Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth: Defeat snatched from jaws of victory


Fromn CFNews: The Restituta Group comment : ''The Hospital Trustee's Annual General Meeting confirms our worst fears. The Cardinal has insisted upon a new Board for the Hospital Trustee Company and the question that arose was whether this new Board would follow the teachings of the Church or, as reported in an article in 'The Tablet', adapt the ethics of the Hospital to suit doctors, clinicians and others who wish to carry out procedures such as referrals for abortions which are totally unacceptable in a Catholic Hospital. It would now appear that the report in The Tablet was correct.

The Hospital's Annual General Meeting

This was held on 2nd June 2008 much earlier than usual. No accounts for 2007 were presented to the meeting and no auditors were appointed. It would seem that the purpose of the meeting was to consolidate the appointment of Directors sympathetic to the Cardinal's agenda. Under the articles a third of the directors have to retire at the AGM and can be presented for re-election. As most of the elected Directors had already resigned the agenda required Charles Fitzherbert, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Aida Hersham to retire.

Charles Fitzherbert is a Trustee of the Brampton Trust as well as being on the Hospital board. We have always understood him to be fully supportive of the Brampton House Development Plan whereby the St John's Wood Medical Centre entered the Hospital to provide unacceptable services. In December 2007 on the resignation of Lord Bridgeman he was appointed temporary chairman of the Hospital to guide the prospective Chairman, Lord Guthrie. At the AGM on 2nd June he stood for reappointment but was voted out with three appointees of Lord Guthrie voting against him: Nicholas Coulson, Jonathan Scherer and Julian Schild. This was a strange development. Had the unlawfulness of the actions of the Brampton Trustees dawned on him as a result of the Charity Commission's institution of an enquiry into those actions? Had he begun to see the light and therefore became unacceptable to the Cardinal's party?

Jacob Rees-Mogg was a member of the Ethics Committee and all along has supported the teachings of the Church. For his loyalty to the Church the Cardinal asked him to resign in February of this year. The Guardian newspaper reported on 22nd February 2008: 'The cardinal's primary objective has always been for St John & St Elizabeth to remain a Catholic hospital and several issues were jeopardising that aim, including GPs prescribing the morning-after pill and referring patients for abortions'.

Earlier in the article it said: 'Scalps from Tuesday evening's decision include Aida Hersham, a Persian heiress and socialite, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, son of former Times editor William Rees-Mogg'. .

This could only suggest to the reader that Jacob Rees-Mogg and Aida Hersham were in opposition to Catholic teaching and were asked for their resignation. They both knew this to be untrue and therefore refused to resign.

Mrs Aida Hersham although not a Roman Catholic but Jewish has always supported Catholic teaching and has been a very generous benefactor of the Hospital. It is understood that such was her concern over the proposed entry of the St John's Wood Medical Practice that she approached the Cardinal to make an offer to put up the necessary funds for them to be persuaded to relocate elsewhere. This might have involved over a million pounds. The Cardinal's response was to ask for her resignation in February.

As neither of them had resigned Lord Guthrie informed them that he was arranging for them to resign automatically and to be put up for re-election. He further said they would not get his support. Mrs Hersham having seen Charles Fitzherbert, with whom she had done gallant work in fund-raising, forced out, decided to resign at the meeting before a vote could be taken as did Jacob Rees-Mogg.

One of the incoming directors has been heard to say that the Cardinal has done an excellent job in rescuing the Hospital from the hands of Catholic fundamentalists. The Archdiocese has certainly learnt a great deal about spin from Mr Blair's former office.

The Cardinal's Agenda

After several years of watching developments at the Hospital we can only conclude that the Cardinal has no intention that the vision of Cardinal Basil Hume for a Centre of Catholic Medical Excellence should be followed. Instead his agenda would appear to be one of compromise with the current secular ethic or lack of one. The intervention of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith provided a set-back to this agenda when he was obliged to set out the teachings of the Church in March 2006. However we have never had any explanation of what he said privately to Lord Bridgeman, the then Chairman of the Hospital, the previous month in February 2006. A smokescreen was set up in the form of appointments to a new Ethics Committee whose deliberations would have taken years if left to the Committee's Chairman. Again it was a set back for the Cardinal's agenda when it delivered after a year an updated Code of Ethics - the 2007 Code. The Cardinal did nothing to persuade the Board to act within this 2007 Code or to prevent the entry of the St John's Wood Medical Practice in January 2008. Instead he found the new code an embarrassment and insisted on a new Board which has now been finally elected in June 2008 to carry out his agenda.

The Cardinal's New Board & New Ethics

We have always said that for the Hospital to become, once again, a truly Catholic work it must have a management which is imbued with a Catholic vision. Since the departure of the Sisters of Mercy in the 1980s this has been sorely lacking. Neither the present Director, Christopher Board, nor his assistant Claire Hornick have this vision and have clearly not been supportive of orthodox Catholic teaching. This has been pointed out on numerous occasions and yet the new Chairman Lord Guthrie expressed full confidence in the probity and competence of Chris Board and Claire Hornick at the AGM.

In their issue of 8th March 2008 The Tablet had reported that: 'The Cardinal is understood to have recognised that a strict, Vatican-sanctioned code of ethics he had wanted to impose at the hospital needs to be reassessed if the hospital is to survive'.

However, a spokesman disputed that this week: 'The cardinal expects the board to move forward according to the agreed code'. The new appointees will be expected to hammer out a code of ethics acceptable to all.

Although we have asked for clarification of this issue from the Archdiocese none has been forthcoming. At the AGM Lord Guthrie announced that there would be a new Ethics Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Mark Allen, a former department head at MI6. A licence to kill perhaps? Will Bishop Stack, Canon Brockie or Father John Wilson be members of this committee as of the previous one? We will be surprised if they are. Lord Guthrie said the previous committee had been too large. He further said that there was no time-frame for setting it up; it would be a leaner committee and its remit would be wide-ranging and everyone in the Hospital would be consulted. Its principles are to be applied more 'broadly'. Lord Guthrie was not prepared to say whether the new Code would allow the St John's Wood Practice or anyone else in the Hospital to practice contrary to Catholic teaching. We got the impression that we were unlikely to hear anything from the Committee before the next AGM. Furthermore the new Ethics Committee is to be a sub-committee of the board and not be in charge of ethical governance in the Hospital. Does this mean that governance on ethical matters will be removed from Catholic control and left entirely to the Medical Advisory Committee which has no Catholics on it and is under the chairmanship of Nicholas Goddard who, with the management, has organised the opposition to the 2007 Code of Ethics? The system of governance asked for by the Cardinal in March 2006 would appear to be a dead letter. The result of the Cardinal's actions would appear to be that no attempt will be made to implement any Catholic ethics.

The Legal Perspective

What needs to be clearly understood is that the defining law on the ethical practices at the Hospital is set out in the constitution:

4A. Ethics. The Hospital shall be conducted in accordance with the ethics of the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the see of Rome. The Trustee shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that all persons working in the Hospital shall comply with this requirement and be fully informed on the subject. In the event of any difference of opinion arising as to these ethics or the application thereof then such difference will be submitted to the person for the time being exercising Archiepiscopal jurisdiction over the Roman Catholic Province of Westminster whose decision shall be final and conclusive.

That is the defining statement. In the past the Code of Ethics was merely a guide to what the ethics of the Roman Catholic Church are. If there is now to be a Code of Ethics which is NOT in compliance with those Catholic ethics then its implementation at the Hospital will be unlawful and the Board of the Hospital will be in complete breach of trust. We hope everyone understands what is meant by a breach of trust. The Board like the Brampton Trust have been entrusted with money and assets on a solemn trust that they be used for Roman Catholic purposes. If they use that money and assets for some other purpose they are purloining those assets. Morally this is little different from robbing a bank; those responsible would be acting dishonestly and are not to be trusted. There are penalties financial, civil and criminal. If the Board follow this course they can expect to be pursued through the available legal channels whether the Charity Commission or the Courts.

The problem though is that the Cardinal could deny the teachings of the Church and inform the Board and the Charity Commission that secular ethics that allow abortion are acceptable in a Catholic hospital. The question that we now ask is whether the Cardinal will proceed in such a manner.

A second problem is that the Cardinal, through his Board, may attempt to get the constitution changed by deletion or severe modification of clause 4A. Lawyers unsympathetic to the Catholic cause have already suggested this is possible. If the Cardinal consents to this course of action he will be allowing the destruction of part of our Catholic heritage in a manner little different from those bishops who cowardly accepted the Henrician reforms.

A Sorry Story

So matters are now looking pretty bleak. Questions were put to the AGM about the current state of ethics. It was apparent that the whole subject of ethics was being put off until some future unknown date and in the meantime no regard will be had to Catholic ethics. Questions about Gender Reassignment Operations were again dismissed. The evidence for these is in the hands of the Board and it is utterly dishonest to say that there is no proof one way or another.

How have we come to such a pass? The Sisters of Mercy and other Roman Catholic nuns who nursed the soldiers in the Crimea under Florence Nightingale were acting out their vocation as part of the Church whose mission is to train men's souls for heaven. They sought to carry out that spiritual mission by corporal works of mercy. When they returned to England Cardinal Wiseman and the future Cardinal Manning encouraged them in a similar spiritual mission in founding the Hospital. As Monsignor Ronald Knox has written there is a risk that a 'spiritual message will lose itself in philanthropic endeavour … Her [the Church's] message is of the world beyond; on it her eyes are set; she tends, feeds, teaches her children distractedly, only that she may point them to heaven; she will not lose her soul in what the world calls charity'. [ 'Pastoral Sermons' Ronald Knox. Burns & Oates 1960. p.36].

Over the years the spiritual message seems to have been lost. The founders: Cardinal Wiseman, Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Bourne (who set up the Brampton Trust), the Sisters of Mercy and the many Catholic laymen amongst whom many of us can recognise our ancestors would never have contemplated that abortions would be facilitated or phalloplasties carried out for deluded and exploited women. What trace is there now of any spiritual message? The absence of the Church's spiritual message means the loss of souls. Does anybody care? Do not Bishops other than the Cardinal have concerns? It was remarked the other day that the English Channel seems to put off a miasma which rots brains in the littoral Dioceses; the further North one goes the situation does improve; contrast the actions of Cardinals Winning and O'Brien over the abortion issue with those of their southern brethren. If there are Bishops, theologians or any Catholics who disagree with us let them speak out. One of the most remarkable aspects of this whole affair is that not one Catholic has put to us a reasoned argument that we have got it wrong either factually, theologically, pastorally or morally. We hope we have the humility to acknowledge and accept any sound correction.

But how much bleaker the outlook must have seemed for those martyrs who kept coming to England's shores in penal times; we must therefore not lose hope and we must have faith. There is after all the possibility that we may have a new Archbishop of Westminster with different ideas in the not too distant future; we would suggest that the parable of the dishonest steward is not irrelevant and some should be hedging their bets: 'for indeed, the children of this world are more prudent after their own fashion than the children of the light' Luke ch 16: v.8. The next few verses are worth reading as well!

Secretary to the Group
Nicolas J Bellord.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen