Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 74(1) February 2024


The Permanency of the Moral Tradition

Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Dr Pravin ThevathasanThe 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia stated that marriage is a life-long union of one man and one woman. It goes on to say that those in objectively adulterous unions may be offered Holy Communion in certain situations without a need for repentance. This is seen as a pastoral act of mercy. One of the key words appears to be "discernment." Pope Francis has also said that sexual activity in same-sex relationships is "objectively sinful." However, "pastoral charity" may in certain situations enable those in same-sex relationships to be blessed while presumably continuing with same-sex activity. It is apparently up to individual priests to decide.

What we have here are statements that uphold traditional Catholic teachings followed by statements on pastoral solutions that appear to contradict the traditional teaching. A thesis, the traditional teaching, is proposed followed by an antithesis, the pastoral solution,  leading to a grand synthesis. Those who reject the synthesis are deemed to be rigid and unmerciful.

It is hardly surprising that Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp has applied the same methodology when discussing euthanasia. He begins by noting that euthanasia is generally unacceptable. However, he proceeds to put forward a pastoral solution that would make euthanasia acceptable in certain circumstances. There is, he claims, nothing intrinsically evil about the act of euthanasia. What is needed, he argues, is "discernment...all questions deserve answers adapted to a situation, the culture, the circum- stances, the context."

Bishop Bonny is in serious error. However, unlike what now passes as magisterial teaching, his statement is commendably unambiguous. The same grand synthesis, both Hegelian and Modernist, may also be used to justify abortion and other intrinsically evil acts. It reveals that the current magisterium has begun a process that inevitably leads to the destruction of the Catholic moral tradition.

Does this mean that the Catholic Church has failed? By no means. It reminds us that not all magisterial utterances are protected by the gift of infallibility.


  • "Pope suggests Catholic Church could bless same-sex couples." (4/10/23, BBC News)
  • "Belgian bishop dissents from Catholic teaching with support for euthanasia." (Lifesitenews, 29/9/23)

My Body, My Choice, My Vaccine

After the conservative Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas was forced out of office by Pope Francis, the renowned liberal Catholic Austen Ivereigh tweeted that "A priest of Tyler told me that in his mostly migrant parish many families suffered deaths as a result of obeying their bishop" and refusing to have the Covid vaccine. (14 November, 2023)

There are many points to reflect on here. It is true that Catholics were divided on this issue. It would seem wrong to have a vaccine that was made by growing the virus in foetal cells first obtained from an unborn child terminated some decades ago. I myself was won over by Catholic bioethicists I trust: we are dealing here with remote material cooperation.

However, I respect those who chose not to have the vaccine. I know a lot of Catholic families who chose this option. Some of them fell seriously ill with Covid. None that I know died. My vulnera- ble patients had the vaccine. Some of them fell seriously ill with Covid. Some of them died. The priest cited by Mr Ivereigh is not a clinician. He really should have done a lot more research in what went on in Tyler, Texas before bad-mouthing the bishop. I also know of people who had such severe side-effects from having the vaccine that they opted out.

We are dealing here with complex medical issues that may be considered situation-specific. There are no easy answers. This is in contrast to issues like abortion, euthanasia and intrinsically disordered sexual acts that are not situation-specific. But Mr Ivereigh reminds us that there are a lot of situations when we are under no obligation to obey our bishops. Pope Francis strongly urged people to have the vaccine. Bishop Strickland equally strongly urged people not to have it. Neither of them said that their recommendation was endowed with the gift of infallibility. We are under no obligation to follow a recommendation.

Mr Ivereigh also reminds us that Pope Francis knows how to deal with those who disagree with him in an authoritarian manner. He reminds one of a Modernist Pius X. If only his immediate predecessors had done the same.

Should I call him they/them?

How should we deal with patients who identify as non-binary. It seems to me that simply stating that patient X identifies as non-binary is not capitulating to gender ideology. The patients I see are often vulnerable and it seems wrong to challenge them in clinical situations. They belong in a world that is becoming increasingly confused about these matters.

In contrast, the Catholic Church has an incredibly rich anthropology. The Church teaches about "Him" and "Her" and it all goes back to the Book of Genesis: God made them male and female.

It was surprising to note that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has seemingly succumbed to gender ideology. It appears to accept the word "transgender" when responding to a dubia regard- ing "transgender" baptisms.

The Church should lovingly challenge the rise of transgender ideology.  The Church should also point out that gender ideology is the natural consequence of the sexual revolution that it has so prophetically challenged, especially since 1968.