Bishop accused of inciting hatred with homily

Given the state of the Church in Ireland these days, I have to wonder how this will turn out.  Details:

A homily delivered at Knock shrine by the Bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce, is being investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions following a formal complaint by a leading humanist who claims the sermon was an incitement to hatred.

The gardai have confirmed to former Fine Gael election candidate John Colgan that they have prepared and forwarded a file to the DPP after he made allegations that the address by Dr Boyce was in breach of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989.

The homily, entitled: “To Trust in God” was delivered to worshippers during a novena at the Marian shrine in Co Mayo last August and subsequently reported in the media, including The Irish Times, under the headline: “‘Godless culture’ attacking church, says bishop.”

Mr Colgan, a retired chartered engineer and economist from Leixlip, Co Kildare, referred in his formal complaint to two key passages in Dr Boyce’s homily which he believes broke the law.

One of the passages referred to the Catholic Church in Ireland being “attacked from outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture”.

A second passage, which was included in the complaint, stated: “For the distinguishing mark of Christian believers is the fact they have a future; it is not that they know all the details that await them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness.”

Mr Colgan, who was a leader in the ‘Campaign to Separate Church and State’ in the late 1990s, said in his complaint: “I believe statements of this kind are an incitement to hatred of dissidents, outsiders, secularists, within the meaning of the [Incitement to Hatred] Act, who are perfectly good citizens within the meaning of the civil law. The statements exemplify the chronic antipathy towards secularists, humanists etc, which has manifested itself in the ostracising of otherwise perfectly good Irish citizens, who do not share the aims of the Vatican’s Irish Mission Church.”

To back up his complaint, Mr Colgan referred to two statistical surveys carried out two decades apart by the Jesuit sociologist and academic Fr Michael MacGreil, entitled: ‘Prejudice and Tolerance in Ireland’ and ‘Prejudice in Ireland Revisited’ which Mr Colgan claims showed “marked prejudice by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations against agnostics and atheists” (humanist was not an option offered to respondents in either survey).

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