Diocesan News

Annual pro-life conference tackles broader issue of human dignity

Story by S.L. Hansen

OMAHA (SNR) – The annual pro-life conference will focus on human dignity this year, with the theme, “Made in His Image: Human Dignity in the Secular World.”

Scheduled for Sept. 22-24 in Omaha, the conference is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Omaha Catholic Schools Office, Center for Family Life Formation, and Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, the Catholic Medical Association, Creighton University Health Sciences Continuing Education, the Nebraska Catholic Conference and the Thomas More Society.

“We are joining our efforts with a number of organizations within the Archdiocese of Omaha to put on a more extensive conference that touches not only the life issue, but the broader issue of human dignity,” said Tom Venzor, executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. “This allows us to have a more extensive conference, which will include the opportunity for healthcare professionals to receive continuing education units.”

Conference organizers created the theme and content as a response to “a society which often obscures, both to healthcare professionals and to families seeking care for loved ones, what can and cannot be ethically and morally provided to people across the lifespan.”

While healthcare professionals can receive continuing education credits by attending this bioethics conference, any person who is concerned about human dignity, pro-life issues and ethics can gain valuable insights into some of today’s most controversial issues regarding human dignity.

Once again, the conference will feature both national and local speakers, offering workshops, talks and panel discussions. The speakers include Andrew Bath, Matthew Heffron, Dr. David Hilger, Dr. Peter Martin, Edward Morse, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Mark Rohlena, Greg Schleppenbach, and Vicki Thorn.

Both practicing attorneys, Bath and Heffron are founding members of the Omaha Branch of the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to defending life, family and religious liberty. Dr. Hilger is a diagnostic radiologist practicing in Omaha, and a member of the national board of the Catholic Medical Association.

Dr. Martin, a licensed psychologist who works for Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Lincoln, specializes in faith-integrated treatments of psychological disorders. Morse is a professor of law at Creighton University and another  founding member of the Omaha Branch of the Thomas More Society.

Father Pacholczyk is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, Mass. who also holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yale University. He has spoken about contemporary bioethics throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe and is currently director of education for The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. His monthly column on bioethics runs in the Southern Nebraska Register.

Rohlena is the director of the Office of Domestic Social Development in the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Schleppenbach, former executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, is associate director of the Secretariat of Pro Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. Thorn is the foundress of Project Rachel and the executive director of the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation & Healing located in Milwaukee.

The conference will begin Thursday at 7 p.m. with a reception and plenary talk by Rholena to set the tone.

On Friday, the day will begin with Mass at 8 a.m., followed by educational sessions. Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, will lead a session on transgender ethics. Rholena will talk about using the Catholic teaching on human dignity for evangelization.

Lunch will include a Humanum video presentation. The series of six videos about marriage and the family came out of the Vatican’s 2014 Humanum conference.  The videos were filmed around the world and containing interviews with people like Bishop Robert Barron, Dr. Peter Kreeft, and N.T. Wright.

After lunch, Father Pacholczyk will deliver another bioethics talk about beginning of life issues. Dr. Martin will then speak about “Reverencing Personhood in Psychotherapy practice.” The pair will then join Jonathan Reyes for a panel discussion.

The Nebraska bishops’ reception will allow conference-goers to segue from the day’s educational sessions into the dinner. Thorn will deliver a keynote address titled, “Unmasking the Woman Behind the Choice.”

Saturday will open with a White Mass, a traditional Mass celebrated for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. The morning sessions include Dr. David Hilger’s presentation on “Human Dignity, Virtue and Neuroscience” and Thorn’s “Biology of the Theology of the Body.”

Lunch will include another Humanum video presentation. A panel discussion titled “Coercion and Human Dignity” will feature Bath, Heffron, Morse and Schleppenbach.

All are invited to attend the Nebraska conference. The cost for the conference is $115 per day for physicians, $75 for other healthcare professionals and $30 for laypersons. Clergy and religious pay $22 per day, and students are only $10, which does not include meals.

There is no charge to attend the Thursday evening keynote and reception. Tickets to the Friday evening pro-life banquet are $45 for laypersons; $35 for clergy and religious. A table for 10 may be purchased for $450. Sponsorships are also available.

“The location has changed to Omaha for this year, but will return to Lincoln next year,” said Venzor.

Call (402) 477-7517 for more information.

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