Revealed: The Philosophy and Ethical Code of the Religious Sisters of Charity Health Service

This week John Hamill obtained a copy of the Religious Sisters of Charity Health Service Philosophy and Ethical Code under the Freedom of Information Act. The Saint Vincent’s Hospital Group had refused to give it to him, but John appealed and the Office of the Information Commissioner overruled the hospital.

As well as explicitly forbidding abortion, this Code is couched in anachronistic language such as couples ‘being united in the covenant of marriage’ and ‘bypassing the normal marital act’.

The Saint Vincent’s Hospital Group says that this Code is no longer active and will not apply to the new National Maternity Hospital. But the Code includes the following statement:

“We hold that with respect to any partnership of co-operation or source of funding that will affect our healthcare mission, the ethical identity and the catholic ethos of our services must be respected. Our healthcare services will participate and co-operate insofar as our Philosophy, Mission, and Ethical Code are not compromised.”

So what are these principles that must not be compromised? They include:

“We respect the sacredness of human life… This belongs to all persons from conception to their natural end… We believe that each and every person is unique and made in the image and likeness of God…” (page 1)

“All those who choose to work in our healthcare facilities are made aware of and asked to comply with the core values as expressed in this Mission Statement and Ethical Code” (page 2)

“In our Healthcare Service, healthcare is provided in the context of a Catholic ethos, and is interpreted in accordance with its teaching tradition…” (page 4)

“Direct abortion is never permitted since it constitutes the intentional killing of the unborn. Also any procedure, the direct purpose of which is to destroy the embryo at any stage of its development, either by preventing it from implantation, or removing it from the womb before it is viable, or by any other procedure is never permitted.” (page 11)

“Direct sterilisation of either men or women is not permitted in our healthcare service when its sole immediate objective is to prevent or eliminate fertility. These are procedures which our healthcare institutions may not promote.” (page 11)

“We recognise the dignity of a man and woman as spouses, who united in the covenant of marriage are called to be parents of equal dignity to them… We consider that any means of assisting conception which cannot correct the condition of the couple’s infertility and which bypass the normal marital act in which conception occurs are not acceptable in our healthcare services.” (page 11)

The State should not cede even indirect control or influence over essential public services to a charity associated with the Catholic church, which has an appalling record of human rights abuses and an ethos that opposes reproductive rights for women.

Whatever assurances it might seem to give, the Catholic church simply cannot be trusted. State tribunals found that its Bishops positively lied to and deliberately misled them to cover up crimes.

We should not trust any deal approved by the Vatican, which is the headquarters of a global religion that poses as a quasi-State when it suits its purposes. Its primary mission is not to provide healthcare, but to evangelise people into Catholicism.

The State should remove, not reinforce, the traditional privileges that religious bodies have in our healthcare provision.

You can read the full Philosophy and Ethical Code here:


Atheist Ireland