Pastoral Care Lesson 3: Scroll 2

Faith Practices Differ In Each Religious Group

For example, within the Christian tradition it is common for Roman Catholic Priests and Eucharistic ministers to offer bedside communion when a patient requests this service at the time of admissions. Their visit consists of a brief prayer and the receiving of communion. The emphasis of the visit is to connect the patient with the Church through receiving the “Body of Christ.” The differences between faith/pastoral care practices have much to do with their core Christian theological beliefs. Roman Catholics believe that the Universal Christian Church (religious authority) has been passed down through the ages to each succession of the Pope in Rome.

Theologically, a Roman Catholic believing person, well or ill, regularly receives Christ through the Priests, administered by Deacons, and Eucharistic ministers representing the “Body of Christ.” This person receives Christ’s presence in pastoral care through the Church. Thus rituals and symbols of the church are vital to the practice of pastoral care. Keeping the rituals the same, such as praying the “Rosary,” is important because Roman Catholics can then connect to an unchanging community of faith. Being in communion with the community of faith, the Universal Christian Church is believed to have healing power for them, especially those Catholics who are admitted to the hospital.

Protestant Christians on the other hand, would rather receive pastoral care by their pastor or the hospital chaplain of their faith. Pastoral care consists of a pastoral conversation, prayers/scripture reading with emphasis on a “pastoral” visit. Their reliance on the Universal Christian Church is emphasized less. However, there are nuances to this. In general, “Liturgical” Protestants do emphasize church liturgy through common symbols and rituals of church tradition, but each local congregation is free to practice in different ways. Free Church traditions such as Baptists are free to be autonomous from one local church to another. Their autonomy is based on being free to interpret their faith in Jesus Christ, personally and uniquely, even if a person’s interpretation is different then the denomination’s interpretation or local church’s statement of faith.

In other words, Free Church Traditions emphasize a “personal faith in Christ” whereby Liturgical Traditions emphasize a “communal faith in Christ” similar to the Roman Catholics but not as overtly.

Given the different perspectives (above) within the same Christian religious group, it is clear why it is important to recognize faith/pastoral care practices within several different religious groups. Each religious group will also have slightly different theological and practical differences, but due to the limitations of this lesson there will only be a general understanding of each.

The next section discusses the “unethical matter of proselytizing.” Each healthcare worker maintains a faith/belief or non-faith/belief system. It is their constitutional right. It is also the right of patients in the hospital to maintain their faith/non-faith belief. Take a brief break before continuing.