Sunday, October 7, 2012

CMA Conference Debriefing

Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul, MN.
Last week I attended this year's annual CMA conference, held in St. Paul, Minnesota! It was a very good conference. At first, I was captivated by the excellent lectures by speakers such as George Weigel and Rev. Michael Keating. (Recordings available in the CMA online store.)

But soon, I was very surprised to realize that there was very little medical content in the talks. There were a dozen talks about philosophy, history, law, diabolical forces, vocations, the Vatican, politics, new media, the priesthood, personal holiness, and beauty. There were only three or four talks directly related to medicine: Rev. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute lectured on allocating scarce resources; Dr. Lester Ruppersberger shared how he went from prescribing contraception to using NFP only; Dr. Wes Ely discussed end-of-life ethics; and Jere Palazzolo shared his work toward a stateside Casa Sollievo della Sufferenza.

I was also amazed by the number of people attending the conference (six hundred), which was much larger than the 2008 attendance. The medical student number had doubled or tripled.

Is this the same CMA?? I wondered. I liked that many of the talks in 2008 were medically-driven and given by physicians, and I'd been amazed and pleased that ethics was consistently dicussed about every medical question, not just the hot-button issues. (For instance, there was a talk on when plastic surgery is morally appropriate; the surgeon giving the presentation described how the body is an important part of us and can affect our esteem, health, and peace. Any surgery advancing could be defensible. He especially focused on rhinoplasties and breast reduction.) In addition, physicians were very thoughtful of their patients and of the human person. (Another example: there was a talk about sexuality in the older patient, and questions to ask to ensure that he or she was undergoing the aging changes well or needed help in this weighty area.) I spoke to several of this year's attendees who remarked that even last year's conference was more medical.

But after a little thought, I realized that this year's conference was very necessary, and very good. The explicit political-commercial healthcare crisis the Church in the U.S. is facing exposes the need to confront the culture more than ever and dramatizes our call to holiness. This might explain the high attendance and the shift in topics.

Imitation of the Pieta, Cathedral of St. Paul.
Like 2008, this year's conference didn't skimp on the perks: the Rosary was prayed each morning, Holy Mass (with bishops, ten priests, chanted introits, and an organ!!) followed, the Blessed Sacrament was continually available for veneration, confession was offered almost constantly, and the conference culminated in the White Mass held at St. Paul's beautiful Cathedral.

Like 2008, there were many religious there, including the Religious Sisters of Mercy and some Little Sisters of the Poor, both of whom I love.

Unlike in 2008, this conference was made an indulgenced act (there was an indulgence granted to all who attended and who met the qualifications to receive it)! The Church and her Master are so, so good! Imagine: I can gain a plenary indulgence for a soul by spending a day at a professional conference, receiving Our Lord, praying for his Vicar, and being free from sin. Talk about making ordinary acts holy....

I'd like to spend a few posts reflecting on the talks I think were the most content-rich, necessary, and effective. Until then: this has been your shameless plug for the CMA.

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