Roman Schweitzers

Hello everyone. I was curious as to what others felt about the phenomenon of ordained or consecrated medical missionaries. It has a certain, even mystical allure about it, but is it really practical(I know that that is a poor word) for one to be both a religious priest and a physician (and often living in the Third World)? It is curious how Albert Schweitzer (a Lutheran minister) served as a missionary while also being a married man (though, incidentally, his wife became a nurse to help him in his work). I would be grateful for thoughts upon this.

I don't see any conflict with it. We have always had nurse/nuns working in third world countries - for several centuries. As well as priest missionaries. It seems to me that a priest with medical training is only logical. :o

Can you share more about why you think there would be any issue with it? Maybe I'm not getting where you are coming from. :)

In my investigation of missionary orders, a great deal of the value you can offer non-Christian communities is through medical aid… one of the priests the Maryknoll order seemed proud of was a Fr. who worked in Bangladesh, and offered general first-aid/taking pictures of the wounds and lesions, then biking over to a larger city and receiving a prognosis from a doctor. Although it might be more practical to make your secular study trauma-care/EMT/nurse skills, than to take many years becoming a doctor.

I guess that I am coming from the issue of medicine and the priesthood being two very distinct professions. I would think that there would be alot of confusion if such a man decided to join the armed forces as a chaplain or doctor(he probably would not considered to be both). Also, less importantly, how would an ordained physician dress upon a regular basis- a white coat over a clerical shirt?

Interesting. However, it would really not take that long to obtain an M.Div…, 3-4 yrs.) and fulfill the minimal requirements for practicing medicine(4 yrs. of medical school, a 1-year internship, and an examination). Medical school, but I would think that if you already have your degrees, it should be nor too difficult to be accepted (especially if the school is Catholic). Only if you were a Jesuit(or another really “demanding” order in terms of training) could time be a problem.

Priests, and non-ordained religious, are typically barred from the military (see canons 289 and 672) unless acting as chaplains; in most countries military doctors and nurses can be ordered to carry and use sidearms, which would not be fitting for an ordained or consecrated individual. In theory a dispensation could be granted, but I doubt this has happened often if at all.

Scandalous though it may seem, and even though it could be said to be in contravention of canon 284, :eek: many priests - especially religious - don’t bother to wear a clerical shirt, particularly in some parts of the world (local custom is significant in this respect, as canon 284 says); even more so when they aren’t carrying out sacramental duties.

Equally shocking, many doctors don’t wear white coats any more. What is the world coming to? :shrug:

Thank you for your insights. It is certainly sad how custom is not observed like it used to be.

If customs never changed, we would still be holding mass in the catacombs under Rome, and clerical shirts would never have been adopted, because togas were the fashion.:slight_smile:

Joking aside, the church has always recognised that culture has a bearing on discipline and liturgy, and so has permitted or even encouraged local autonomy. Canon law gives broad permission for the development of custom, and acknowledges that new customs are always developing. It can be tempting for all of us to reify or freeze things at a certain point with which we are happy, but the church is bigger than that.

Clerical shirts as we know them are a relatively recent innnovation. They came into fashion, and maybe they will go out of fashion. Or maybe they will come back. We shouldn’t suppose these things possess greater antiquity or significance than they actually do have, in my humble opinion, but I’m sure others would see it differently, and that’s evidence of the diversity - within certain limits - that the church generally acknowledges as beneficial.

All right. I also like your subtle humor.

Yes it is shocking, my Oncologist does not wear a white coat :eek: but his Physicians Assistant and Nurse Practitioner both do :eek::eek:.

As someone who has worked in a medical field, I think the confusion is that people assume the white coats (more properly “lab coats”) are a sign of position - they aren’t. They are actually there to protect your clothing in some circumstances; or, they are there to pick up bacteria, then when you remove the coat outside the lab/examination area, you don’t carry bacteria with you.

When a doc doesn’t wear a white coat, it is because he doesn’t feel the need to - he doesn’t think things are going to get messy. :smiley: Many clinics though require lesser staff to wear some uniform (scrubs, lab coats, whatever) to be identifiable to clients, and also to encourage everyone to always keep sanitation in mind.

I think some docs and vets wear their lab coats all the time, just to feel like a doc. Which is fine - they earned it! :slight_smile:

Back to Young Thinker's excellent question - I wonder if there could be established programs where theological training took place in conjunction with medical training. These could be in partnership with Catholic hospitals, for example. Nuns have been trained that way, after all, to function as nurses.

As far as the dress code - I am certain that sanitation would dictate that standard. For example, a priest's frock could pick up all kinds of stuff - it would have to be covered when the priest/doc was working with disease.

Would they license you, though, after the minimal req’s are met?

I don’t mean to make any assumptions about your current position–obviously you are familiar with this, if you are actively entertaining these ideas–but med school isn’t a walk in the park. My friend recently was accepted into an M.S. feeder program for Boston University’s med program, with a >3.7 gpa, and a major in neuro (Biological Foundations of Behavior, technically) and a minor in chem from a school known for supplying graduates to professional schools. He barely got in, and he applied all over.

Its certainly not a walk in the park, it consumes all of your energy, you need to take courses which will have no bearing WHATSOEVER on your foreseeable future (the old, Physics keeps idiots out of med school joke), and by the time that you are 30+ and haven’t practiced medicine and you’ve barely celebrated mass, this might become more problematic than you understand now. Catholic med schools also might be a little less Catholic than you are banking on.

It’s cutthroat, but not only that: it tyrannically precludes your study of anything that isn’t medicine or science-based. Expect your sharpness at theology/philosophy/etc. to rapidly atrophy.

I am not certain if your reference to the military means that you are also thinking of serving (maybe it was a metaphor), but it would actually be much simpler to get your medical degree that way. Many people my family has known, have graduated med school on the military’s budget.

Just keep this in mind. I know what it feels like to want to do everything, but the risk is that you will emerge with a functional understanding of nothing.

Thank you. Yes, as far I know, one would receive a medical license after having served an internship and passed the examination. I do not believe that I will be a medical missionary; I will more likely serve as a military chaplain. I mainly know as I do about the medical profession because I was intending to become a doctor until rather recently and thought about joining Doctors Without Borders in the future, but then I realized that I should instead become a priest(with a believed calling by God). Naturally, I still love the subject of medicine, though. Yet, I have never majored in biology or chemistry; they are not a pre-requisite to medical school(contrary to popular belief, as I have experienced in the past) anyway. As for having the military pay one’s medical school tuition, one will certainly under the control of Uncle Sam for years. It was never my intention to do that.

Um, I was kind of joking about the white coats. :o (I’m pretty sure Brother David was as well!). For what its worth, I was a nurse for 20 years and I’ve seen (and worn!) many a white coat in my time. My point was that clothing changes over time in most walks of life, including the priesthood.

Then again - perhaps you knew that and were joking too. :eek:

If your goal is to be a military chaplain then I would suggest that make this very plain in any discussion you have with vocation directors.

I can think of only two who have done so from my province. I would think you might have a better chance of doing this if you join a diocese rather than a religious institute especially one that stresses community life.

For myself, I think entering religious life with an open mind as to assignments is a good thing as, again for myself, the vow of obedience is very important and going where they need me is my first goal rather than going where I want.

YT, if you’re still thinking about religious life rather than secular priesthood, this would significantly limit the number of institutes to which you could apply.

Most institutes require their members to live in community with their confreres, which military chaplains obviously do not do. And that’s assuming that your superiors would entertain the idea of a military chaplaincy in the first place, of course.

I appreciate your advice, Brother. However, even if I will end up doing so(and being allowed to), I still see the importance of religious life, even if one does not live in a priory or similar house.

Thank you. I read that the Assumptionists are relatively open, though I, of course, do not know how “far they would go.”

Religious life to me is all about community if one does not live in community then can they really say that they are living such a life?

I do not think so.

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