In 1972 the Pope John XXIII Medical-Moral Research and Education Center was chartered in St. Louis, Missouri, as a not-for-profit corporation with the assistance of The Catholic Health Association (then known as the Catholic Hospital Association) and His Eminence John Cardinal Carberry.
Father Albert Moraczewski, O.P., a theologian and scientist in the field of pharmacology, was chosen as the first President of the Center.
In 1976 the Center began publication of Ethics & Medics, a monthly commentary on medical-moral issues, to keep health care professionals and other concerned individuals abreast of current trends in bioethics from a Catholic perspective. Ethics & Medics is distributed to over 16,000 individuals monthly.
Thanks to the remarkable talents and the commitment of Fr. Moraczewski and the Reverend William M. Gallagher, a priest of the Diocese of Providence and second president, the Center has always enjoyed the strong support of a large number of bishops. Today, a majority of U.S. dioceses, and numerous foreign dioceses, receive the benefits of their affiliation with the NCBC.
In 1980, with the support of the Knights of Columbus and the encouragement of Bernard Cardinal Law (then Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau), the Pope John Center began an annual medical-moral workshop in Dallas, Texas, for bishops, to which now all the bishops of the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and several from the Philippines, are invited. These workshops continue with bishops gathering every two years in Dallas to review, address, and reflect upon pressing issues and developments in the area of medical morality.
In 1985 the Center relocated its national office from St. Louis, Missouri to Boston, with the encouragement of the Ordinary, Cardinal Law.
In 1996, Dr. John M. Haas, former John Cardinal Krol Professor of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, became the fifth President of the Center.
In October 1997, the Center relocated its offices to the campus of St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, Boston, a teaching hospital of the Tufts University School of Medicine and headquarters of Caritas Christi, a Catholic Health Care System. In 2004 the NCBC moved its offices to Philadelphia in order to be closer to the policy centers of New York and Washington, D.C., and the rich religious and academic communities of the mid-Atlantic region.