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Vatican 'still hasn't granted permission' for Sisters of Charity pull out from maternity hospital site

Dr Peter Boylan made the claim in a new book to be published next week.

Image: Dept of Health

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said that “all outstanding issues” must be addressed at the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) before any substantial building works take place.

The comments have come after Dr Peter Boylan said in his new book, In the Shadow of the Eighth, that the Vatican has yet to decide whether the Religious Sisters of Charity can give up its ownership of the land that will be home to the NMH.

The religious order announced almost 30 months ago that it was ending its involvement in they St Vincent’s Hospital Group and would therefore have no involvement with the new National Maternity Hospital.

The move came after much discussion and controversy over the religious congregation’s involvement in the new NMH.

The NMH is being moved from Holles Street to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4 and former master of the NMH Peter Boylan said today that the project should be “paused” until the religious group’s involvement has been officially ended. 

“The Archbishop has been quoted in the Irish Catholic as saying that the sisters have to get permission from the Vatican to alienate the land, that is to transfer ownership of the land and the buildings into a secular structure. And a Vatican spokesman said that, yes the sisters do have to do that,” Boylan told the Marian Finucane show

The problem is that any land on by religious organisation is known as ecclesiastical land and falls under the ultimate control of the papacy. So in order to dispose of any property, they need to get permission to what’s known as ‘alienate’ the property. Now, my understanding is that that has not yet happened.

In a statement, the Religious Sisters of Charity says the transfer of its shares from the St Vincent’s Hospital Group is “imminent” and is only short of a formal sign off from the Vatican which is due “shortly”.

“We are confident that the smooth legal transfer of our shares in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) from the Religious Sisters of Charity is imminent as we come to the end of a lengthy legal process involving all parties. In line with canon law, we are required to seek formal approval of our decision from the Archbishop of Dublin and the Vatican. The Archbishop has approved and recommended our decision to the Vatican for formal sign off. We are confident of a positive outcome shortly. ,” the statement said.  

Boylan said that while this is welcome the group should prove proof of this. 

“The Board of St. Vincent’s Hospital and the Sisters of Charity really need to produce credible documentary evidence that they have sought and have achieved alienation and permission from the Vatican in order to transfer the assets into a vehicle, which will allow the building of a hospital in which contraception will be prescribed, IVF will be performed, abortions will be formed. And that’s the sticking issue that the Vatican are going to make a decision on,” he said. 

006 Abortion Referendum count_90545939 Dr. Peter Boylan Source: .Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Asked whether the entire project should be shelved until this happens, he said a ‘pause’ is needed so that the hospital is not built on religions lands:

I wouldn’t stop it no, because I think the hospital needs to be built but it needs to be paused. Because if the hospital is built, and the Vatican have not agreed, well, then what we’ll end up with is a hospital on ecclesiastical land, and all of the women’s issues will not be able to be addressed.

In a statement this afternoon, a spokesperson for the Health Minister said that issues do need be addressed.  

“The minister has been very clear that in advance of the substantive building works commencing, all outstanding issues need to be resolved. He understands work is underway in this regard,” the spokesperson said. 

The minister will return to government when this work is completed. The importance of this hospital for the women and children of Ireland is clear and the minister would like to see progress on outstanding issues as quickly as possible.”

The Religious Sisters of Charity said however that it does not believe there is a need for any delay. 

“This process has not and should not delay the new hospital project in any way. Most importantly, it has no impact whatsoever on the healthcare provision and patient care provided by St Vincent’s Hospital,” the order said.  

5236 Labour Party_90584654 Labour TDs Alan Kelly and Jan O'Sullivan at their party conference today. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

In response to Boylan’s comments, both Labour and Fianna Fáil have sought clarification from the government.

“Between all of this in-fighting, the only loser in all of this is the women of Ireland and their children,” Labour TD Alan Kelly said today.

I fully support the remarks of Dr. Peter Boylan, that women’s health has to be at the centre of care at the new National Maternity Hospital. His views have continued to be invaluable contribution to this extremely important national conversation. We know that the Sisters of Charity owe millions to the State in redress funds, it is now imperative for them to step up and gift the land to the State.

A spokesperson for the Sisters of Charity refuted Kelly’s claim that money was still owed in redress. 

“It is factually incorrect to say that that Religious Sisters of Charity owe money to the State in redress funds. They have fully paid and settled all funds with the State,” she said. 

Fianna Fáil TD Stepehen Donnelly said: “Minister Harris has given categorical promises that the new NMH will have full clinical independence, but we now hear from Dr Boylan that this is not currently the case as the Vatican needs to grant full independence.”

Dr. Boylan pointed out that no hospital anywhere in the world, on land owned by the Vatican has full clinical independence. His testimony directly contradicts Minister Harris’s assurances up to now.

“If Dr. Boylan is correct, then Minister Harris’s repeated statements to the Dáil are incorrect. There can be no question about it, the State is building this hospital and the State should have full control over the governance of this hospital, it’s that simple.

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Rónán Duffy

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