A higher education institution in England agreed to recognize a Catholic priest as chaplain after refusing to do so due to his tweets about abortion and euthanasia.
Br David Palmer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham published a declaration from the University of Nottingham on Twitter on Saturday, indicating that the institution had “introduced a revised procedure for the recognition of chaplains of all faiths who are appointed to work in university chaplaincy”.
The new policy essentially involves a new chaplain going through a one-year trial period to determine if “the role is suitable for both the individual and the multi-faith environment in Nottingham”.
“Following a constructive and useful dialogue with the Diocese of Nottingham over the past few weeks, it was agreed that Father David Palmer would be recognized under this procedure as university chaplain of the Catholic faith,” said the letter.
Palmer responded to the news by proclaiming he couldn’t wait to “get down to business.”
Palmer announcement on August 9 that the Bishop of Nottingham asked him to be chaplain to university students.
Two weeks later, he reported that the University of Nottingham would not recognize him “officially” as chaplain because of his belief that “assisted death kills the vulnerable”. He noted that his position on euthanasia aligns with the teaching of the Catholic Church on the issue.
“They objected to my Twitter account,” he said added. “When I asked which tweets they considered ‘problematic’ they mentioned two …
According to Palmer, the university was also concerned about one of its tweets calling the abortion a “massacre of babies.” He stressed that he “refused to back down and defended both tweets as reflecting Catholic belief.”
“The abortion tweet specifically referred to Joe Biden’s policies on abortion and his receiving Holy Communion regardless,” Palmer explained.
On September 9, a group of former lay chaplains from the University of Nottingham wrote a letter to the school’s vice-chancellor urging the college to reconsider its refusal to recognize Palmer as chaplain.
“Father Palmer’s views on the sanctity of life from the moment of conception to natural death are views we also share,” they wrote. “We have taken the same position while being recognized by you as lay Catholic chaplains and believe that the views and language of Father David are part of the lexicon of mainstream Catholicism. These are fundamental views of the Church, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and articulated in terms much more robust than fr. Palmer by Popes and Saints through the Ages. “
Alleging that the refusal to recognize Palmer creates “the appearance of deliberate targeting of a religious minority,” they shared their belief that “a strong articulation of the Church’s position on moral issues in no way negates the ability to provide pastoral support to individuals in their unique times of need. ”
“The firmly expressed Catholic belief on topical issues currently at the center of national and international debate cannot be a litmus test for a lack of pastoral sensitivity,” concluded the former chaplains.
As part of the declaration announcing Palmer’s appointment, Registrar Paul Greatrix pledged to “fully respect and protect the freedom of expression of our community and the expression by our chaplains of the tenets of their faith.”
In a separate tweet, Palmer expressed his gratitude to the “many people” who “helped us behind the scenes.” He specifically thanked Alliance Defending Freedom International and the Union for Freedom of Expression for providing “invaluable” legal advice.
The initial refusal to recognize Palmer as a Catholic chaplain is not the first time the University of Nottingham has been accused of expressing hostility towards those with pro-life beliefs.
In 2020, midwifery student Julia Rynkiewicz was suspended from hospital placement due to her involvement in the pro-life society Students for Life.
After a four-month suspension and a ‘fitness to practice investigation’, the University of Nottingham apologized to Rynkiewicz for suspending her and paid him an undisclosed settlement.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for the Christian Post. He can be contacted at: [email protected]