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God help us if the Mater tolerates this mystical ethos

Father Kevin Doran is a medical miracle – and, indeed, a miraculous medic. By vocation and training, Fr Doran's area of expertise is the supernatural; the world of angels and saints, fairies and elves. Nevertheless, in a remarkable display of inter-dimensional multi-tasking, this sky-pilot sits on the board of governors at Dublin's Mater Hospital. Faith healing, it seems, is a cornerstone of our healthcare service.

Last week, in a further demonstration of his superpowers, Fr Doran maintained a straight face while extolling the rigorous moral code underlying what he proudly calls the "Catholic ethos". In adherence to this uniquely righteous philosophy, he insisted, the Mater will refuse to comply with the new law that permits abortion when a pregnant woman's life is at risk.

Don't worry; I'm not going to rehash the whys, wherefores and WTFs of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. We have all suffered enough on that count. However, there is no ignoring the fact Fr Doran is telling the Irish people and their elected representatives to go screw themselves.

His entitlement to his own opinion is inarguable, but his apparent determination to impose those beliefs on others is outrageous.

Fr Doran appears to be overlooking a few crucial details. The Mater is a public hospital, funded by taxpayers. There is also the small matter of the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who work there – they, too, are people of conscience.

The notion that they would deny an extremely ill woman a legal, life-saving procedure because of some mystical "ethos" is grotesque.

Ultimately, the real villains here are our politicians: craw-thumping incompetents who have failed to correct an historical anomaly which has left many hospitals in the nominal control of religious orders. The Mater is part-owned by the Sisters of Mercy order, which set it up in 1861.

Cock-a-hoop following their knockout victory over the State on the issue of financial compensation for abuse victims, religious orders can hardly be expected to voluntarily relinquish their cherished influence over the health system.

Until politicians take action, we are lumbered with an absurd situation whereby some hospitals are classified as "Catholic".

What, in the name of God, is a Catholic hospital?

The very term conjours up an elaborate comedy sketch set in an ornately church-like operating theatre where mitred surgeons use scapulars instead of scalpels and incense is deployed as anaesthesia.

Any hospital that is run on religious rather than scientific principles is not a hospital at all, but a witchdoctors' hut.

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Thankfully, we know the Mater is actually a very fine medical institution.

The 'Catholic hospital' malarkey only raises its ugly head when one of the governors feels like flexing his dogma muscles.

Which brings us to the most blackly comic of Fr Doran's pronouncements. 'Catholic ethos' is an oily and pompous phrase.

To my ears, it has always sounded like the name of a designer fragrance – an overpowering perfume pour homme. Check out the places where it has filled the air.

It was 'Catholic ethos' that scented the atmosphere of the Magdalene Laundries as generations of vulnerable young women were enslaved by sadistic nuns.

'Catholic ethos' also permeated the plush offices of bishops as they moved paedophile priests between parishes, sacrificing future victims on the altar of corporate self-preservation.

A hospital that would tolerate a manifest nonsense driven by Catholic ethos is a hospital that needs thorough disinfecting.

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