THE priest who resigned from a Catholic hospital board after it confirmed it would comply with new abortion laws has said he did so because he believes a religious organisation has a right to an ethos.
Fr Kevin Doran said he stepped down from Dublin's Mater Hospital board of directors and governors in protest last week "as a matter of conscience".
He maintains the Dublin hospital should have said no to carrying out terminations on women who were suicidal, because the direct taking of life is prohibited under the Mater's ethical code.
He believes the hospital's authorities should have defied Minister for Health James Reilly, refused to comply, and faced the consequences.
And he accused the minister of having a lack of respect for Catholic hospitals' religious beliefs.
Said Fr Doran: "The day the act was published in its final form, he said he did not see a problem with Catholic hospitals. He said no hospital in receipt of State funding could opt out and that while an individual could have their right to conscience, an institution couldn't.
"In doing so, he was setting at nought the whole possibility of an organisation having an ethos, be it Catholic, Church of Ireland, Quaker, be it a hospital or a school.
"He was basically saying 'if we pay you, we own you. We make the rules and irrespective of your ethos, you keep our rules'."
He said the "hardline" attitude fails to recognise that the original investment of resources over the years into the Mater was by the original founders, the Sisters of Mercy.
Fr Doran, administrator of the Sacred Heart church in Donnybrook, Dublin, said Minister Reilly has failed to realise the issue is "not an exercise in accountancy".
"For many years, the church and State have worked together in partnership on healthcare, education and social services," he said. "The present Minister for Health showed he had very little respect for the ethos of Catholic hospitals, making the statement that he made.
"Ireland is not a secular State, it is a pluralist society in which people are entitled to freedom of religion and it is perfectly legitimate for people like the Sisters of Mercy to engage in partnership in healthcare with the State and expect their values to be respected, in the same way as values of civil society are respected."
Fr Doran said he never had any issue of providing medical treatment to save a mother, even if it unintentionally caused an unborn's death.
His only concern was around Section 9 of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill, which allows abortion in cases where there is a real risk of the mother committing suicide.
"The key issue for me is the provision in Section 9 where there can be a direct intervention to terminate a life to possibly save a woman from committing suicide. It is the direct taking of a human life as distinct of the loss of a life of an unborn as a side-effect of a treatment. The Catholic ethos does not permit the direct taking of life. The principal is you may never deliberately do evil so that good may come about."
He said he was "surprised and disappointed" the Mater issued an "unqualified" statement.
"It specifically indicated a willingness to abide by the terms of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act in an unqualified way.
"It was reasonable enough that I should expect a Catholic hospital, which has in its ethical code a specific prohibition against direct abortion, would have problems with the Act.
"I would be a hypocrite, that's what it boiled down to. As a priest, had I continued to be a member of the board in light of [that] statement, I would undermine the confidence of people in the church's teaching ministry.
"I am sad to end it in this way, having worked with he Mater for 10 years. I wrote in my resignation, which was graciously accepted, I don't bear any kind of resentment."