Health Calls

The Center for Theology and Ethics in Catholic Health

Episode Summary

As Catholic health providers navigate an increasingly complex world, the value of clinical ethics cannot be understated. But the world of ethics is complicated itself: How do we give equal time to both clinical care and consultation as well as academic research, peer review and church relationships?

Episode Notes

As Catholic health providers navigate an increasingly complex world, the value of clinical ethics cannot be understated. But the world of ethics is complicated itself: How do we give equal time to both clinical care and consultation as well as academic research, peer review and church relationships?

Sr. Mary Haddad, RSM, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, and Dan Daly, the founding Executive Director of the brand new Center for Theology and Ethics in Catholic Health, join Health Calls to discuss the new center being launched in Summer 2024. Sr. Mary explains the work that went into The Center’s development, Dan gives his background in ethics and Catholic health care, and both share their vision for how The Center could operate as a go-to resource for Catholic health providers in the near future.


Read Catholic Health World’s story on Dan Daly’s appointment as The Center’s founding Executive Director

Read Boston College’s release on Dan Daly’s appointment


Episode Transcription

Brian Reardon (00:00):

Sister Mary, great to have you on the show. It's been a while.

Sr. Mary Haddad (00:03):

Wonderful to be back again, Brian. Thank you.

Brian Reardon (00:05):

Yeah, so we are in the time of year, we are gearing up for assembly. Are you ready for assembly? You've got a big role this year.

Sr. Mary Haddad (00:12):

I can't wait for assembly. It's always such a great opportunity to be with our members and have so much focus time and interaction and just a wonderful, wonderful program you and your team have put together this year. So thank you.

Brian Reardon (00:25):

We're excited about all the programming and I know in your opening remarks on Sunday, you're going to introduce our guest for this podcast and we're going to introduce him in just a moment. So are you ready to get started?

Sr. Mary Haddad (00:37):

I sure am.

Brian Reardon (00:43):

This is Health Calls, the podcast of the Catholic Health Association of the United States. I'm your host Brian Reardon. And with me you just heard her voice is Sister Mary Haddad. She is president and CEO of CHA. Again, great to have you with us. And in just a moment, we're going to bring in Dan Daly. He is the new executive director for The Center for Theology and Ethics in Catholic Health. And that is the topic of this episode. We're going to preview the new center. So Sister Mary, let me start with you on the question of the center is something that we've been talking about for a while. I think back in December we did an article in CHW outlining the center. We're now going to formally introduce it like we mentioned at assembly. So maybe to start off with, can you give us a little background on its development and why the center has been created?

Sr. Mary Haddad (01:27):

Sure. Thank you Brian. I've been here since 2009, so it's hard to believe 15 years. And during that time, and I would say even prior to that, CHA has always recognized the need for sound theological research on critical issues that are impacting Catholic health care. And our two ethicists at CHA are so focused on responding to the practical needs of members. They don't always have the time to delve into the deep theological thought that's needed. So we have historically hired university scholars during their sabbatical time to come and do research for us. But over the past few years, were recognizing in this rapidly changing environment, the interplay of science and theology and law. It's resulted in increasing moral complexity. So there's a need for sound theological inquiry. It's necessary to help guide us during these times and strengthen our ability to serve those who are poor and marginalized.


I was thinking about Father Brian Hare. Father Brian is well known by those of us in Catholic health care. And believe it or not, it was during his 95 CHA assembly address. And I'm going to quote him. He said, if we do not have a religiously grounded, theologically articulated understanding of who we are and what we are, we will lose our way in this complex context. At the same time, if we specify our identity but we cannot meet the standards of a rational, secular, pluralistic world, then our identity will not be effective. Quite a visionary. He is. Anyway, I just love that quote from Brian because I think it really calls us to what we need to be about.

Brian Reardon (03:19):

Yeah, think about that. You said that 30 years ago and how pertinent that is today.

Sr. Mary Haddad (03:23):

Yeah, amazing.

Brian Reardon (03:24):

Well, before we bring Dan in, can you give us a little bit of insight into what made him a good choice to be the Center's founding executive director?

Sr. Mary Haddad (03:32):

Sure. Well, let me start by saying that Dan is no stranger to CHA in Catholic health care. I actually had the opportunity of meeting Dan several years ago when he served, I think it was like a six year term on CHA's theology and ethics committee. So when the concept for the center really started to take shape, Dan was top of mind for me. In addition to his many gifts. I think Dan brings a tremendous breadth of experience to the role. He's able to bridge the gap between the practical experience of ethics within the clinical setting and the theological study of moral theology and academia. Now that being said, I was most attracted to Dan's passionate commitment to Catholic social teaching and the value it brings to those we serve.

Brian Reardon (04:18):

And I've had some time, I know as you have more time than I have to spend time with Dan to really learn about his vision. So I'm excited now to welcome Dan into the conversation again, Dan Daly, the new executive director for the Center for Theology and Ethics and Catholic Health. Welcome, Dan.

Dan Daly (04:34):

Thanks Brian and Sister Mary. Thanks for having me.

Brian Reardon (04:37):

So tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dan Daly (04:39):

Well, so I received my PhD from Boston College in Theological Ethics in 2008, and I've been on a university professor now for 18 years. I just finished my 18th year. And so five of those at Boston College's School of Theology and Ministry, the newly named Clough School of Theology and Ministry. And before that I was at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. I was the chair of the theology department. But all during this time I've been on ethics committees at secular hospitals, at Catholic hospitals, and the Sister Mary noted on tech. So I'm very familiar with CHA and the people at CHA. And in all this time I've done a lot of ethics consults. I've written ethics policies for hospitals, and then I've published in this area too. I've done a lot in clinical ethics and end of life ethics, organizational health care ethics, which is a growing field, but then also just as an ethicist and theologian in topics like virtue ethics, which is really the ethics of character, the kind of person that one is, are you merciful? Are you just loving? And then I published a book on social structures and virtue ethics entitled The Structures of Virtue and Vice. So I've got some varied experiences, but certainly have had a lot of experience in the Catholic health care setting. And so I'm really excited to bring those two experience basis, the research and the teaching part to really bear on the health care piece. So it's really exciting.

Brian Reardon (06:15):

And Dan, I always like to understand people's professional journey. So was there a moment as a young person that made you want to be an ethicist and theologian?

Dan Daly (06:24):

It's a really good question, Brian. I think it really goes back to my upbringing. I mean, we had dinner table conversations about any issue that was in the news of the day. And so I really credit my parents for really inviting us as kids to think about these issues. And I think a lot of us, I just probably had a dispositional. We were practicing Catholics and brought to mass and really began to reflect as a kid on the gospel and what it meant for my life and how I wanted to live my life. And so began to really consider those questions and take them seriously as a young person. And then when I went to college, I actually went to St. Ssom College before I taught, encountered theology for the first time. And it was like this kind of world opened up and I was in. And then in terms of medicine and medical ethics, I've always had an interest in that and had the good fortune to take a course in medical ethics and really fell in love with the field and then began to get into the more clinical side and saw how exciting it is to bring your theological and ethical background to bear on real life questions that can benefit human beings. And so who doesn't want to do that with their training and background?

Brian Reardon (07:47):

And when did you and Sister Mary first meet?

Dan Daly (07:48):

Oh my gosh. Is it 10 years ago, Sister Mary?

Sr. Mary Haddad (07:51):

Yeah, easily, easily. I just remember it was at the tech committee. It was the first time I had the opportunity to meet you.

Dan Daly (07:58):

And I'll never forget, I mean just meeting you for the first time. And I just thought, this woman has so much energy and is just so inviting. And I could have told people that you'd be the president, CEO of CHA at that point. Really just a memorable encounter with you back then.

Sr. Mary Haddad (08:17):

Well, mutually. So this is going to be the mutual admiration society. So Dan was unique in so many ways, but I think what so attracted me is his ability to, the interplay between, I'm going back to this again, the scholarly theological study that's so necessary and the practical application that we have in the day-to-Day delivery of care in hospitals. You were able to bridge that so beautifully and that stood out for me.

Brian Reardon (08:48):

Yeah. And Dan, when you were approached by CHA to be the center's founding executive director, tell us a little bit about what kind of opportunity did you see before you? So the

Dan Daly (08:57):

Opportunity I see really is to contribute to Catholic health in a profound manner. I've been fortunate enough to be given this education and to be able to develop skill sets. And as I just alluded to earlier, I think we all, when we've been given these gifts, we want to be able to share them for the good of others to contribute to the common good. And so the opportunity here for me, as I see it in the center, is to be able to contribute to the ministry, the good work that our Catholic Health Ministry does every day, and to contribute in my small way to that. And so that's really the opportunity that I see. I think there are a lot of needs in the field and hopefully through my leadership and through bringing in the right people, we will be able to address those needs.

Brian Reardon (09:47):

And Sister Mary, you talked about this earlier, that we have ethicist Nate and Brian Kane that day to day. They're working with our members, they're working with folks like me when we hit media inquiries. But really, Dan, you've got the opportunity to step back and really give some deep thought to that. I think I'm guessing that would be very appealing with your background.

Dan Daly (10:06):

Yeah, exactly, Brian. And it's just as Sister Mary said, I have enormous respect for the good work that Brian and Nate do. And in fact, we've already begun to collaborate in significant ways, and I see them as real thought partners in the work of the center. But yeah, we do need time. We do need space for these really difficult issues. If you're doing the good work that Nate and Brian are doing on a daily basis, they don't have the capacity to really step back and what the center will do will have the resources and the capacity to bring together the right people to really take some time and look at an issue like care for transgender patients or this burgeoning technology, ai, generative AI in health care. And so that's the exciting piece is that I still get to do a lot of what I love to do, but to really respond to the needs of the ministry in a unique way.

Brian Reardon (11:02):

And you're going to be bringing in other staff, I think that's part of your work this summer, correct?

Dan Daly (11:06):

It is. Sister Mary and I have been talking about this and others in the leadership team at CHA, and I think we're going to hopefully find a really excellent person to help out. And so it will not be a one man band. I know my limitations. There are many, but I think we're going to need to hire someone who can really help us to hit the ground running as the center gets up and going.

Brian Reardon (11:31):

And let me ask you both, and I'll start with you, Sister Mary. The vision behind this, and we had some really great conversations earlier this spring as we were working on developing, if you will, and I hate to use the word brand, but really giving the identity to the center because we know it's going to be distinct from CHA, but also part of CHA. So Sister Mary, your vision for the center would be.

Sr. Mary Haddad (11:53):

So let me preface that and say from the very beginning, in the conversations that I've had with our board, our CEOs, other ethicists within Catholic health care recognize the fact that it was important that we did this work. But it was important that it had its own distinct identity from CHA for a variety of different reasons. And so that was the impetus of saying, how do we organize it, that it's just not another department of CHA. In fact, many people thought and assumed it was going to be part of the mission and sponsorship department here at CHA under Diarmuid, but in fact it's not. It's a separate entity that actually reports directly to me. And so we wanted to be clear on that and to have a vision of saying that we want to be in service not only to our members, but to the broader church.


We recognize the fact that the critical issues, as Dan mentioned transgender, we could put a laundry list out there, artificial intelligence, other things that keep evolving. It's critical that we do this work collectively. And I want to say, Brian, it goes back to our new vision for Catholic health care that we will empower bold change to elevate human flourishing. It's the we in there. How do we do this collectively that we in ourselves of CHA and of Catholic Health Ministry, we don't have all that's necessary in order to do this important work. We have to be able to expand those partnerships and engagements in order for us to elevate the work that we're doing. So I think that's an important part of the vision is the we

Brian Reardon (13:43):

And Dan, your vision, your thoughts?

Dan Daly (13:45):

Yeah. Well, I mean, Sister Mary I think has just hit the nail on the head. I mean, we is so important in the partnerships. I mean, if I step back and look at the 30,000 foot level, what is the vision? The vision is the center really is going to aim at excellence in providing guidance for how Catholic health care promotes the healing ministry of Jesus Christ by promoting human flourishing. I mean, that's the overall purpose of the center, the goal of the center. It does. So I think by drawing on the church's teaching and the best expression of Catholic theological ethics, but also as Sister Mary alluded to in relationship with, in partnership with other disciplines, with other experts. So you can't do this work in a vacuum. If you're going to talk ai, you better know something about the, if you're going to talk about the ethics of ai, I should say, you better know something about ai.


And so we're going to have to bring in people who know what AI can do in order to figure out what it should and should not do. So finding those is going to be really important. And the most important partnerships really are with our partners in the health care ministry as well as the US Catholic Bishops. One of the things that we've been talking about, Sister Mary from the very beginning is responsiveness. That the center is going to be responsive to the needs of the health care ministry. And that means getting to know people. I mean, Sister Mary knows everyone in the field. I know some people. But one of the big jobs at the beginning for me is going to be getting to know the people who know what needs to be done, who know where the needs are in the theological and ethical aspects of the delivery of health care.

Sr. Mary Haddad (15:36):

And Brian, I would also add to what Dan just said, the importance of creating strong relationships with the USCCB, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. We've already been in dialogue. Dan and I have been in DC met with staff, and they're very open and actually excited about this center and the service that we'll be able to offer. So as Dan said, in the next several months, he's going to be having more opportunities to meet people within the church, within the USCCB and also bishops that oversee diocese where our systems are located.

Dan Daly (16:18):

And Brian, if I could just piggyback upon that comment, thank you for bringing in and emphasizing the bishops there. I mean, one of the things again that we've discussed is that the center is going to provide what we've been terming faithful guidance on the issues that face Catholic health. And so the center will be faithful to the church's teaching and then we'll provide ethical guidance in line with that teaching. So the church's teaching, as we know, is pretty well developed in certain areas like end of life ethics, but it doesn't address all the issues. It couldn't possibly address all the issues because the issues emerge over time as we see such as, and I go back to what I've said earlier in the conversation, ai, we don't have all of the ethical guidance that we need on ai. And so we have the partners in the ministry and bishops curious wondering, where should we go with this? And so again, what we're going to do is draw on the church's teaching and the best expression of Catholic ethics to provide that guidance. But that's always going to be in conversation with our partners in the ministry and with the US Catholic bishops and respecting their teaching authority within the church.

Brian Reardon (17:37):

And Dan, if we've talked about faithful guidance, one of the things that struck me is the hopefulness that we think of sort of dire situations that keep arising. But what I've heard you bring to your vision and to, if you look ahead, what is the center going to look like in 10 years? I think there's a lot of hope there that it is bringing sort of a positive outlook in how ethics can really shape and improve the way we deliver care. And Catholic health care.

Dan Daly (18:04):

Brian, it's a great point. And I think really we're never going to get past the neuralgic issues like abortion and physician-assisted suicide. Those will always be with us. And the church is teaching actually. And those issues is pretty well-developed and clear. But the vast majority of ethical issues that systems face, that hospitals face, long-term care facilities, whatever the health facility is, they don't have to do with those really difficult issues. They have to do with what does good, better, and best care look like for our patients? So these are questions, as you said, there are hopeful questions. It's really how can we provide morally excellent care so that we can provide merciful care, loving care care in which we're in solidarity with the poor. We're in solidarity with the vulnerable with migrants, with women who are pregnant in difficult situations. We're going to be looking at those kind of issues as well. And if you look at how Catholic ethics has developed since the second Vatican Council, there's been this real turn toward virtue. And so I'm excited to look at questions where hospitals and systems can ask, how do we become a more virtuous, whether it's a hospital or a system or even down to the practitioners. And so I think that's the positive focus, the hopeful side as you

Brian Reardon (19:29):

Put it. Sister Mary, final comments?

Sr. Mary Haddad (19:31):

Well, I want to say that I have great belief that this center is going to be a valuable resource not only to our members, but also to the church at large, nationally and internationally. And oftentimes when we talk about the church, we talk about, it's like something out there apart from us, but we are the church. And so I think this center is really going to be the bridge builder that will help strengthen Catholic health care and elevate its significance. I have high hopes.

Brian Reardon (20:11):

Well, thank you both. Sister Mary Haddad, president and CEO of CHA, and Dan Daly, welcome our new executive director for the Center for Theology and Ethics and Catholic Health. It's been great talking with both of you. And this has been another episode of Health Calls, the podcast of the Catholic Health Association of the United States. I'm your host, Brian Rudin. Our producer is Josh Matejka. Our engineer is Brian Hartmann with Clayton Studios. You can listen to health calls on all of your favorite podcast platforms, and you can go to the a website at the podcast tab, and that website is chha If you like this episode, please give us a rating. We always appreciate that and thanks for listening.