DeSales grad encourages an enthusiastic, explorative approach to faith - Catholic Courier

DeSales grad encourages an enthusiastic, explorative approach to faith

Geneva native Daniel Kane is a happily married father, a medical nuclear physicist and a fellow with the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person in Westchester County, N.Y.

Kane, a 1979 graduate of DeSales High School in Geneva, will add one more item to his list of accomplishments on May 29, when he will be inducted into his alma mater’s hall of fame.

"I’m glad to be included," said Kane, who was notified in early April of his upcoming induction.

People often ask Kane what he does, both in his professional work as a physicist and in his work with the Westchester Institute. When speaking about his career, Kane, who belongs to St. Patrick Parish in Seneca Falls, said he usually describes himself as a medical consultant, a term that’s more easily understood than medical nuclear physicist. He’s a partner in a medical consulting firm, through which he offers his services to doctors and clinics that use radioactive materials to diagnose and treat various diseases, he said.

Approximately three years ago Kane became an institute fellow with the Westchester Institute, a research institute that defines its mission as conducting interdisciplinary analysis of complex contemporary moral issues that have not yet been resolved by Judeo-Christian scholars. Directed by Legionaries of Christ Father Thomas Berg, the institute says in its mission statement that it is "anchored in the classic perennial and Catholic view of the human person." Among the issues the institute has tackled recently are conscience rights for health professionals, the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV in Africa and the question of when life begins.

As one of two institute fellows at the Westchester Institute, Kane said he strives to promote church teachings in matters of bioethics by writing commentary pieces for newspapers, offering lectures, and helping with the institute’s operations and strategies. The institute also has seven senior fellows, highly educated scholars and professionals who work together to advance the institute’s mission, often by writing scholarly reports to educate people about specific issues.

Kane said the institute published one such report in October 2008, Kane said. Written by a senior fellow, the white paper "When Does Human Life Begin? A Scientific Perspective" has been well-received by the public, according to Kane, and downloaded thousands of times from the institute’s Web site, This paper has helped many people understand the scientific basis for the Catholic Church’s belief that life begins at the moment of conception, he said.

"It strengthened their faith by bringing together their heart and their mind … which is really I think an unstated goal of the institute," he said.

The paper explained that although a newly formed embryo doesn’t have a heart, arms or legs and looks kind of like a small tennis ball, it is something completely different from the two things that joined to form it, the sperm and the egg. An embryo cannot be taken apart, and the sperm and the egg cannot be separated from it.

"The embryo, from the moment the sperm penetrates the egg, it is something that is neither sperm nor egg. It is something completely different. When you say that to a person, the light goes on. It’s the missing link," Kane said.

Although his work isn’t as glamorous as that of the senior fellows, Kane said he thoroughly enjoys it, especially since he knows this is where God wants him to be.

"If that’s the role God calls me to do to end abortion, that’s what I’ll do. It’s not as cool as giving testimony before Congress or writing white papers … but that’s what God asks me to do and so that’s what I’ll do," he said.

When people ask Kane how he became an institute fellow, he tells them he only became ready for such a position through hard work and disciplined study. Although he was raised in a Catholic household and received 12 years of Catholic education, his real spiritual awakening came on the Feast of Christ the King in November 2002. A priest asked him if his profession was demanding and if he belonged to professional societies, read professional journals and textbooks, and went to conventions in order to be able to do his job well. Kane told the priest that he did.

"He said, ‘Why don’t you approach your faith with the same enthusiasm with which you approach science and apply yourself with the same effort you put into your work?’" Kane recalled. "That comment really threw me for a loop because I would have described myself as a faithful Catholic. I would have described myself as a man who loved the church."

Kane realized he hadn’t studied church teachings or attended Catholic gatherings, and that if he took the same approach with his career as he had done with his faith, he probably would be unemployed. So he took up the priest’s challenge and began studying the church and meeting with a spiritual director. Soon his whole outlook on life changed.

"That challenge really took me in a unique direction. That’s what I try to encourage other people to do," he said.

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