The Grand Opening of the Fu Jen Catholic University Hospital, Taipei, 29.09.17

The Grand Opening Of The Fu Jen Catholic University Hospital


                                                                                               Taipei, 29 September 2017


The Vice chancellor / President of the Fu Yen University,

Your Excellencies, My Lord Archbishop and Bishops

Distinguished Guest and Participants,


I bring you the warm greetings of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development; and on its behalf, I bring you prayerful wishes for a very happy and successful celebration, and for God’s abundant blessings on this hospital project for the medical needs of the people of this land.


My Dear Friends, this very noble profession, whose Hippocrates Oath did once assure humanity of total commitment to respecting and preserving life, has not been spared the winds of radical individualism and self-empowerment in which individuals are not constrained by beliefs from outside of themselves. Medical progress unfettered by moral or religious conviction sees every individual problem as an opportunity to be fixed or eliminated. Every child with Down Syndrome should be aborted to eliminate lifelong "difficulties". In many OB practices, it is routine for a women who find themselves pregnant with twins to be offered "selective reduction" since having a single child provides much less stress than twins. Teenagers who suffer from gender confusion and pain because they feel they're trapped in a body of the wrong gender are offered the "fix" of a gender change operation with the implication that this will "solve" their internal suffering. And now, in many states in the US, for example, physician assisted suicide is being proposed as a standard component of medical care.

A recent article even suggested that we have to work hard to overcome "barriers to access" so that all patients can be offered physician assisted suicide if it is lawful in their state. How tragic that hospice care which focuses on relieving suffering with tender loving care at the end of life is supplanted by the "quick-fix". And we all know how financially attractive physician assisted suicide is, particularly to healthcare systems and insurers, that spend huge amounts at the end of life. If life does not have inherent, transcendent value…… Then why shouldn't physician assisted suicide be actively encouraged (or at least offered) among the elderly with dementia, the disabled who are bed bound, the severely depressed who attempt suicide multiple times, and the drug addicted who continually refuse treatment and come in to the ER with multiple overdoses?


In the face of these challenges to the healthcare ministry, there is the need to maintain focus and to be guided by normative principles:


      For Focus,

Our Catholic ethos does offer hope in the midst of this dark picture, because our roots are very deep. Go back to the Middle Ages. Become familiar with the order of Saint John of God, or the Chamelian fathers who stayed behind during the midst of plague epidemics to care for those who were dying… And so many of them died themselves and gave the ultimate sacrifice. So many of us love Saint Damien the leper because of his generosity of heart. It's no accident that the finest pediatric hospital in Haiti is named after Saint Damien. Mother Teresa is an icon of "love in action" for people of every faith and her hospice and care homes are found throughout India and in so many of the poorest cities in the world. This is our heritage and it directly flows from the call of each one of us to be a follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who must be at the center of our mission if we call ourselves Catholic.


      Normative principles & priorities:

Our contemporary complex health care system has a range of economic, technological, social and moral challenges. Speaking about the difficulties of the ministry, two renowned ethicists Edmund Pellegrino and David Thomasma observed that almost every principle of the traditional ethical standard is being questioned.[1] Some interpret the relationship of a physician to a patient as a legal contract instead of moral covenant, others prefer to think of it as a commodity transaction or an exercise in applied biology.  Doctors and patients increasingly resolve moral disputes in court. Patient autonomy replaces beneficence as the dominant principle in medical ethics. The profession is divided on several issues: specific moral issues of abortion, reproductive technologies, artificial means of fertility control – contraceptives, genetic manipulation, voluntary euthanasia and the nature of the physician-patient relationship. To this should be added at this point a fourth factor, which is the transformation of hospitals and nursing homes into companies that have to be ‘managed’. One would literally say “the house is on fire!”

What are the priorities of the Catholic health care ministry, amidst this challenging environment? For Example, the United States Conference of Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services list certain normative principles that underscore the priorities of the Church’s healing ministry and help us remain focused in our mission. The Directives underscore the duty to defend sacredness of human life and dignity, care for the poor and marginalized, contribute to the common good, exercise responsible stewardship of resources, advocate for conscience rights and offer care that addresses the holistic needs of the person.[2] I will briefly discuss the first two.


  Responsibility to Defend the Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

To begin with, the directives affirm that “Catholic health care ministry is rooted in a commitment to promote and defend human dignity; this is the foundation of its concern to respect the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception until death.” Catholic health care providers and workers are referred to by the New Charter for Health Care Workers as “guardians and servants of human life. ”[3]  Their activity is basically a service to life and health, which are primary goods of the human person. Being true to this mission may prove to be an uphill struggle in today's cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension.

There is a growing and in some cases an affirmed anti-life mentality, which is also supported by anti-life legislation. The later tends to oblige Catholic health care providers to become manipulators of life or even agents of death, which certainly touches the core mission of Catholic health care workers, as custodians and servants of life. The anti-life mentality and legislation touches on all stages of human life, from its initial stages to its natural end.[4] There are serious problems facing Catholic health care in a culture that does not share Catholic values regarding the dignity of human life. The words of the Apostle to Timothy come on handy at this moment: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead,… preach the wordbe urgent in season and out of season; convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching… For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, … As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

St. John Paul II, the indefatigable defender of life affirms that “the Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as "good news" to the people of every age and culture.”[5]

Similarly, Pope Francis makes a strong appeal to Catholic health care workers, and urges you to “be witnesses and diffusers of the “culture of life”.  He says that ‘your being Catholic entails a greater responsibility: first of all to yourselves, through a commitment consistent with your Christian vocation; and then to contemporary culture, by contributing to recognizing the transcendent dimension of human life, the imprint of God's creative work, from the first moment of its conception. This is a task of the new evangelization that often requires going against the tide and paying for it personally. The Lord is also counting on you to spread the “gospel of life.”’[6]


  Taking Care of the Poor and Marginalized

Holy scripture shows that God exhorts His people to actively care for the poor while admonishing any mistreatment of or indifference toward the poor and marginalized and a lack of concern for justice (Prov. 31:8-9; Ex. 22:21-23; Deut. 15:7-11; Is. 10:1-3; Lk. 10:29; Acts 6:1-6; Jas 1:27). Fidelity to this biblical mandate to care for the poor, must be expressed in concrete action at all levels of Catholic health care, through advocacy and care for those whose social condition puts them at margins of society and are thus vulnerable to discrimination (the poor, the uninsured and the underinsured; children and the unborn; single parents; the elderly; those with incurable diseases and chemical dependencies; racial minorities; immigrants and refugees, those with mental or physical disabilities).[7] Every person has a right to adequate health care. This right flows from the sanctity of human life and the dignity that belongs to all human persons who are made in the image of God. Access to the necessary and suitable health care must be provided for all people, regardless of their economic, social, or legal status. In this regard Pope Francis reiterates that ”health, indeed, is not a consumer good, but a universal right which means that access to healthcare services cannot be a privilege.”[8] This means also adopting a rights approach to health care, advocacy for the vulnerable groups and exploring the implications of the principal that health care is a basic social good, subject to the demands of distributive and social justice.

Universal health coverage has for several decades now been and is still a top priority for the United Nations Agencies especially the World Health Organization. Much has been done by State and non-State actors, towards the achievement of this goal; nevertheless, we are still far from the desired goal, since for many poor communities, families and individuals, access to the much needed health care services remains an unachieved objective up to the present day. With respect to the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, working towards this goal is a moral obligation. Moreover, access to affordable quality care represents a challenge not only for the low-income countries; it has also become an increasingly urgent issue for higher-income countries as well.

The Catholic Church, through her many healthcare institutions around the world contributes to the enhancement of universal access, especially in the poor communities situated in the hard to reach areas of numerous countries.

Speaking about taking care of the poor and marginalized, the Ethical Directives, specify that “in accord with its mission, Catholic health care should distinguish itself in service to and advocacy for those whose social condition puts them at the margins of our society.”[9] It is true that ever since her beginnings, the Church has always borne witness to special care for sick and suffering people. Over the centuries Catholic health care has through its members and institutions endeavored to respond to this mission. And today, we gather to celebrate the Catholic Church in Taiwan's response to this mission in Fu Jen Catholic University Hospital.

May God bless this institution this place of healing great success!


                                                          Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson



[1] Cf. Edmund D. Pellegrino and David C. Thomasma, Helping and Healing: Religious Commitment in Health Care, Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C. 1997.

[2] These normative principles are a vital concern of the Magisterium, see USCCB, Joint Letter To Congress Regarding Health Care Policy, March 8, 2017.

[3] Pontificio Consiglio per gli Operatori Sanitari (Per la Pastorale della Salute), Nuova Carta degli Operatori Sanitari, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 2016, n. 1.

[4] Pontificio Consiglio per gli Operatori Sanitari (Per la Pastorale della Salute), Nuova Carta degli Operatori Sanitari: on Human life inviolable and “indisposable” nn.47-50; Abortion and the destruction of nascent life nn. 51-54; Embryo reduction, interception and contragestation nn.55-56; Gene therapy n. 80; Destroying life and Euthanasia nn.165-171.

[5] John Paul II, Encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, n. 1.

[6] Francis, Address to Participants in the Meeting Organized by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, 20 September 2013, n. 3.

[7] USCCB, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Directive 3, p.11.

[8] Francis, Address to Doctors with Africa- CUAMM, May 7, 2016.

[9] USCCB, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Directive 3, p.11

21 giugno 2018