Fredrich Nietzsche wrote in the 19th century that "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man." For Nietzsche, hope was God's carrot over the hot coals of life.
It looks like God got the last word with the man who declared God dead in 1882. Not only did God allow Nietzsche's death in 1900, but through an oftentimes dark century and beyond, the Lord has illuminated the cultural chasm of the world with several holy popes, scores of saints, many martyrs, and the ordinary Christians who witness to hope in anywhere from the field to the classroom to the cloister to a patient's bedside.
It is from the latter scene that two contemporary heroes emerge, Dr. Michael Kloess and Dr. Anne Johnson. They wouldn't call themselves heroes and are probably a little embarrassed that I should write it. However, they are heroes because they are living the Gospel message, not only in their personal lives, but in a way that flows into their professional lives as family physicians.
By the grace of God and with the help of benefactors, Dr. Kloess and Dr. Johnson will open in January 2009 the Our Lady of Hope Clinic in Madison. The clinic will adhere absolutely to the health care directives of the Church and the Gospel of Life of our Lord Jesus Christ, a rare find in an age of ethical shortcuts and workarounds.
Living out a pro-life ethic
Although the clinic will seem like a typical family practice clinic -- they will serve anyone from newborn patients to the elderly -- they will be living out the Gospel of Life by emphasizing natural methods of family planning and not prescribing contraceptives, helping couples with fertility issues with Natural Procreative TechnologyTM, by referring mothers in crisis pregnancies to supportive organizations, and encouraging their suffering and elderly patients with a pro-life ethic.
Further, their corporal works of mercy will extend to the poor and uninsured. While half of the patient load will be dedicated to benefactor patients, the other half will be dedicated to the uninsured.
This is especially important in Madison, because the city's two free clinics are either not taking new patients or have very limited intake. The Our Lady of Hope Clinic will be an icon of charity showing how a small community can take responsibility for helping the uninsured.
It seems like a rather ordinary thing for Catholic doctors to be . . . well, Catholic, but medical education these days is stacked against faithful Christians, and is even more difficult for Christians who've not been formed well, as is all too often the case. Many medical schools require medical students to learn illicit procedures such as tubal ligation, vasectomy, and abortion.
Moreover, in a culture that accepts contraception as a medical and social cure-all, it is incredibly difficult for students and young residents to reject contraceptive principles and practices, let alone to be trained in modern methods of natural family planning. Even medical professionals in Catholic hospitals fall into the errors of modern medicine by referring for abortions, performing sterilizations, and referring for in vitro fertilization, as has been reported widely and corrected in England and Texas this past year.
Help change institutions
How can we reclaim the gift of human dignity in our health care, and especially in Catholic institutions? One path is to help change the current institutions: to demand life friendly services like natural family planning-trained physicians, to stand up for our personal beliefs and preferences in the exam room, and to communicate to the leadership of health care institutions (especially Catholic ones) what their patients need and what the faith demands.
Another way to renew the culture of life in health care is to support those like Dr. Kloess and Dr. Johnson, who, led by the Spirit, are called to strike out on their own, creating an environment where the gift of life is nurtured, and helping the less fortunate to receive health care they otherwise haven't had access to.
All things are possible with God (Mk 10:27), so the purification of the Catholic health system is possible, but we also pray for great fruit to come from the raising up of new efforts like the Our Lady of Hope Clinic.
Times are dark, but the Lord sends great lights through his faithful servants, including Pope Benedict with his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) and his Pilgrimage of Hope to the United States. It is also seen in concrete acts of courage in people like Dr. Kloess and Dr. Johnson. We are grateful to their families for the love they give and the sacrifices they make by encouraging their loved ones to be faithful to Christ's call. They shall not lose their reward (cf. Mt 10:42).
For more information on how to become a patient and/or benefactor of Our Lady of Hope Clinic, visit http://www.ourladyofhopeclinic.com/ or contact drmike@ourlady ofhopeclinic.com
For additional information on natural methods of family planning, go to www.madisondiocese.org/nfp or contact Jessica at 608-821-3134.
Jessica Smith is the natural family planning coordinator for the Diocese of Madison.