Social media posts see Catholic priest denied place as uni chaplain

British Council

Catholic priest Fr David Palmer’s social media posts have seen the University of Nottingham decline to recognise him as a chaplain.

“Our concern was not in relation to Fr. David’s views themselves, but the manner in which these views have been expressed in the context of our diverse community of people of many faiths,” the university says.

Palmer had been named as chaplain to the Catholic community at the University and as Catholic chaplain to Nottingham Trent University.

Nottingham Trent University accepted the appointment. However, after interviewing Palmer, the University of Nottingham wrote to McKinney about concerns regarding the appointment.

It later explained the concerns related to Palmer’s social media posts, highlighting one on assisted suicide and another on abortion.

“They referenced a tweet where I had referred to the proposed ‘assisted dying’ bill [introduced in Britain’s Parliament in May] as a bill to allow the NHS ‘to kill the vulnerable,’” Palmer says.

“I was told it was fine for me to have this opinion, but they were concerned with how I expressed it. When I asked how they would suggest I express it, quite remarkably, they suggested I should call it ‘end of life care,’ which is a completely unacceptable policing of religious belief.”

Palmer tweeted last week that the university also objected to a second post in which he described abortion as the “slaughter of babies,”. His comment was made in the context of the debate over U.S. President Joe Biden’s reception of Holy Communion despite backing legal abortion.

Palmer says he defends both posts as reflecting Catholic belief.

He says after the university rejected his placement, the bishop declined to nominate another priest. The university then agreed he could offer Mass on campus on Sundays as a “guest priest.”

Stressing that the university supported its Catholic community, a university spokesperson said: “We have no issue with the expression of faith in robust terms, indeed we would expect any chaplain to hold their faith as primary.”

“The University of Nottingham remains committed to supporting staff and students of Catholic faith and continuing our 90-year tradition of providing Catholic chaplaincy for them,” the spokesperson said.

Tweeting about the issue, Palmer noted that the university does not pay for chaplains. He also said most pastoral work with Catholic students would take place at the Newman House and St. Paul’s in Lenton, a parish that includes the university within its boundaries.

Palmer rejects the university’s explanation.

They say they have ‘no issue with the expression of faith in robust terms,’ but this is precisely what they had an issue with, he says. It appears “diversity only goes so far, certainly not as far as the Catholic chaplain being able to express ‘robustly’ mainstream Catholic beliefs.”

“The suggestion that they are grateful for the bishop’s ‘solution’ almost seems to imply that the bishop somehow agrees with the university ‘policing’ the expression of Catholic teaching on pro-life issues.”

“His ‘solution’ was an attempt to ensure that the university didn’t end up barring sacramental ministry to the students entirely. It wasn’t tacit approval of their behavior.”


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