British prelate fires Catholic hospital board

26 Mar 2008

By The Record

LONDON (CNS) – A British Cardinal has fired almost the entire board of directors of a Catholic hospital where abortion referrals and contraceptives have been offered to patients.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster requested the resignations of 10 of the 13 directors of London’s Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth. His decision follows the appointment of Lord Guthrie, former head of Britain’s armed forces, as the new chairman of the board in early February.
“In the light of recent difficulties and challenges, the cardinal asked the board to resign their office,” said a spokesman for the cardinal in a February 22 statement. “This was to enable the new chairman to begin his office with the freedom to go about ensuring the future well-being of this Catholic hospital. The Cardinal offered his sincere thanks to the old board for their generosity and all they had done for the hospital in the past.”
A February 21 press statement issued by the hospital said the directors were asked to resign at a February 18 board meeting. It said that Lord Guthrie had the support of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor in ensuring that the hospital continued to provide care “guided by its Catholic ethos.”
“The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth has a long-standing reputation within London and within the medical world of being a first-class, caring organisation whose Catholic ethos adds to the care and compassion felt by those who work within it and those treated by it,” the statement said.
In November, the hospital finally agreed to the cardinal’s demands that it adopt a new code of ethics which bans doctors from making abortion referrals and prescribing contraceptives and the morning-after pill.Soon after, Lord Bridgeman, who was opposed to the code, stepped down as chairman of the board along with two other senior members of the board of directors. The code was to have been implemented last spring but executives refused to approve it. Some argued that it would be unworkable, unpopular with staff and that it would cost the hospital valuable revenue.
The other two directors remaining from the previous board are Auxiliary Bishop George Stack of Westminster and Nicholas Goddard, chairman of the hospital’s medical advisory committee.