Credit: Bernard Hermant /

Nuns to public: We’ll do abortions in the new hospital, promise.

What is interesting about this, aside from the abject moral corruption of the sisters of charity, which we will come to in a second, is why on earth there would be a question about doing gender reassignment surgery in a maternity hospital. If it is doing gender reassignment surgery, then it is not, to put it mildly, a maternity hospital at all:

Now, let us get to the matter, as promised, of the moral corruption of the nuns. First, when we say “moral corruption”, that is not to say that anybody who wants a secular hospital which offers tubal ligation, and abortion, and other legal services, is morally corrupt. After all, if those are things you believe in, you are in the majority in Irish society.

But you are, almost certainly, not a nun.

The Nuns here have several options: They could, in the first instance, simply sell the land for the hospital to the state. They could also refuse to sell the land to the state, and say that they will not countenance being part of a project that will be used for purposes they consider to be immoral. They could offer to remain involved in the project, conditional on the hospital having a catholic ethos (though this would surely force the state to walk away).

Out of all these options, they have gone for the one that makes them, and indeed catholics at large, look worst of all: They don’t actually care about their principles, or the things that they are supposed to believe in, but they do want to keep their paws on the land. “Do all the abortions you want, just leave us the land” is an odd place for an order of the Roman Catholic Church to find itself in.

And, of course, the statement does not go far enough for their critics anyway. The sisters, in their utter naiveite, seem to believe that if they promise to carry out abortions and other procedures people had doubted their willingness to countenance, then the criticism would abate, and the battle would be over. But that always missed the point: The attacks on the Sisters are not based on any real, substantial, or genuine concerns that the hospital might not function as an abortion clinic when needed. They are based on the pure political value that comes from demagoguing Catholicism itself. Don’t believe me? Witness this from the Social Democrats:

The Social Democrats there, asking the Dáil to endorse a motion saying that Catholic ownership and ethos in hospitals “endangers women’s lives”. That is, of course, bunkum. It is also deeply upsetting, you might imagine, to all those people who already work in Catholic ethos hospitals, and spend their days trying to save the lives of Irish women. Indeed, one might argue that saying that the ethos of Catholicism endangers the lives of women equates to hate speech – but of course, hate speech is only hate speech if it is directed at people we like, by people we do not like. This, therefore, will be characterised merely as robust debate.

The point is this: The nuns cannot win, in this fight. They are the designated villain. There is a media presumption, whipped up by a disgusting effort by the opposition parties, to portray the nuns as people whose sole motive is to turn the country into a dystopian version of the Handmaid’s Tale.

Faced with this, the Nuns really have two options: They could stand and fight for the things that they are supposed to believe in, and tell the state to take a running jump, or they could cower into the corner, promise to do whatever the state asks, and beg to be allowed keep their material assets. Which course did they choose? Naturally, the one which largely explains why the Irish Church is in the state that it is.

There’s not much more to say here, really. This battle is over, and has been over for some time. The only question left was whether the nuns would gracefully withdraw from the project, or engage in an embarrassing, snivelling, unprincipled surrender.

They’ve made their choice.

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