From our friend at The Jesuit Post, a thoughtful essay from a young Jesuit who works in public health:
A few years ago I was in Paris in a meeting room that might as well have been an art gallery – certainly no place for a boy from rural Missouri. I was there because I’d been asked to serve as the English-speaking secretary for a global meeting of the National Bioethics Councils – a nice perk of my work with the World Health Organization’s Ethics team. The president of a bioethics council in a developing nation and I were speaking before the meeting when he brought up my life as a Jesuit. He said, “Many more people in my country would be dead if not for the Catholic Church and its commitment to quality care for everyone… and I mean everyone, regardless of who they are or where they’ve come from. The Church cares for those no one else will. I just want to say thank you.”
Three months before that conversation in Paris I had presented my thesis in an utterly unremarkable conference room only made distinctive by the incredible cadre of faculty and students of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who sat before me. Some in the room knew that I had been working on a new way of setting population-level health goals that focused more on achieving equity. Everyone in the room knew I was a Jesuit. As far as I know they were, without exception, supportive of my vocation. But they did not give me a free pass that afternoon. One of the first questions I received, from one of the kindest faculty members in the school, was this: “Do you think the fact that you are a visible representative for a Church that many believe treats women unequally in any way impacts your ability to speak on the importance of equity in health?”
Both of these stories describe part of who I am. The fact of the matter is that I imperfectly straddle two worlds that rarely speak the same language, but are often engaged in the same work. Both care deeply about the poor. Both see health as an intrinsic and instrumental good. Both emphasize personal and public responsibility. Yet for their all these similarities it is not rare for a situation to arise in which these worlds seem to be talking past one another. No, that analogy doesn’t quite do justice to the tension I feel – it sometimes feels to me that the Church and the world of public health are standing face-to-face screaming at one another. And at moments like this, when tensions are really high, they act like scorned lovers who pretend that they really don’t need each other anyway. And I can do little but watch.
So why do it, you ask? Aside from my love of drama, I consider it a 21st Century version of Jesuit missionary work.
Let me dive into this thicket with a warning: I am not interested in providing a position. If you’re looking to score points in a debate then you probably should look elsewhere. But if you want to engage other people in conversation on a topic as neuralgic as they come these days, then I hope what I offer will be helpful.
Read the rest here.