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).

Read the rest.


  1. ron chandonia says:

    Those of us who grew up on Irish priests and bishops are left puzzled if not stunned when we read about the hostility to Catholicism in modern Ireland. I remember the first time it hit home for me. Ten or 15 years ago, a friend had invited us to a big Christmas day meal at his home, and he had included a young Irishman recently arrived in the US whom he did not know well. The young man surprised everyone by very rudely refusing to join in the blessing of the food (“I’m not holding anybody’s hand!”), and then spent much of the meal grousing about people who celebrate Christmas as a religious occasion, including those who invited him to dinner.

    As I read the comments about this article on the Irish newspaper site, I kept hearing that young man’s voice, ranting about compulsory religious instruction and condemning Catholic literature that is “homophobic, anti-secular, anti-abortion and anti-criticism of the church.” It was the voice of an adolescent rebelling against his much-too-strict parents who now seem, in his considered judgment, just foolish and old-fashioned hypocrites. Only in this case, the parent under attack is the one he would once have honored as Holy Mother Church.

  2. naturgesetz says:

    And, of course, nobody (such as the Taoiseach — or Mr. Colgan) ever incites hatred against Catholics!

  3. The slightest critique will be understood by those militant atheists as “incitement of hatred”. So why can’t we accuse them of inciting hatred as well as they throw mud every day at Christians. Thank God the justice will not be silly enough to charge anybody saying that atheists are “godless and secular”. After all, that is the truth, they are godless that is why they call themselves “a-theist”.
    Militant atheists are a bunch of overgrown teenage boys, full of narcissism, they are free to insult any one but wait if you dare say a single word against them.

    A bunch of totally unsympathetic sissies. Sorry for the strong word but that what they really are.

  4. And do you not think the same will happen here in the US? We already see the attacks upon the Church with the recent ruling by the Obama Administration to force Catholic employers to provide services against key tenants of the faith under the guise of so called healthcare “reform”. Look this really should not be a surprise. Our Lord Himself warned us these days would come-I happen to believe we are now entering these days. The call to martyrdom is not easy and one I think most would not want to nor expected in our lifetimes or in our country we would have to face. Yet, here it is staring us in the face. It is not thankfully at yet a blood martyrdom, but is a call to stand up to defend the faith. Will it cost jail time through acts of civil disobedience? Will it cost you a job, friends, family, your ability to practice your faith? I don’t know yet, but I do honestly believe we will be reading more stories like this one, but they will be taking place on our shores.

  5. “The slightest critique will be understood by those militant atheists as ‘incitement of hatred’.”

    Unlikely. People have better things to do than check up on everything going on outside their clique.

    More likely, there is a lot of anger at bishops in Ireland these days, for obvious reasons. The pope and a lot of Catholics share that anger. And it might be that bishops are lashing back in anger, knowing they’ve lost many priests and laity.

    Better for Catholics not to play the victim. It plays into the worst of the modern culture. Better for us to read the bishop’s remarks, ponder the context, and assess it from there.

    The perception out there is that the Church is part of the cultural establishment. It is no longer above criticism. And while it is true that much of that criticism goes beyond the bounds of civility, well, as believers, we don’t do such a good job on that front on our end, do we?

  6. Todd, it would be nice when people “better things to do than to check up on everything going outside of their clique”, but there seem to be a lot of professional angry “men and women”. Just have a look at Dawkins, Hitchens, Harry etc. They really have nothing to do than to pick on the Christians.

    As for the Irish I can’t possibly comment. I live in a very good diocese and I am quite happy with the Catholicism here. I have no interest to join in the choir of angry lay men and women.

  7. P.S. I have no interest to join in the choir of angry lay men and women exactly because I have something better to do. Actually, I used to be angry with the crowd of Dawkins, Hitchens et co. Especially when they were so loud and rude during the Pope’s visit to the U.K. But now I just shrug my shoulders and say “typically adolescent narcissism” and lost any interest in a rational debate with them because they are not trained in rational argumentation. I don’t have the time to confront angry men and women who can’t calm down and think the situation calmly, if I have some more time to spare I would rather read Ludwig Feuerbach, the father of atheism, who is at least more intelligent and to be taken seriously. As for angry lay men and women I find anger against one’s own bishop to be extremely destructive and is not helping anyone. Constructive suggestions yes, but anger, fury and frustration, no.

  8. Absolutely we are going to see this kind of thing taking place in the US. In some ways, we alreadyare. In my perspective, the ideal thing would be for every Christian, Catholic, and Protestants alike, to learn more about what happened to the churches in Nazi Germany early on. How they were slowly silenced over time until they had no ability to speak out at all. I think this knowledge, and a good hard look at what is happening in the US, would make many Christians take a hard active stand against this culture. I see too many people who do not see that we are at risk of losing our freedom to fully practice our faith. The risk is very real.

  9. vox borealis says:

    Todd is nothing of not predictable.

    Anyway, the real issue is of course that “hate speech” laws are at best silly and at worst a dangerous threat to freedom of speech, which inevitably will be used by the tyranny of the majority (or minority) to bludgeon those who dare to express dissenting views.

  10. Anger is not usually the first human reaction to someone with whom they disagree. Most often it comes at the end of a long line of injustices. And since the bishop in question is accused of inciting anger and hatred, it rings rather false to attribute the same emotion to his critics. If nothing else, it’s unimaginative.

    As for anger, it is fruitless to deny I don’t feel it or it’s never directed at me. I expect almost all of us could say the same. Usually such circumstances are opportunities for self-reflection. I think many people in the Church are angry these days. I agree that anger is destructive when it grows beyond bounds and pours out to hurt the innocent. Do we take advantage of such opportunities? If we identify with the bishop and take the anger of others upon ourselves (I’ve never been personally criticized by Dr Dawkins, Mr Hitchens, etc..) we might ask ourselves why.

    Fulton Sheen once said that most all of those who say they hate Catholicism really hate a caricature of the faith that has been misrepresented to them.

  11. Even without knowing the details of the Irish law, it sounds like a long shot complaint, even in a country without a formal First Amendment. Oblique references to the threats of a “secular and godless culture” don’t seem to rise to the level of most hate speech laws I’ve seen. If he had singled out, say, atheists, with the clear implication that it’s time to “do something” about them or take the fight to where they live, that might be a different matter. This homily is positively mild stuff compared to the outlandish stuff that comes out of bishops’ mouths here in the U.S. Statements likening gays to the KKK, etc. The thugs who shouted down that girl in the Rhode Island atheist thing recently. THOSE dudes all would have wound up in the clink under Irish Law.

  12. Agreed, there is tremendous justified anger towards the Irish bishops for the failures of many in handling the abuse of children. However, I believe that this radical secularization began some time ago, even before the Cloyne report and previous similar reports in other dioceses.
    Unfortunately, along with the wonderful gains in the former period of the “Celtic tiger” were rapid societal changes that caused Ireland to reject and lose much of her identity.
    Nobody would like to see it return to the days of bleeding emigration, poverty and the Magdaline Sisters…but it is tragic to see this “terrible beauty” lose the beautiful faith that sustained her mothers and fathers for centuries.

  13. Jeff Stevens says:

    No, we won’t see it happen in the United States because we won’t let it.

    The line will be drawn here. This far, no further.

    (Referring to the HHS mandate)

  14. naturgesetz says:

    Todd —

    “Do we take advantage of such opportunities? If we identify with the bishop and take the anger of others upon ourselves (I’ve never been personally criticized by Dr Dawkins, Mr Hitchens, etc..) we might ask ourselves why.”

    Perhaps we take it upon ourselves when we see the direct and explicit object of the anger as representative of ourselves, and we don’t take it personally when we feel unconnected with the object of the anger.

    Fulton Sheen is right, of course, but it is still a normal reaction to want to defend the true faith from mistaken attacks based on a caricature.

  15. Ronald King says:

    I have seen the same personalities in the Church as well. Narcissism has no boundaries.

  16. Ronald King says:

    Teresa, did you read what you wrote above? What feeling were you expressing there?

  17. I don’t identify myself with a certain bishop as a fallible individual, but I identify myself with the ministry he represents, that is: Our Catholic Church and our Faith. If I don’t feel angry if my Church and my fellow Christians are slandered because of their faith, I would be a hypocrite. No, neither am I ever criticised by atheists like Dr. Dawkins or the late Mr. Hitchens. But I feel the injustice occurred to the good people they slandered through their anti-Christian propaganda, for example Mother Teresa. I am not saying Mother Teresa was beyond critique but if non-Christians and locals of the place she worked praise and honour her, she must have done a good work. Hitchen’s slander against her is unjustified, so was also the propaganda of Dawkins, which reminds one often of Stalinistic anti-Christian propaganda.

    As for caricature don’t think it is harmless. That is how propaganda functions. In Stalinistic USSR and its satellite countries they taught the caricature of Christians / Religious people at school, it was a mean to brain wash young people and suppress the freedom of religion. This caricature justified also the Soviet to send thousands of Polish and Czech priests to the Gulag.

    Mr. Todd doesn’t see any problem with the caricature because he lives in a free democratic State. But if a bishop is not allowed to call atheists “godless” (though they really reject God so why is it a slur to call them godless), we are not too far away from Stalinism any more. I oppose Dawkins and his crowd not because they are atheists, but because of his anti-liberal tendency.

  18. Folks may not realize it but Catholics are the subject of a culture war by the left due to their positions on gay marriage, abortion, celibacy, etc.

    You are already seeing widely accepted attacks by Hollywood and the MSM on the church. You see it by Democrat, Occupy, and the LGBT crowd.

    You are being marginalized, mocked, and being blamed for intolerance. The President took the Catholic majority support from the 2008 election and enacted anti-Catholic legislation wantonly.

  19. I agree George, but here’s the thing:

    When the gays are “all used up” as in, useless any longer for poltical votes, and the culture of death has clearly moved beyond abortion to pretty much anyone over 70 no longer of “any value”, only then will those who “attacked” us wish we were now there still fighting, because this time, it would have been for them.

  20. A little perspective will go a long way in shrinking this hysteria down to its proper size. Yes, a guy filed a complaint under a law that can get people in trouble for hate speech. Yes, the authorities are processing it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to go anywhere. I’ve done a bit of reading on the Prohibition to the Incitement of Hatred Act in Ireland. Read the text of it and news and papers by some national commissions who have analyzed it from time to time.
    As far as I can tell, no one has ever been prosecuted under it except in cases where people were physically hurt in hate-related incidents. To get prosecuted under the law, you have to publish or broadcast material which is “threatening, abusive or insulting AND intended, or having regard to all the circumstances, likely to stir up hatred.”
    It also specifically provides a mile-wide defense if the accused say they didn’t mean to “stir up hatred.” Basically, to get in trouble with this law, you have to be over the top blatantly and unrepentantly nasty. It’s a law that seems to envision prosecuting people for, say, a skinhead rally in which guys are yelling the n-word through bullhorns or publishing stuff like the Turner Diaries.
    Like I say, in every case I’ve seen in a handful of searches, the court or prosecutors seem to feel the law is too vague and sets too high of bar to prosecute someone just for speech. There was a case just this past October where a guy was charged under the act for a facebook page which said a lot of nasty stuff about Travellers. Sort of Ireland’s version of Gypsies. At any rate, they’re often looked down at like gypsies, called dirty, thieving, what have you. I guess the guy posted a page titled “Promote the use of knacker (traveller) babies as shark bait.”
    As we can imagine, the travellers didn’t like that so much, and seemed to have a good case under the law. The court dismissed it because it was not crystal clear the defendant was trying to stir up real hatred or get anybody hurt, even though what he published rose to the level of “abusive and insulting.” If this guy got off, rest assured, this bishop will as well. What he said was not nasty except by a VERY strained use of imagination, and he’s already on record as saying he meant no offense. He came off as a truly nice guy in the media.
    I know all Catholics are supposed to be feeling under seige these days, but take a few deep breaths on this one. Keep in mind also that the Irish are fond of passing big, scary draconian sounding speech laws, including a law criminilizing blasphemy. They’re not really fond of prosecuting people if they don’t have to. Many of these hate laws really seem to be the country’s way of making progressive statements to Europe by saying “see, we don’t tolerate hatred here.”

  21. naturgesetz says:

    Kenneth —
    You may be correct — and I certainly hope you are — that this complaint will go nowhere. Still, it serves to illustrate the mindset of militant anti-Catholics.

    Here’s another example, from an English blogger’s “Manifesto” —
    “Equality is a fundamental right for all citizens, same sex couples will be given equal marriage rights, including the right to marry in church. If a particular church, for religious reasons and beliefs will not allow same sex marriages, then it must display a large sign above all doors and on all church literature stating clearly ‘We discriminate against gay and lesbian people’.
    Again, this is just one man’s suggestion — but one which I think many in the “gay community” would approve as an ideal — but it shares with Mr. Colgan the idea that Catholics should be pariahs for their beliefs. (And it should serve as a caution to all the naive people who think that gay “marriage,” if generally legalized will not eventually become a basis for action against the Catholic Church and other bodies that uphold the biblical view of marriage.)

  22. I think in the end we will see that this was basically a publicity stunt. It worked. If the guy had just put out a press release or web post griping about the Church, it probably wouldn’t have gotten play in most of that county, let alone across the Atlantic. We also need to keep in mind that the Church-secular society conflict has a whole different dimension in Ireland.
    Even into the present day, the Church has been intertwined with government in Ireland in a way that’s hard for us to even conceive of in this country. It really is/was almost like Islam in Saudi Arabia. For uncounted centuries, people there were loyal to the Church at a level not seen in the U.S. since the 1950s, if even then. When the extent of their abuse scandal came out, I think that hit people much harder there than here, compounding the sense of betrayal and a backlash of secularism as a real political force. People have damn good reason for grievance there, even if some extreme activists are making hay with it.

    Will Catholicism become pariah for its views? It might, in many quarters. Probably fair to say it already is. That, in itself is unfortunate, but it’s not persecution. No one has a right to be popular for their beliefs. They do have the right to hold and express them without having the tools of government abused to punish them for it. I happen to see true separation of church and state as the best hope for that. Keep religion out of the state, keep the state out of religion. Gay marriage is an example of that. We have some very good legal precedence in the states which would preclude a court from ever forseeably trying to order a church to acknowledge or solemnize gay marriage against their will. The courts just reaffirmed their determination to stay out of internal church matters with that employment law case.
    At the same time, sooner or later, the churches are going to have to give up on trying to enforce their doctrine in civil law. The backlash you fear will come not from legalizing gay unions, but from fighting them tooth and nail. 99.99% of these people aren’t fighting to get married in a Catholic Church. Not even all that many hetero Catholic couples are bent on doing that these days. What they do want is to have access to the same civil rights and government as everyone else who pays taxes.
    If the RCC and other Christian groups continue to make themselves a huge barrier to civil, not religious marriage, then yes, you’re going to have a lot of very angry people and more than a few who will make it their life’s work to marginalize and harass the churches any way they can. Standing by your doctrine and ritual practices is one thing. Trying to use the machinery of government to enforce them on an unwilling populace, on the other hand, will feed a lot of oxygen and fuel to the fires that cranks like Colgan are trying to start.

  23. 1) Yes I’ve read what I wrote above because it is impossible to write something without reading it at the same time;

    2) no specific feeling at all, only speaking out of experience, that I have seen too many angry laymen and I find their way to deal with difficult situations not very useful and that I thus decide to decline joining them.


  24. It will become persecution if the view expressed by the said Bishop is criminalized and he ordered to shut up by the court. Let us hope that the justice system of Ireland has not gone mad yet.

  25. HeermitTalker says:

    It is so amusing in a way; the self-described humanist calls the Catholic Church here The Vatican’s Mission to Ireland and that is not inciting as he describes the bishop’s words? The bishop did not suggest that the listeners attack, burn down or spit on non-believers in any of the two quotes attributed to him. He stated a very clearly documented obvious fact of life in today’s society in every culture. He needs our prayers as do the bishops who have been denigrated so much their prophetic voice is almost silenced against the real serious abuse of the family, the elderly and most vulnerable over against the powers who are forcing cuts in social benefits to pay back the crowd that caused the hurt in the first place

  26. I would have politely invited that young man to leave my table and go pay for his own meal somewhere else. I know, you will say that is not loving. So be it.

    Sometimes the truth hurts. Don Quixote told Sancho “If the dogs bark Sancho, it is because we are indeed riding forward” (paraphrase from the Spanish).

  27. I hope you are right Mr. Stevens. But am afraid that the Church is so weakened by internal dissension and society so far down the slope of the “Culture of Death”, that reversing this will prove too much. This is a test of will and it may be that the Church does not have what it takes to prevail.

  28. I agree with Teresa. So called “dialogue” with secularists and atheists is mostly one way; their way.

  29. So true vox vorealis. Actually the Health Reform mandate for contraceptives is such a frontal attack on freedom and it is here and now, not in the future. The repression against religion and specially Catholicism has just moved up in scale. Think of what will happen in the next five years of this administration’s confrontation with Christian values.

  30. Atheists like Dawkins have called religions a “dangerous psychosis” and have called for governments to take children away from religious people so that they will not be “forced” into believing. These people have called Christianity as dangerous and evil. Is that loving speech?

  31. Rudy, keep the faith! No doubt we are in challenging times, but so many who have gone befores us also dealt with difficulties and came through. I have confidence no matter what that in the end, Jesus and His Bride will triumph because He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

  32. Uterrer Er says:

    The Bishop ought to immediate file a counter complaint, that Mr. Colgan’s complaint is an incitement to violence against Catholics.

    He can cite the “purposeful twisting of the 2000-year teachings of the most peaceful religion in the world to present them as violent” as being “likely to foster a anti-Catholic hatred and foment violence similar to what this country has seen against Catholics in the north throughout “the troubles””.

    POW! Right backatcha!

  33. What should happen, and I think what will, is that the authorities should tell both sides to take their culture war spat somewhere else than the criminal justice system, which has some real work to get done.

  34. Ronald King says:

    Teresa, How can you say that you had no feeling at all when you wrote “A bunch of totally unsympathetic sissies.”? You either have no insight and your defense of denial is extremely strong thus protecting you from unwanted distressing feelings or you have intentionally withheld expressing your feeling. When you state that you are “…sorry for the strong word…” then that is a clear indication of a strong feeling influencing your writing. You call them narcissists. That is an extremely vindictive use of the word to describe someone or a group of people.

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