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Hundreds of Catholic physicians gather for conference in Denver

10/05/2017 | Comments

DENVER. The Catholic Medical Association held its 86th annual conference in Denver Sept. 6-9, bringing together over 750 medical professionals from across the nation.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Medicine at the Service of Marriage and Family,” emphasizing the practitioner’s mission to go beyond treating just the physical body and deal with patients in light of the social teaching of the Church.

The conference also included a special forum on Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the field of NaPro Technology, as well as a clergy track and a nursing track.

As part of the clergy track, Bishop Michael Sheridan led a presentation and discussion focusing on the subject of divorce and remarriage in light of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” which has gained much attention in the media over the past year. He encouraged the document to “be read, understood, and implemented according to the received Magisterium of the Church.”

Bishop Sheridan acknowledged that, while there has been a need for clarification of Chapter 8, many aspects of the document are to be lauded. These included Pope Francis’  focus on marriage preparation, as well as the emphasis on the need for pastors to accompany couples who are living in difficult or irregular situations. Bishop Sheridan dispelled the misconception that divorced individuals are excommunicated and said they should be encouraged in their “right and obligation” to live out their faith. He stressed that the divorced are “invited and welcome.”

The topic of “Assisting Men and Women After an Abortion” was presented by Dr. John O’Keeffe of Colorado Springs, along with clinical psychologist Linda Montagna from Denver and Mary McClusky, Assistant Director for Project Rachel Ministry Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The group spoke about some of the medical and psychological difficulties resulting from an abortion as well as options for healing.

Dr. O’Keeffe addressed how physicians’ conscience rights, while still in place, are being challenged by medical organizations that invoke the rights of the patient over the conscience of the provider. The group acknowledged the reality of women and men experiencing post-traumatic-stress-type symptoms after abortion procedures. They also addressed the problem of “disenfranchised grief,” which occurs because society often does not legitimize the loss suffered by individuals who have had an abortion. 

McClusky presented resources offered by Project Rachel for women and men who have been impacted by abortion. Project Rachel involves one-on-one, group options as well as retreats for an integrated approach to healing. For more information on Project Rachel, visit  or contact Catholic Charities of Central Colorado at

One of the perennial speakers at the conference was pediatrician Dr. Ashley Fernandes, who presented on the topic of “Sexual Abstinence in Adolescents: Toward a Stronger Empirical and Theoretical Grounding.” 

Dr. Fernandes said studies have shown that abstinence education is healthier and more effective than providing contraception for teens. He also debunked several common arguments against abstinence, noting that there is an increased rate of depression, suicide attempts and lower achievement for adolescents who are sexually active. Dr. Fernandes encouraged physicians to not shy away from addressing abstinence directly and to support healthy choices for young people.

(Editor’s Note: Video recordings of many of the talks given during the 2017 conference can be purchased at

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