Hospitals and Catholic ethos


Sir, – Prof Vincent Twomey makes a valid point (June 19th) that Catholic and non-Catholic citizens are entitled to public funding for the hospitals in which they seek treatment. However, what is not valid is that public funding should be provided to hospitals which deny a legal form of treatment to half of the population, ie women. Prof Twomey appears to consider it legitimate that Catholic faith-based hospitals should be able to continue to access public funding while at the same time refusing to perform abortions when medically indicated and legal. Certain representatives of the Catholic Church need to understand that acceptance of public funding brings with it a responsibility to treat all the public, and that in the public sphere state law must always supersede canon law. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – The notion of the “Catholic hospital” arises essentially from the 19th century, when religious orders set up hospitals on a charitable basis. The distinguishing feature of a Catholic hospital is its application of “Catholic ethics” on medicine, particularly reproductive medicine – so naturally, these ethics apply mainly to women of reproductive age. For at least 50 years, the religious orders running Catholic hospitals have contributed little or nothing to the cost of running their hospitals. The full cost of running Catholic public hospitals, and applying their ethics to women patients, whether or not those patients agreed with Catholic medical ethics, has been borne by the State. But since the abortion referendum, one has to wonder if there is any longer any demand for “Catholic” hospitals, particularly if they are to be fully funded by the State. The RTÉ exit poll on the abortion referendum showed that in the 18 to 35 age group – the cohort most likely to request an abortion – almost nine out of 10 voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment. The same poll shows that only one in eight people in this cohort attend weekly Mass. So where are all the Catholics demanding to be treated in “Catholic” hospitals?

Publicly funded hospital are there to provide all legal treatments to their patients, men and women. There is nothing to stop any patient in any public hospital requesting to be treated in accordance with a particular religious ethos. Nor is there any reason why those who object to participating in abortions should be obliged to provide them. But for a public hospital to impose its medical ethics in a blanket fashion on the public, who pay for everything, and most of whom do not share those ethics, is nothing less than an abuse of power. The fact that such an imposition is based on religious beliefs does not make it any less an abuse of power. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Jim Cunningham (June 19th) states that, “In a modern society there should be no such thing as a Catholic hospital”. I disagree, and argue that a society without Catholic hospitals would reflect a cruel Irish society, lacking respect for the spiritual needs of patients who wish their medical treatment to be consistent with Catholic practices.

Rather, I argue that the Catholic Church and its religious orders should have Catholic hospitals if they wish to do so, provided they fully fund these hospitals. This would allow the church to provide Catholic-based medical and spiritual care to its patients at what is often the most vulnerable times of their lives, including the end of life.

Several secular countries around the world have long histories of secular and religious denomination-based hospitals working side by side, and the arrangement works well. – Yours, etc.



Co Sligo.