Priest denied university chaplaincy over tweets

A priest is considering legal action after a university blocked his appointment as chaplain due to concerns over tweets about his Catholic beliefs.

Father David Palmer was nominated as the Catholic chaplain of the University of Nottingham by his bishop.

But university bosses rejected him when posts about abortion and euthanasia were brought to their attention.

A university spokeswoman said the issue was not with his beliefs but the way they had been expressed.

Concerns were raised over Fr Palmer’s appointment when campus authorities flagged up tweets, including one where he criticised US President Joe Biden’s position on abortion, accusing him of promoting the “slaughter of unborn babies”.


Another post, commenting on proposed changes to assisted dying legislation, said then Health Secretary Matt Hancock was going to allow the NHS to “kill the vulnerable”.

The university subsequently halted his appointment as chaplain, although he is still allowed to host Sunday mass as a visiting priest.

A University of Nottingham spokeswoman said: “A university should be a place for the robust exchange of views and debate over ideas, and we have no issue with the expression of faith in robust terms – indeed we would expect any chaplain to hold their faith as primary.

“Our concern was not therefore in relation to Father David’s views themselves, or the tenets of the Catholic faith which we fully respect, but the manner in which these views have been expressed in the context of our diverse community of people of many faiths.”

The spokeswoman added the current chaplain would remain and the university would continue “a constructive dialogue with the diocese”.

But Fr Palmer has criticised the decision.

“We live in a free society and a university of all places is supposed to be somewhere where we have that freedom to discuss different ideas,” he said.

“The university talks about diversity all the time – diversity means allowing different opinions.

“Anyone is allowed to disagree with what the Catholic church teaches but to say you cannot teach the Catholic position, even to Catholics, is crazy.

Fr Palmer has been backed by The Free Speech Union, which has sent a letter to the university’s vice-chancellor Professor Shearer West.

The priest said once she has responded to the letter, he would “take advice as to the realistic possible steps afterwards”.

“If there are legal grounds, yes I would [take legal action],” he said.

“I think if we don’t challenge these sorts of things it gets worse not better. More things will get cancelled, more things will be stopped and there will be more policing of thought and expression.”

A Diocese of Nottingham spokesperson said it was disappointed the nomination had not been accepted but Fr Palmer’s ministry would continue off campus.

Simon Caldwell, associate editor of the Catholic Herald, said: “I have never, in 30 years of Catholic journalism, come across a case where a university has objected to the views of a Catholic chaplain.

“It is ridiculous when a Catholic chaplain is censored because he has made remarks which reflect the moral teachings of the Catholic church.”

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