The Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran has become embroiled in the row over the governance of the planned new National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.
Controversy arose last week when it emerged that the new maternity hospital, which is to be built at a cost of €300m to the state on a site at St Vincent’s Hospital in south Dublin, would then be handed over to the Sisters of Charity, who own the land.
The Minister for Health Simon Harris has been heavily criticised on the issue, and over 77,000 people signed a petition in a bid to prevent the religious order from becoming owners of the new hospital.
Bishop Doran became involved at the weekend when a statement he issued to the Sunday Times, made it clear that the Sisters of Charity will have to obey the rules of the Catholic Church if they become the owners of the new hospital.
Bishop Doran was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying: “A healthcare organisation bearing the name Catholic, while offering care to all who need it, has a responsibility . . . to Catholic teachings about the value of human life and the dignity and the ultimate destiny of the human person.”
The paper reported that the statement from Bishop Doran, who is chair of the Catholic hierarchy’s committee on bio-ethics, also said: “Public funding, while it brings with it other legal and moral obligations, does not change that responsibility.”
He further referred to three tenets of canon law which decree that land held by religious institutions is “ecclesiastical property” over which the Pope has the “primary of governance”.
The bishop said he was speaking in general terms as the National Maternity Hospital was not in his diocese and he was unfamilar with the legal relationship between the Sisters of Charity and St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.
Bishop Doran has since further clarified that he was “speaking in general terms” and didn’t even mention the National Maternity Hospital.
He said he just answered a question about the canonical obligations on religious regarding the disposal of property.
However, Dr Peter Boylan, a former master of the National Maternity Hospital, told RTE’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday that assurances that the hospital would be free of religious interference had been “blown out of the water” by Bishop Doran’s statement at the weekend.
Dr Boylan, who is on the board of the National Maternity Hospital, has been asked to step down from the board over comments he made in a text message to the Deputy Chairman and the current Master hospital.
However, Dr Boylan, who has been highly critical of the plan to give ownership of the new hospital to the Religious Sisters of Charity, has said he will not resign.