Nottingham university refuses to recognise Catholic priest as chaplain over social media posts

Fr. David Palmer, a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham serving in the Diocese of Nottingham, England./ Courtesy photo.

A university in England has refused to recognize a Catholic priest as a chaplain over comments that he posted on social media.

The University of Nottingham, confirmed on Aug. 25 that it had declined to give official recognition to Fr. David Palmer, a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

“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 CNA.

Palmer, who serves in the Diocese of Nottingham, was named as chaplain to the Catholic community at the University of Nottingham by local Bishop Patrick McKinney.

The bishop also asked him to serve as Catholic chaplain to Nottingham Trent University.

While Nottingham Trent University accepted the appointment, the University of Nottingham invited Palmer for an interview on June 17.

Following the interview, the university wrote to McKinney expressing concerns about the appointment.

At a further meeting on July 1, the university specified that the concerns related to Palmer’s posts on social media, 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 told CNA via email on Aug. 26.

“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.”

The priest wrote on Twitter on Aug. 24 that the university also objected to a second post in which he described abortion as the “slaughter of babies,” in the context of the debate over U.S. President Joe Biden’s reception of Holy Communion despite backing legal abortion.

Palmer said that he defended both posts as reflecting Catholic belief.

The University of Nottingham was founded in 1881 and granted a royal charter in 1948. Its School of Medicine is the largest school in the university.

In November 2020, the university reached a settlement with a pro-life undergraduate student in a midwife program.

Julia Rynkiewicz, a 25-year-old Catholic, received an apology and payout after she was blocked from entering her program’s hospital placement phase after the university learned of her leadership of a pro-life student group.

The university overturned its decision, but Rynkiewicz sought an apology.

Fr. Palmer told CNA that after the meeting where his social media posts were discussed, the university authorities contacted the bishop to say that they still had concerns, asking him to provide an alternative priest.

Source: CNA