Loose Canon


From top:  St Vincent’s Hospital; Dr Peter Boylan (left) Archbishop Eamon Martin

This morning.

Dr Peter Boylan writes:

[Irish Times Religious Affairs correspondent] Patsy McGarry reports that an unnamed canon lawyer believes that “there is nothing in the letter of grant” from Rome which could be seen as “a stipulation that church canon law, doctrine or teaching must be observed by St Vincent’s Holdings, or the proposed NMH”.

This opinion is baffling.

I too have seen the letter of grant of March 16th, signed by senior Vatican official Sr Carmen Ros Nortes. She states that the Vatican grants the transfer request by the Sisters of Charity “in conformity with the petition” and that, “The provisions relating to the validity and lawfulness of alienations, found in Canons 638-639 and Canons 1292-1294 of the Code of Canon Law and in Proper Law, are to be observed.”

This last sentence is emphasised in bold type in the communication.

Thus, everything the Sisters of Charity now do in respect of transferring their 100 per cent shareholding in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group to St Vincent’s Holdings CLG must observe canon law, specifically the canons cited and must be in conformity with the reasons they gave the Vatican for wanting to undertake the transfer.

In this respect, Canon 1293 is particularly relevant. Canon 1293.1.1. requires that the Sisters of Charity must have “a just cause, such as urgent necessity, evident advantage, piety, charity, or some other grave pastoral reason” to make the transfer.

Canon 1293.2. requires that “other precautions prescribed by legitimate authority are also to be observed to avoid harm to the Church”.

As a result of the Vatican stipulations, the problem now facing the Sisters of Charity is how to effect a transfer that brings 186 years of Catholic healthcare ministry to an end, the result of which will facilitate a hospital which will perform abortions and other procedures absolutely forbidden by Catholic teaching?

Where is the “just cause” and what is the potential for such approval to cause “harm to the church” in the eyes of the faithful?

No wonder many Irish Catholics are alarmed and confused.

In comments published in the Sunday Times over the weekend, Archbishop Eamon Martin stated that “the carrying out of abortions or morally illicit medical procedures at the NMH would be repugnant” to Catholic teaching and “regardless of the eventual outcome of the proposed transfer, the church will remain clear in its public statements that there is no place in a maternity hospital for abortion”.

How does Archbishop Martin reconcile Catholic teaching on abortion with his support for the Sisters’ request to the Vatican which will clear the way for St Vincent’s Holdings CLG to own a hospital in which abortion, IVF, elective sterilisation and other procedures will constitute part of the daily routine?

What does the Primate of All Ireland consider to be the “just cause” for this transfer? Is he concerned about harm to the church?

The constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, which will own the new NMH, will surely be subject to the provisions of the canon laws outlined in the letter of grant.

This is not a theoretical discussion. The taxpayers of Ireland who will fund the new NMH, and the women of Ireland who will attend it, deserve clarity.

None of the information currently in the public domain allays well-founded fears about the potential for Catholic ethos to influence clinical practice in the new NMH.

And all this before full consideration as to why even the Irish Government would hand ownership of a €500 million maternity hospital of key national importance to a private charity. – Yours, etc,

Dr Peter Boylan
Life Governor and former Master, National Maternity Hospital,
Dublin 6.

National Maternity Hospital and canon law (Irish Times Letters)

Last week: ‘The Makings Of A Very Irish Scandal’


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15 thoughts on “Loose Canon

  1. bisted

    …fairplay to Dr Boylan for not turning the other way in the face of this blatant attempt by the church to have their cake and eat it…at a stroke he could get the support of the leading expert in Canon law – Mary McAleese. Not only that, he could get the support of a person who knows at first hand the treachery of the reverend sisters – Martin McAleese…

    1. newsjustin

      Seems to me like it’s the State that’s looking to have their cake and eat it. Or maybe both Church and State.

      Sisters are trying to negotiate the handover of a free site to the state.

      I agree with pretty much everything Boylan said on this though. It’s a very odd situation. It may be (being charitable/creative here) that the “just cause” used here might be that Ireland needs a new NMH, and any further delay would further disadvantage Irish women and children. I still don’t see how the new entity is going to get around the Canon Law clauses.

  2. Janet, I ate my avatar

    News will be along soon to explain why they aren’t a sneaky bunch of manipulative pooheads

  3. BS

    They bandy around this canon law lark like it’s actual enforceable law. It’s just policies of a commercial organisation. Just get an actual lawyer to write a contract that states that when the state take over the hospital it can treat people how it sees fit in line with best medical practices. Contract law trumps polices

    1. Paulus

      Michael McDowell described canon law has having no more legal status than the rules of a golf club.

      1. bisted

        …same as sharia law…trouble is, they are very big clubs…and Michael McDowell, if he’s a golf club member, is probably a stickler for adherence to the rules…

      2. newsjustin

        It’s true, but golf club members are required to obey the rules if they want to stay members. It’d be hard to say to a golf club members – “tell you what, I’ll re-tile your kitchen for free if you play all your golf games from now one with a tennis racket ,in the dark, and while dressed as Aquaman.”

          1. bisted

            …the jesuitical bs wasn’t lost on you Justine…maybe try some good old-fashioned law library terms like unencumbered…unfettered…or unbeholding…

          2. newsjustin

            In my analogy the golf club members were religious orders wanting to remain members of the club of Rome. Not users of the hospital.

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