HEC Forum

, 23:147 | Cite as

The Core Competencies: A Roman Catholic Critique



This article critically examines, from the perspective of a Roman Catholic Healthcare ethicist, the second edition of the Core Competencies for Healthcare Ethics Consultation report recently published by the American Society for Humanities and Bioethics. The question is posed: can the competencies identified in the report serve as the core competencies for Roman Catholic ethical consultants and consultation services? I answer in the negative. This incongruence stems from divergent concepts of what it means to do ethics consultation, a divergence that is rooted in each perspective's very different visions of autonomy. Furthermore, because of the constitutive elements of Catholic ethics consultation, such as the Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services, the tradition needed to apply those directives, and the Catholic facility’s membership in the institutional Church, the competencies needed for its practice differ in kind from those identified by the report. While there are many practical points of convergence, the competencies identified by the report should not be adopted uncritically by Catholic healthcare institutions as core competencies for ethical consultation services.


Core competencies Clinical ethical consultation Credentialing Roman Catholicism 



I would like to thank my professors, especially Jeffery P. Bishop, MD, PhD, Michael Panicola, PhD, and Dan Bustillos, PhD, for their helpful discussion on earlier drafts of this paper as well as the peer reviewers and editor of HEC Forum for their insightful criticism and directions.


  1. Aquinas, St. T. (1920). Summa Theologica (Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Second and Revised Edition, 1920). http://www.op.org/summa/a4/summa.pdf. Accessed August 26, 2011.
  2. ASBH. (2011). Core competencies for healthcare ethics consultation. Glenview, IL.Google Scholar
  3. Ashley, O. P., Benedict, M., DeBlois Jean, C. S. J., O’Rourke, O. P., & Kevin, D. (2006). Health care ethics: A Catholic theological analysis. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, R. (2005). A draft model aggregated code of ethics for bioethicists. American Journal of Bioethics, 5(5), 33–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (2009). Principles of biomedical ethics (6th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bishop, J. P., Fanning, J. B., & Bliton, M. J. (2009). Of goals and goods and floundering about: a dissensus report on clinical ethics consultation. HEC Forum, 21(3), 275–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church. (2006). http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM. Accessed: August 20, 2011.
  8. Catholic Health Association (2011). Catholic health care in the United States. Catholic Health Association.Google Scholar
  9. Catholic News Agency. (2011). Texas bishop apologizes for Catholic hospitals’ unethical sterilizations. Catholic News Agency 2008. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/texas_bishop_apologizes_for_catholic_hospitals_unethical_sterilizations/. Accessed August 25, 2011.
  10. Craine, P. B. (2020) Bishop vasa severs Church’s ties with hospital over sterilizations 2010. http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/archive/ldn/2010/feb/10021605. Accessed August 25, 2011.
  11. Dubler, N. N., Webber, M. P., & Swiderski, D. M. (2009). Charting the future: credentialing, privileging, quality, and evaluation in clinical ethics consultation. Hastings Center Report, 39(6), 23–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Engelhardt, Jr., H. T. (2009). Credentialing strategically ambiguous and heterogeneous social skills: the emperor without clothes. HEC Forum, 21(3), 293–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Evans, J. H. (2000). A sociological account of the growth of principlism. The Hastings Center Report, 30(5), 31–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fox, E., Myers, S., & Pearlman, R. (2007). Ethics consultation in United States hospitals: a national survey. The American Journal of Bioethics, 7(2), 13–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hamel, R. (2002). Part six of the directives. Preserving integrity in partnerships directives requires an objective moral analysis of cooperative arrangements. Health progress (Saint Louis, Mo.)83(6).Google Scholar
  16. John Paul II, P. (1993). Veritatis splendor. http://www.catholic-pages.com/documents/veritatis_splendor.pdf. Accessed August 25, 2011.
  17. Kipnis, K. (2009). The certified clinical ethics consultant. HEC Forum, 21(3), 249–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mangan, J. T. (1949). An historical analysis of the principle of double effect. Theological Studies, 10(1), 41–61.Google Scholar
  19. Mann, B. (2011). Phoenix bishop strips hospital of Catholic status over abortion, other ethics violations. Catholic News Agency 2011. Available from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/phoenix-bishop-strips-hospital-of-catholic-status-over-abortion-other-ethics-violations/. Accessed: August 25, 2011.
  20. May, W. E. (2008). Catholic bioethics and the gift of human life (2nd ed.). Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor.Google Scholar
  21. Mills, A. E., & Rorty, M. V. (2010). The pre-conditions for “building capacity” in an ethics program. HEC Forum, 22(4), 287–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Moreno, J. D. (1995). Deciding together: bioethics and moral consensus. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Repenshek, M. (2010). Attempting to establish standards in ethics consultation for catholic health care: moving beyond a beta group. Health Care Ethics USA, 18, 5–14.Google Scholar
  24. Swiderski, D. M., Ettinger, K. M., Webber, M., & Dubler, N. N. (2010). The clinical ethics credentialing project: preliminary notes from a pilot project to establish quality measures for ethics consultation. HEC Forum HEC Forum, 22(1), 65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. USCCB. (2009). Ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care services (5th edn). Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  26. Veterans Health Administration. (2011). Integrated ethics program. http://www.ethics.va.gov/IntegratedEthics/. Accessed August 25, 2011.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care EthicsSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Ascension HealthSt. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations