The former head of the UK’s largest private abortion provider has come to the defence of a Catholic university chaplain “cancelled” for expressing his pro-life opinions.
Ann Furedi, until recently the chief executive officer of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said Nottingham University was “stupid” for refusing to recognise Fr David Palmer as chaplain because of remarks he made against abortion and assisted suicide.
The university declined to confirm the post of the priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham after he said on Twitter that abortion was the “slaughter of babies” and assisted suicide was “killing the vulnerable”.
Instead, it will allow him to visit only once a week as a “guest priest”, a move which effectively leaves the university and its large medical school without a Catholic chaplain.
His so-called “cancellation” has prompted an outcry from Catholic and non-Catholic commentators alike, and last night they were joined by Miss Furedi.
She declared in a tweet: “So stupid to cancel this guy … he’s a Catholic priest – let Catholic students decide individually if they want his counsel.”
Miss Furedi also retweeted a post by Timandra Harkness, in which the scientific writer, comedian and broadcaster said: “This is terrible.
“I disagree with his views on abortion but as a Catholic priest he’s expressing a mainstream Catholic view. Universities can’t tell chaplains what religious beliefs to express.”
Fr Palmer welcomed the comments of Miss Furedi, saying they further revealed the “ludicrous” position adopted by the university.
“Obviously, it was not what I expected,” he told the Catholic Herald.
“This is somebody who, for her whole career really, has advocated for or provided abortion and who is now saying it is ridiculous for the university to cancel me as a Catholic chaplain and that it makes the university look ludicrous.”
He said: “She is saying that if you are a Catholic priest you are clearly going to have this view and for the university to cancel me for having them clearly makes it look ridiculous.”
Fr Palmer added: “It is taking a view which is more extreme than the former chief executive officer of BPAS.”
The University of Nottingham last week confirmed it would not recognise Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham’s appointment of Fr Palmer as 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,” a spokesperson for the university told Catholic News Agency.
The priest said that the University of Nottingham summoned him to explain his forthright criticism of the Assisted Dying Bill of Baroness Meacher, which seeks to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales and which will receive its Second Reading in the House of Lords in October.
The bishops of England and Wales are encouraging Catholics to actively oppose the Bill by contacting political representatives to ask them to speak and vote against it.
But Fr Palmer said that university staff suggested to him that he should refer to assisted suicide as “end of life care”, a demand he refused on the grounds that their intervention represented “a completely unacceptable policing of religious belief”.
The University of Nottingham was founded in 1881 and was granted a royal charter in 1948.
In November 2020, it reached a settlement with Catholic undergraduate midwifery student Julia Rynkiewicz, who received an apology and compensation after she was barred from a hospital placement phase when the university learned of her leadership of a pro-life student group.
Fr Palmer was also asked Bishop McKinney to serve as Catholic chaplain to Nottingham Trent University, which has accepted his appointment.
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund