Selected Pastoral Issues

Should Tube Feedings be Administered to those with Advanced Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Progressive Illnesses?

There was a young woman who asked whether to place her mother who had an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) on a tube feeding. She had stopped eating. She had an advance directive indicating that she did not want to recourse on tube feeding to sustain her life.  The daughter asked, should we recourse […]

What is the Church’s Teaching About End-of-Life Care?

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services reiterates that a person has moral obligations to use means of preserving life that offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail an excessive burden. A person may forgo treatments and procedures that do not offer reasonable hope of benefit, or that entail excessive […]

General Guidelines in Preparing an Advance Directive

Advance directives should meet legal requirements. Advance directives should meet legal requirements, like the signature of witnesses and the patient’s competence. The document must also be kept in a secure location, which is accessible when needed. Members of families and health care surrogates must also be informed of the particulars of the directive so that […]

What is a Healthcare Surrogate and How to Choose One?

A surrogate is a person who is personally or legally designated to make healthcare decisions on behalf of another person who is no longer capable of making healthcare decisions for himself/herself. It is important to appoint a surrogate as there are hosts of medical conditions, treatments or procedures that may arise when a patient becomes […]

What is an Advance Directive?

As the term implies, an advance directive is a set of instructions or guidelines made in advanced by a competent person specifying his/her medical care when he or she becomes physically and mentally incapacitated. It is not legally required to complete an advance directive.  However, if a person has not expressed his/her wishes at end-of-life, […]

What Happens When You Do Not Have an Advance Directive?

When you do not have an advance directive, someone else will decide on your behalf when you are incapable of making healthcare decisions for yourself.  There is no assurance that the decisions made are aligned with your wishes or preferences. If family members are involved, they might have different opinions in handling your care.   A […]

The Church Conforms with Brain-death criterion for Organ Donation

  by Fr. Dennis Gonzales There is a common belief that the heart is the source of vital functions that sustain life. For many centuries, death is declared when the heart stops to beat.  The absence of heart function eventually leads to the cessation of the respiratory, central nervous, and other bodily systems.[1]  In 1968, […]

Advance Directives Prevent Families from Being Torn Apart

Death is a universal phenomenon. It does not only happen to people over ninety years old. Death happens in natural or unnatural means to anybody. Advance care planning is not only for seriously ill or older people but for all competent and capacitated adults. The cases of Karen Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan and Terri Schiavo that […]

What is the Church’s Position on Stem Cell Research?

For a number of years, there has been a bit of euphoria about stem cell research because it brings a promise of treating various diseases, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and others.  Stem cells may also be used to replace worn-out, or damaged cells, including blood cells. The shortage of organs for transplantation has […]

Understanding Grief Helps in Coping with Loss

Besides my own experiences with loss, I also encountered many people who went through the pain of loss in my work and ministry in healthcare. I saw the process of grief described in textbooks in actual situations. Loss is a part of life because life is changing. Life on earth has a beginning and an […]

We Don’t Necessarily Suffer from Pain to Assert Faith; It is Morally Acceptable to Use Pain Medications in Comfort Care

by Fr. Dennis Gonzales  Many end-of-life issues involve the relief of pain and discomfort brought about by different illnesses.  We have been blessed that among the medical breakthroughs of our generation are treatments and interventions used to effectively relieve pain. The relief from pain helps a person go through the effects of illness in a […]

When Is It Morally Acceptable to Forego Tube Feeding?

A parishioner related to me a situation concerning her mother who had an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) and had stopped eating. She had an advance directive indicating that she did not want to recourse on tube feeding to sustain her life.  However, her daughter (the parishioner) was confused and morally distraught because she […]


By Fr. Dennis Gonzales There was a story of a young married woman from California who was diagnosed with a serious type of brain tumor sometime in 2014. She had undergone a series of treatments, but the tumor remained aggressive.  Her health continued to deteriorate.  She experienced an increasing intensity of pain and bouts of […]


by Fr. Dennis Gonzales At the end of the second year of our studies and formation at the seminary, we are sent to different hospitals for our clinical pastoral education (CPE).  CPE is part of the seminary curriculum that offers training to future ministers to provide pastoral and spiritual care to individuals and families who […]


DECLARATION of LIVING WILL I, (Name), (age), and currently residing at (address), make known my healthcare directives in an event that I become unconscious or incapacitated and unable to decide for myself.  I attest that I am of sound mind in initiating this directive. I attest that Catholic faith is an important part of my […]