A PRIEST who is an expert in the ethics of healthcare has resigned from the board of directors and the board of governors of the Mater Hospital in Dublin.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Fr Kevin Doran said he resigned last weekend over the terms of Ireland's new abortion act in "a personal decision based on my own judgment of conscience".
The Dublin priest said he "could not give my unqualified adherence to the (abortion) act".
His decision follows the Catholic hospital's announcement last week that it would comply with the terms of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.
In a statement, the Mater said its priority was to be at the frontier of compassion, concern and clinical care for all its patients.
"Having regard to that duty the hospital will comply with the law as provided for in the act," it said.
The act allows for abortion where there is a risk to the life of the mother, including a risk of suicide. That provision was strongly opposed by the pro-life movement.
Last August, Fr Doran, who is a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin, said he believed the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital would not comply with the act as abortion was contrary to the hospital's ethos.
However, the Government warned that while there was a provision in the act for individual conscientious objectors, there was no such provision for the 25 "appropriate institutions" named in the act as locations where abortions could be carried out.
"The direct taking of the life of the unborn – as envisaged in Section 9 of the act – is contrary to Catholic teaching," Fr Doran told the Irish Independent, adding that while it was not the only concern he had with the act, it was the most serious one.
"I could not in conscience give my unqualified adherence to the act."
The Mater is owned by the Sisters of Mercy, while Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin is its president.
Asked about the hospital's decision to comply with the terms of the act, the archbishop said that though he was president of the hospital he had no governance powers.
He paid tribute to the Mater's "great tradition of caring for very difficult pregnancies and doing it well within the ethos of the hospital over years".
"There have been extremely complicated (pregnancies) and I know that they are scrupulous in the policy of trying to defend both the life of the mother and the unborn child. I hope that that continues," he said.
He said he would be seeking further clarifications on the exact meaning of the hospital's statement.
Of the act, he commented: "The law is a law which enables rather than demands.
"It says it is possible to do certain things but it doesn't dictate medical decisions.
"If the hospital has been so good in the past working within its ethos – I hope that will be possible for that to happen in the future."