and practical ways for you to integrate your faith into your practice of medicine, so that you may be strengthened in this amazing, yet sometimes daunting, task of caring for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.” 

For more information and registration, visit convergingroads.com or email amelia@forlifeandfamily.org.  

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”