With the approval of Archbishop Nelson Pérez, 22 permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are trained and certified to offer pastoral counseling and formation in the area of bioethics, focusing on beginning and end of life issues. Since 2017, nearly 3,000 people have been helped.

“The deacons are really on the front lines in the parishes,” said Steven Bozza, Director of the Office of Life and Family for the Archdiocese. “Aging people and young people struggling with infertility need guidance.”

The certified permanent deacons can offer pastoral counseling to individuals and families who are facing medical issues requiring ethical decision making, which can be a challenging landscape.

Their areas of expertise include knowing the difference between extraordinary and ordinary medical care of patients, physician assisted euthanasia, abortion, stem cell research, genetic engineering, organ donation, couples experiencing infertility, poor pre-natal diagnoses, and adolescent decision making capabilities.

Bozza says it’s important for Catholics to understand these medical issues “through the lens of our Catholic faith” and be prepared for situations they are experiencing or may experience in the future.

He indicates that the medical community often promotes extraordinary care and treatments without acknowledging moral ramifications, and Catholics may find themselves in confusing life situations, unsure of the best way for to move forward for themselves and their families.

“People really want to do the right thing, but they don’t always know what the right thing is,” says Bozza.  The bioethics certified deacons can “hold their hands to discover what the right thing is.”

“Our biggest challenge is the emotion,” said Bozza.  “Sometimes it’s difficult to see the forest through the trees.”

Deacon James Browne of Holy Family Parish in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia is the committee chairperson for the bioethics certified permanent deacons in the Archdiocese.

He says that the permanent deacons drawn to this apostolate have “the desire to teach the Catholic Church’s doctrine on bioethics and to provide pastoral counseling” to parishioners experiencing these difficult life issues.

“Many of the people we have assisted have told us the support we provided was life-changing, helping them understand the teachings of the Church and navigate through major family events and crises involving beginning and end of life bioethical issues,” he said.

For more information on this program, or to connect with one of the bioethics certified permanent deacons, contact Deacon Browne.  The bioethics certified deacons are also available for informational sessions and presentations at parishes.

“The more we get Catholic [moral] teaching out there, the better off we all are,” said Bozza.  “Deacons are in the forefront.  They’re ready and willing to serve.”