Religion & Liberty Online

A Samson Option for Ireland’s Catholic hospitals?

National funding of health care has produced a fresh crisis in Europe. Not merely the never-ending “winter crisis” in the NHS each year, but a crisis of conscience for Catholic health care providers.

The Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, recognizing the unborn child’s inalienable right to life.

With alarming speed, abortion has gone from illegal to mandatory. According to the (UK) Catholic Herald:

Ireland’s Taoiseach [Prime Minister] has said that hospitals with a Catholic ethos will be required to perform abortions after new legislation comes into effect.

Leo Varadkar told the Dáil [Éireann, the lower house of the Irish legislature] that individual medics and healthcare workers will be able to opt out but that this opt-out will not extend to publicly funded hospitals.

This highlights the inevitable moral quandaries that arise anytime the government operates health care. These dilemmas have faced pro-life midwives and many others seeking to obey a well-formed conscience when the government seeks to impose a different orthodoxy.

Taxpayer funding does not guarantee control by, or respect for, the taxpayers.

At The Stream, John Zmirak analyzes how hospitals owned by religious orders – such as two of Dublin’s largest – may choose to respond:

Who knows if Catholic hospitals can survive without that funding? That probably doesn’t matter. Let’s say they renounced government money. (As they should.) Will the frenzied pro-choice faction that now rules Ireland leave matters at that? No. They’ll pass a bill requiring every hospital, even without state funding, to kill the unborn. That’s just how this shark swims.

He notes that the hospitals cannot participate in abortion in any way and remain faithful. Nor should their premises be sold to facilitate that purpose.

Instead, he proposes something like the “Samson Option.” After Samson’s foolish confession to Delilah brought him into captivity, he pulled down the temple where he was chained in a dying act of defiance. Zmirak writes:

These hospitals must close. In fact, if the Irish government persists, they ought to be closed all at once. On the very same day. And they ought to be dynamited, the sites left piles of rubble. (Remember how Mother Angelica answered the threat of liberal bishops seizing her network: “I’ll blow the damn thing up before you get your hands on it!”)

Zmirak indicates, if the government compels Catholic hospitals to kill, they may also refuse to heal. That may prove to be the only alternative left for the faithful subjected to the bureaucratic insensitivity that secularized, national health care ushers in.

If the government does not relent, the last gasp of Catholic health care in Ireland may echo Samson’s final words: “Let me die with the Philistines” (Judges 16:30).

You can read his whole article here.

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is an Eastern Orthodox priest and served as Executive Editor of the Acton Institute (2016-2021), editing Religion & Liberty, the Powerblog, and its transatlantic website. He has extensively researched the Alt-Right. Previously, he worked for LifeSiteNews and, where he wrote three books including Party of Defeat (with David Horowitz, 2008). His work has appeared at, National Review, The American Spectator, The Guardian, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Spectator USA, FEE Online, RealClear Policy, The Blaze, The Stream, American Greatness, Aleteia, Providence Magazine, Charisma, Jewish World Review, Human Events, Intellectual Takeout,, Issues & Insights, The Conservative,, and The American Orthodox Institute. His personal websites are and His views are his own.