Can the pope save your life? You bet

The Catholic Church matters a lot – especially when it comes to our health care and well-being.

As we continue through Lent and as the cardinals gather together to choose the next pope, I can only be inspired by the historical significance of this event and how this also may be a transformational time for mankind.

As a physician, I feel I am living in a world of chaos and discontent.  The reason I say this is because the world today is in turmoil.  Across the world, there is war, terrorism, and often a complete disregard for the dignity of human life.  There is financial abuse, and many of us seem incapable of talking to one another without using a machine – whether it be through texting, Skyping, or social media.

We are also a world hooked on medications for conditions such as anxiety and depression, and we are abusing drugs more than ever before to escape from our problems. For many people, cyber entertainment seems to be the only way they can create fantasies of achievement and power.  But most of all, we have lost respect for one another, and the only thing many people hope for is the government will tell them what to do, without a sense of responsibility – only the desire to escape their present condition.

And this is why I feel the Catholic Church is needed to help address these issues in our society, especially in the 21st century. When I look back at how the church has contributed positively to my lifetime, I tend to think about Catholic education and how I was trained in one of the best Catholic hospitals during my residency program.

There are 630 Catholic hospitals in the United States, and one in six patients is cared for by one of these facilities.  Not only that, the church manages 36 percent of health care facilities around the world.  When you look at specific health initiatives, the Catholic Church is the biggest private provider of AIDS care on the planet, giving antiretroviral medicines, home care visits and counseling to one in four of the world’s 33.3 million AIDS patients.

So does the Catholic Church matter?  You bet it does.

When it comes to our own problems at home, the Catholic Church has been there to counsel, comfort and provide free mental health advice to people, in a time when mental health services have been eliminated in many hospitals; as well as help individuals to detach themselves from all the chemicals that we as a society are too quick to put in our bodies.

When I read articles on the positive effect of meditation, yoga and Tai Chi, I draw parallels to the benefits people receive from praying or listening to a good sermon.  And that’s what the Catholic Church offers.

The world needs more of the Catholic Church – not less. This is why the election of a new pope is so important.  Yes, transformation is needed, not because the church needs it – but because the world does.