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Father 'Dusty' Burns Earns Master's Degree In Bioethics

Father Claude

Father Claude “Dusty” Burns, pastor of Evansville’s Corpus Christi Parish and St. Philip Parish in Posey County, has earned a Master’s Degree in Bioethics from the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. Father Burns traveled to Bismarck for the April 29 Commencement Ceremony, where he joined 17 classmates who also received graduate bioethics degrees in the first-ever graduate-level bioethics class at the school.

“Bioethics is multidisciplinary,” Father Burns said recently, “and our class displayed that. We had working professionals from a variety of areas. I was one of two priests. There were lawyers. One of my classmates was a disaster-relief nurse who served in Africa during the Ebola crisis.”

Father Burns said an assignment and subsequent request from Bishop Charles C. Thompson led to his decision to pursue the advanced degree. “Bishop Thompson appointed me as his delegate to the Ethics Committee of St. Vincent Evansville, and he asked me to complete a bioethics-certification program offered by the National Catholic Bioethics Center. It was during that one-year program that I learned about the Master’s Degree through the University of Mary, and I decided to enroll in that program.”

The NCBC certification program took a year to complete, and he was able to transfer much of his work to the University of Mary program and apply it to the Master’s Degree, which meant he needed only one additional year in that program.

“I made four trips to the campus while working on the Master’s,” Father Burns explained. “Those trips involved making presentations and taking tests.”

He said that tremendous advances in technology mean that bioethics issues present themselves more quickly than ever before. “There are so many things we can do now in science and health care,” he said. “Bioethics gives us an opportunity to review them and ask, ‘should we be doing this?’

“The Church proclaims the value and dignity of all human life from conception to natural death,” he added. “In bioethics, we look at things that impact – or could impact – human life and ask, ‘What is ethical? What elements of these amazing advances can we use while being faithful to our respect for the dignity of all human life?’”