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Catholic doctors struggle to practice Church teaching despite pressures


October 20 2009

Catholic doctors say a recent workshop for them provided welcome encouragement as they try their best to follow Church teachings in the face of societal pressures.


Doctor Sebastian Halder checks the pulse
of a patient at a free medical camp in Gazipur

Doctor Sebastian Halder, who attended the 7th Annual Gathering of Catholic Doctors on Oct. 16, applauded the Church for organizing the event.

Coming together, he said, "helps strengthen our fraternity and commitment to the service."

The participants came from around the country to attend the workshop organized by the Episcopal Commission for Health Care.

One of them, Doctor Noel Charles Gomes, told UCA News his Catholic values sometimes clash with social expectations.

"The Church tells us to stand against contraception and unethical birth control methods," he noted. "Many of my colleagues do these for the money, but I never do so because of my Catholic faith."

Like others who attended, he said such a gathering boosts the doctors´ morale and gives them "added courage to act on their Christian values."

Doctor Edward Pollob Rozario, a Church activist for HIV/AIDS awareness, pointed out that Catholic doctors also face other challenges in Bangladesh.

"It´s difficult for Christians to enter this profession," he said, adding that Catholic doctors sometimes face discrimination for refusing to perform abortions.

Auxiliary Bishop Theotonius Gomes of Dhaka, chairman of the bishops´ health commission, encouraged the doctors in their opposition to abortion. "Human life is holy. No one has the right to take away lives," he said.

The Holy Cross bishop also told them that although birth control is being promoted in the country, "you need to stand strong in practicing Christian values in your service to patients."

According to Catholic Church teaching, artificial contraception "is intrinsically immoral," he reminded them.

Halder told UCA News that that the episcopal commission had inspired the doctors to set up the Association of Bangladesh Catholic Doctors (ABCD) last year. The association organizes services for poor patients whatever their caste or religion.

During its most recent outreach, held in Gazipur, near Dhaka, on Aug. 15, members provided free medical services for 33 poor patients.

It plans to organize a free medical camp next month in the northeastern area of Sylhet.

The Church health commission counts about 75 Catholic doctors in Bangladesh. Less than one-third attended the workshop.