Making straight the pathway

February 12, 2013

HOUSTON — An educational conference, “Make Straight the Pathway: An Integrated and Unified Solution for Catholic Healthcare Reform,” will be held in Houston next month to shed light on legislation and the challenges of adhering to the Catholic faith when it comes to medical practice and treatment.

The regional conference is March 7 to 9 at the University of St. Thomas, 3800 Montrose, and is dedicated to preparing the way for Christ-centered healthcare in the United States.

Based on the scripture from Isaiah 40:3, “In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a pathway for our God!” organizers hope to create a path for Catholics to follow when it comes to understanding convoluted legislation and the importance of maintaining religious freedom in the healthcare of all.

The Christus Medicus Foundation and The John Paul II Life Center have partnered to host the conference in Houston, with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo’s approval. It is co-sponsored by The Justice Foundation, One More Soul, Catholic Medical Association, Galveston-Houston Chapter of the Knights of Columbus and WallBuilders.

“We want to prepare a pathway for people to understand healthcare and how we can deliver this following Catholic teaching,” said Tim Von Dohlen, president of The John Paul II Life Center in Austin and one of its founders.

“For Catholics who are looking for a way to get involved in something truly important and follow the request of Pope Benedict in the Year of Faith, this conference is where people can learn and be challenged to become a leader in their parish in something that is critical to their entire life and their family,” Von Dohlen added.

Early registration is March 1, but people can register for the conference up to the first day of events. Conference highlights include daily Mass, panel discussions, confession, networking and workshops.

An array of speakers will represent a multitude of specialties. There are doctors, lawyers, historical experts, ethicists, economists and leaders in the Catholic Church.

Among the speakers are Von Dohlen with The John Paul II Life Center, David Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jeff Mateer, general counsel at the Liberty Institute, Mike O’Dea, executive director of the Christus Medicus Foundation, Dr. John Bertini, board chairman of St. Joseph Hospital and Dr. Kathryn Karges, ob/gyn at Caritas Complete Women’s Care.

The lunch speaker on Friday, March 8, will be John Goodman, economist for the Independent Institute and author of “Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis.”

During a special event Friday evening — for the cost of an additional ticket — expected guests U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska will discuss the topic, “Obamacare — What do Catholics and other people of faith do to restore their religious freedom in health plans and health caring?”

Discussion of Obamacare and the HHS mandate are important because of recent changes in legislation that impact everyone.

“This is extremely important because the HHS mandate, adopted last year by the Health and Human Services Department, basically takes away the individual right of Catholics to practice their faith and forces them to take certain actions against their beliefs,” Von Dohlen said. “As a result, there have been a number of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the HHS Bill.”

Von Dohlen stressed that one conference speaker, Mike O’Dea, is the originator of the concept on which Make Straight the Pathway conferences are based.
Houston’s upcoming event is the third, with the first being held in Michigan in 2011 and a second in California in 2012. However, Houston’s event is the first since the HHS mandate has gone into effect.

One objective of the conference is to equip attendees with information and strategies in order to educate community, public policy, healthcare, business and religious leaders on the need for state and federal public policy that actively protects and promotes religious freedom in healthcare and allows all Americans to select qualified health plans that do not violate their religious liberty.

Von Dohlen said The John Paul II Life Center is a nonprofit organization set up to follow the ethical and religious directives in Catholic healthcare. The Austin-based center operates The Vitae Clinic, which provides women with state-of-the-art holistic healthcare that adheres to the ERDs of the Catholic Church.

“This is the type of bold initiative which we need to consider as we face restrictions on our liberties,” said Cathy McConn, Archdiocesan Coordinator of the Gabriel Project, which assists pregnant mothers in crisis throughout the Archdiocese and with 58 churches participating.

Register online at or call 713-598-1675.