St. Bernard offers a Graduate Certificate in Catholic Bioethics

A sign for St. Bernards School of Theology and Ministry is seen in 2011. (Courier file photo)

“Why is the church against the use of birth control?”

“Is it ethical to receive a COVID-19 vaccine made from fetal cell lines from abortion?”

“What Should Catholics Consider When Writing Living Wills?”

These are just some of the questions that will be covered in courses in a Catholic Bioethics new graduate certification program through Pittsford St. Bernard School of Theology and Ministry and the National Catholic Center for Bioethics in Philadelphia at the start of this academic year.

“The Graduate Certificate in Catholic Bioethics will provide systematic training and certification in bioethics so that dioceses, hospitals, and the ethics committee will have counselors better qualified to apply the Catholic moral tradition to challenging contemporary issues in health care,” explained Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of formation at the center for bioethics.

The center teaches Catholic directors about medical ethics

The National Catholic Center for Bioethics was founded in 1972 as a non-profit research and teaching institute specializing in supporting and teaching Catholic managers on medical ethics. Since 2005, NCBC has offered a year-long certification program in health care ethics, with more than 1,200 students graduating from the program.

The center is not an accredited institution of higher learning, but has offered educational opportunities in conjunction with the University of Mary and the Holy Apostles College and Seminary.

“The quality of the education we offer has been recognized by various institutions with which we have partnered, so that graduate credits can be earned from our partner institutions by students who complete our program,” said explained Father Pacholczyk in an e-mail to Catholic Mail.

NCBC’s partnership with St. Bernard’s came about after Father Pacholczyk visited the school in July 2021 to discuss the Catholic perspective on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. While NCBC certification programs with the University of Mary and Holy Apostles College put students on the path to a master’s degree, St. Bernard’s partnership is the center’s first and only graduate certification program.

“Our partnership with St. Bernard’s…allows only students who may not be ready to commit to a full master’s program to nevertheless pursue advanced studies in bioethics and receive credits that can be applied to a later stage of their studies towards a master’s degree”, writes Father Pacholczyk.

Course work focused on beginning and end of life issues

To receive a graduate certificate in Catholic bioethics through St. Bernard’s, students will need to complete the one-year certification program with NCBC and then complete two bioethics courses at St. Bernard’s, Jean Baric said. Parker, director of the graduate certificate program. in Catholic bioethics at Saint-Bernard.

The NCBC program consists of online work and directed study modules, which are completed on a weekly basis. Students are also required to attend two in-person events during their studies with NCBC.

Upon completion of the NCBC program, students pursuing a graduate certificate through St. Bernard’s must complete two three-credit courses in bioethics. The “Catholic Bioethics at the Beginning of Life” course will be offered at Saint-Bernard Hospital starting in the fall of 2022, focusing on issues such as abortion, in vitro fertilization and surrogate pregnancy.

The second course, “Catholic Bioethics at the End of Life,” will begin in the spring semester of 2023 and will address a range of controversial issues ranging from euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide to hospice and palliative care and organ donation. . Bioethical issues such as gender dysphoria, gene editing and COVID vaccines will also be covered in the courses, Parker said.

Graduate Certification Program open to all

Parker, who will teach both courses at St. Bernard’s, said the program is open to anyone interested in learning more about Catholic bioethics. In his previous bioethics courses, Parker had students who were seminarians, priests, lawyers and judges as well as people working in catechesis and life issues in dioceses or parishes. She even asked a couple to take her course because they wanted to learn how to write a living will.

“(The program is) very convenient,” Parker said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about abortion or if we’re talking about stem cell research, people seem very interested and engaged in the subject.”


To learn more about the Graduate Certificate Program in Catholic Bioethics with NCBC and St. Bernard’s, visit

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