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February 29, 2008 £1 (Republic of Ireland €1.50)

Cardinal dismisses board of directors at Catholic hospital

ALSO IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE

BYJOHNHINTON

CARDINALCormac MurphyO’Connor has intervened dramatically in a dispute at a London Catholic hospital by forcing most of its board of directors to resign. His decision comes after months of in-fighting among directors of the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth over whether to accept a tighter code of ethics. The Cardinal ordered a new code to be drawn up after reports that doctors on the hospital site were providing the morning-after pill and referring patients for abortions. Three directors have already resigned in protest at the introduction of the new code, including the board’s chairman Lord Bridgeman. The chief executive Chris Board was also forced out a short time ago. The Cardinal’s move has been roundly criticised by the British Medical Association (BMA) and by Restituta, a lobby group which has been fighting to save the hospital’s Catholic identity. He has been accused of acting outside his powers and leaving the three remaining board members unable to enforce their decisions. The Cardinal has appointed Lord Guthrie, the Catholic peer and former Army Chief of Staff, as the new chairman of the hospital. Among those directors no longer on the board are Aida Hersham, a Persian heiress and socialite, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, son of

Deputy chief executive Claire Hornick, above, has tried to allay fears about the future of the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth PA Photos

the former Times editor, William Rees-Mogg. A spokesman for Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who is patron of the hospital, said: “In light of recent difficulties and challenges, the Cardinal asked the board to resign their office. This was to enable a new chairman to begin his office with the freedom to go about ensuring the future well-being of this Catholic hospital. The

Cardinal offers his sincere thanks to the old board for their generosity and all they have done for the hospital in the past.” Claire Hornick, the hospital’s deputy chief executive, said there would be no further details about the resignations and she denied that there were plans for the hospital to be sold. “Lord Guthrie, supported by Cardinal Murphy

O’Connor, has stated that under his chairmanship there is no desire for the hospital to be sold and the committed plan remains to continue the objects of the charity, which, guided by its Catholic ethos, is to serve the local community,” she said. Her statement was prompted by a letter to Lord Guthrie from Sir Simon Milton, leader of

Westminster Council, which expressed concern about a possible sale. He pointed out that the hospice provides care for 600 people a year and a home care service to an even greater number. The letter said: “The hospital has been essential in helping Westminster Primary Care Trust to ensure prompt treatment for local residents when wait

ing times in NHS facilities become too long. There is also a GP practice and NHS nursing home for older people almost exclusively used by Westminster residents.” The GP practice moved on to the hospital site earlier this year but its lease has not yet been signed. It has caused controversy because doctors operating at the practice would be forced by their NHS contract to refer

patients for abortion and provide the morning-after pill. The Charity Commission has launched a formal inquiry into whether the GP site breaches the hospital’s founding principles. Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said that doctors at St John and St Elizabeth were being asked to follow two codes of ethics, one proposed by the hospital and the other enforced by the General Medical Council which specifies that doctors may not let their own beliefs interfere with the care of patients. She said: “It really does put doctors in a very difficult position. We don’t believe they can follow two codes of ethics.” She added that while a patient would not expect to go to a Catholic hospital for an abortion, “if she were pregnant and her foetus turned out to have severe abnormalities and she wanted to consider an abortion, she would have the right to information and help”. Nicolas Bellord, secretary of the lobby group Restituta, said it was “completely unreasonable” to sack a board of directors which had worked towards retaining the hospital’s Catholic identity. He also questioned whether the Cardinal had the legal power to dismiss board members, and said that the remaining three members of the board similarly did not have the statutory right to make decisions on behalf of the hospital.

NEWS

David Cameron backs abortion law reform

NEWS

Herald sponsors Cardinal Kasper’s Oxford lecture

INDEX

News2-5 Catholic Life6 Features7-9

Comment10 Books13 Charterhouse16

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Bookmakers suspend betting on new bishop after sudden flurry

BYEDWEST

BOOKMAKERShad to suspend betting on the appointment of the new Bishop of Down and Connor last week after a flurry of bets for a rank outsider – who subsequently was given the job. Mgr Noel Treanor, from Clogher in Co Monaghan, was not on Paddy Power’s original shortlist of six when it opened a book on the appointment last Thursday. However, his name was added after a request on the same day. Soon after came a flurry of bets for Mgr Treanor, bringing his odds down from 7/1 to 5/4, ahead of previous favourites

Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown of Down and Connor at 6/4, and Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore at 2/1. Later on Thursday the bookmaker suspended betting on the next bishop after 67 bets for Mgr Treanor had been placed in four hours. The following day he got the job. It has led to speculation that either a syndicate of priests was betting or an insider had been indiscreet. The process of choosing a bishop is highly secret, with the Papal Nuncio informing the chosen cleric and the bishop-elect being sworn to secrecy before the official announcement. Only a hand

ful of people in Rome and in the diocese would have known the bishop-elect’s identity. A spokeswoman for Paddy Power said she did not suspect foul play. “We suspend books for lots of different reasons, often because the people betting know more about a subject than we do. Betting in bishops is a very niche area, but it’s become hugely popular, and we look forward to getting requests,” she said. “Obviously the transactions are very secret, and we wouldn’t know the profession of the people making bets. What I will say is priests, like anybody else, are entitled to a flutter if they want to.

“We were betting on the Irish football manager for ages and had flurries for Terry Venables. We got worried for a time, but he didn’t get the job. And for priests this would be like the football manager to them.” The Bishop of Down and Connor, based in Belfast, is the most senior Catholic in Northern Ireland. Retiring Bishop Patrick Walsh, 75, has held the position since 1991. Mgr Treanor, 51, hails from Co Monaghan and is the secretary general of Comece, the Church’s lobby group in the European Union. He is fluent in French, German, Spanish and Irish.

Priests accused of usingweb to plagiarise sermons

BYJONATHANLUXMOORE

A PROMINENT Polish cleric has said that young priests are using the internet to plagiarise homilies for Masses. Fr Wieslaw Przyczyna, co-author of a book entitled To Pinch or Not to Pinch,

said: “If a priest takes another person’s text and presents it as his own from the pulpit, without pointing out where he got it from, this is unethical and against the law protecting authorship. Unfortunately, the practice has become common here,” he added. Fr Przyczyna said he had been accused of “harassing priests and exposing their weaknesses” by drawing attention to the problem. However, he said that more and more Polish Catholics were complaining

about priests who read their Sunday homilies, while some Poles had traced the texts on the internet and even come to Mass with their own copies. “People realise priests are often not speaking for themselves, but merely reading someone else’s sermon,” said Fr Przyczyna. “Owners of internet sermon websites have noticed increased use on Saturday nights, suggesting some priests are trying to rescue themselves at the last moment.”

St Patrick’s Day parade dilemma

Organisers are debating whether to cancel St Patrick’s Day parades because the patron saint of Ireland’s feast falls this year on the Monday of Holy Week.

Full Story: Page 2

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