Militant Secularism at Work Again in Ireland

March 12, 2019

A report published by the Irish Ministry of Health questions the legitimacy of the presence of Catholic symbols in public health care facilities.

Until February 28, 2019, Irish Catholic hospitals worried little about the crucifixes and other religious symbols on their walls.

But a report published that day by the Ministry of Health could spark things off for the 12 hospitals that are more or less directly run by the Church, and that receive 1.24 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in public funding, a sum that could kindle a certain amount of interest.

Based on an important “number of respondents” who find the religious identity of these health facilities too “apparent,” the report from the ministry published on February 28th conveys a hypocritical message.

“We recommend that organizations be more aware of the impact of the visual environment on their users and that they make every effort to respect the opinions of the majority, as far as possible,” reads “Recommendation 7.2” from the Ministry of Health to health care facilities. 

This was more than enough to reignite the burning question of the visibility of the Catholic Church in the public domain at a time when the ecclesiastical institution has been radically attacked with the referendum on abortion organized in May 2018.

The Prime Minister Leo Varadkar nonetheless explained to NewsTalk, on the day the ministerial report was published, that for the time being, the government is not planning to oblige Catholic hospitals to remove religious signs: “It’s not a campaign from the government or anyone around removing cribs or crucifixes or statues of Our Lady,” he assured.

The head of the executive branch did, however, warn: “It is a message to charities and voluntary bodies that do run hospitals and schools just to have regard to these things.”

This “message” sounds like a warning coming from a Taoiseach (head of state in Irish Gaelic) who, ever since he came into power, has done everything he can to “modernize” the country, making it adopt the secularized legislation of its main European counterparts.

This posture seems all the more legitimate to Leo Varadkar with the threat of the British Brexit that has Ireland afraid of being isolated through a knock-on effect that its government is determined to avoid. Regardless of the rights of God and His Church.