Vatican requires nuns to manage hospital assets in accordance with Canon Law
The Irish State is planning to give a €300 million National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity. The Minister for Health has said that “only doctors and other healthcare professionals would make decisions about women’s health in the planned new Hospital.”
However, the Sisters of Charity are a Catholic religious order whose primary loyalties and obligations are to the Holy See and Canon Law. This obliges them to manage their assets in a way that reflect the evangelical witness of their mission.
According to a Holy See document that we quote from below, the field of economics is a means of missionary activity for the church, the assets of church Institutes are “ecclesiastical assets”, and their employees should be aware that they work in an Institute which sees the purpose of its assets to be for the development of the mission.
So what will happen if the “doctors and other healthcare workers” referred to by the Minister want to do something that clashes with the evangelical mission of the Sisters of Charity?
Minister Harris said on Thursday that he was instructing the HSE to seek protections against “religious interference” during detailed contractual arrangements in advance of construction.
St Vincent’s Hospital (owned by the Sisters of Charity) viewed this intervention as an attempt by the Minister to “unpick” the existing agreement. This suggests that they consider religious interference to be protected within the existing agreement.
Holy See Guidelines
In 2014, the Holy See issued a set of Guidelines for the Administration of Assets in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
This document includes the following quotes:
- The field of economics is a means of missionary activity for the church.
- The assets of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are “ecclesiastical assets”.
- (Canon Law 1257: all temporal goods which belong to the universal Church, the Apostolic See, or other public juridic persons in the Church are ecclesiastical goods.
- Canon Law 116: Public juridical persons are aggregates of persons or of things which are established by the competent ecclesiastical authority so that, within the limits allotted to them in the name of the Church, and in accordance with the provisions of law, they might fulfil the specific task entrusted to them for the public good.)
- The economic dimension is intimately connected to both the person and the mission. Through financial transactions vital choices are made which should reflect the evangelical witness, being always mindful of the needs of our brothers and sisters.
- Fidelity to the founding charism and to the subsequent spiritual heritage of each Institute is, together with the demands of the Gospel, the first evaluative criteria for decisions and actions that take place at every level, because the nature of the charism directs their energies, sustains their fidelity and directs the apostolic work of all towards the one mission.
- It is good to remember however, that the ultimate responsibility for administrative, economic, or financial decisions can never be handed over to members of the laity or to those of other Institutes.
- Major superiors should be aware that not all management practices correspond to evangelical principles, nor might they be in accord with the social teachings of the church.
- Members of the laity who collaborate with the Institute, either as consultants or as employees, should be aware that they work in an Institute which is marked by a distinctive charism and which sees the purpose of its assets, in the spirit of poverty, to be for the development of the mission.
You can read the full document here.