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Human dignity is primary topic of bishops’ pro-life conference

A talk exploring human dignity and virtue through the lens of neuroscience and psychology is one of several presentations planned for a Sept. 22-24 conference in Omaha.

Titled "Made in His Image: Human Dignity in a Secular World," the event expands on the annual bishops’ pro-life conference and banquet sponsored by the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) and the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, traditionally held in Lincoln but scheduled for Omaha for the second time in 38 years.

The talk on "Human Dignity, Virtue and Neuroscience" will be presented Sept. 24 by Dr. David Hilger, secretary of the Catholic Medical Association’s (CMA) Omaha guild, which is helping sponsor the conference.

Modern science is finding that virtues and positive emotions are good for the brain, as well as for mental and physical health, said Hilger, also a regional director on CMA’s board and one of at least eight local and national speakers and panelists taking part in the conference.

"Human dignity is key to and is the center stone of Catholic teaching on ethics, medical ethics and Catholic social teaching," said Hilger, a radiologist with Methodist Hospital and a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, both in Omaha.

Joining the NCC and CMA as conference co-sponsors are the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Office, Center for Family Life Formation and Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, as well as Creighton University Health Sciences Continuing Education and the Thomas More Society.

The conference, at Creighton University’s Harper Center, is an opportunity for clergy, medical professionals, attorneys, educators, catechists, college students and other concerned Catholics and pro-life supporters to discuss and develop responses to ethical challenges facing Catholics.

Speakers will explore not only the challenges of secular culture, Hilger said, but also how to understand the Catholic faith and use it to address those challenges.

Nationally-known speakers include Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development; Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center and frequent Catholic Voice columnist; and Vicki Thorn, founder and director of Project Rachel.

In addition to Dr. Hilger, local speakers and panelists include Dr. Peter Martin, a licensed psychologist; and attorneys Andrew Bath, Matt Heffron and Ed Morse, members of the Thomas More Society.

Other conference highlights include Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln opening the Sept. 23 program with a morning Mass, and the Sept. 24 sessions beginning with Archbishop George J. Lucas celebrating the traditional White Mass for healthcare professionals.

Healthcare professionals attending the Sept. 23 and 24 portions of the conference will be eligible for a combined 10.25 continuing education credits.

Want to Go?

WHAT: "Made in His Image: Human Dignity in the Secular World"

WHEN: Sept. 22-24

WHERE: Creighton University’s Harper Center, 24th and California streets, Omaha

COST: Details and registration online at

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