On Call with Dr. Pepe
Preserving Christ’s Healing Ministry
As the CEO of a Catholic hospital, I’m often asked, “What does it mean for a hospital to have a ‘Catholic identity?’” The answer differs depending on who you ask. Some might reference moral teachings like forbidding abortion and euthanasia. Others might highlight social responsibility, the presence of religious pictures and symbolism, or a hospital’s union with its local bishop. Still others may talk about robust pastoral and spiritual care. All of these are important parts of our Catholic identity; but the full meaning of Catholic identity is so much more than any one of these things.
The heart of a health care organization’s Catholic identity is to carry out Christ’s healing ministry. The Gospels tell wonderful stories of Jesus healing all manners of affliction, including death itself. Jesus also addressed social symptoms like isolation and rejection when he cured the sick of their physical ailments. In Jesus’ time, those with a disease like leprosy were cast out of society. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the significance of Jesus’ healing touch — a touch that eradicated physical symptoms and social repercussions. He did this at a great risk, for associating with the sick, lame and mentally ill often led to public exile.
Practicing Christ’s healing ministry means being a part of something larger than ourselves. At CMC, we care for those who live on the margins through such programs as our Pregnancy Care Center, Health Care for the Homeless and the Poisson Dental Clinic.
At CMC, we do not take our Catholic identity lightly. It is the foundation for all our decisions and actions. We carefully follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), perform ERDs audits on a yearly basis and continuously aim to improve. We seek guidance from Catholic literature, our bishop, ethicists and canon lawyers. When we created GraniteOne Health more than five years ago, we relied on guidance from Bishop Peter Libasci, the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) and a canon lawyer. When we decided to combine GraniteOne Health with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, we again consulted with Bishop Libasci, the NCBC and other experts to be sure we in no way strayed from our Catholic moral tradition. I encourage you to read the Bishop’s Message in the March/April issue of Parable and, in particular, follow the link included in the article to view everything we have done to maintain and preserve our Catholic identity for decades to come. I am proud that CMC’s Catholic identity has remained vital throughout our 128-year history. Today, we are ensuring its place for generations!
Dr. Joseph Pepe is the president and CEO of CMC Healthcare System: Catholic Medical Center, New England Heart & Vascular Institute, and several subsidiaries. He and his wife reside in Manchester.