My attention has just been drawn to an attack on the Bishop of Raphoe, Bishop Philip Boyce, by an atheist who is offended by the bishop's homily during a pilgrimage to Knock last August. In fact this atheist, Fine Gael party member, John Colgan, has reported the bishop to the Gardai (Irish Police), who in turn are preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions, and it may happen that Bishop Boyce may well faces charges. The charge is the old chestnut, "incitement to hatred". The fact that the Gardai are preparing a file means that they believe there may be a case to answer.
Here are the two extracts from the bishop's homily that may be, it seems, illegal in Ireland:
"The moment of history we live through in Ireland at present is certainly a testing one for the Church and for all of us. Attacked from the outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture: rocked from the inside by the sins and crimes of priests and consecrated people, we all feel the temptation to lose confidence. Yet, our trust is displayed and deepened above all when we are in troubled and stormy waters. It is easier to be confident when we ride on the crest of a wave, when the tide is coming in. Not so easy, however, yet every bit as necessary, when what is proclaimed by the Church namely the truth of faith with its daily practice and influence on behaviour, is under severe pressure."
"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."For the full text of the bishop's homily, which is very good, see here.
The complaint has been made by John Colgan, a retired chartered engineer and economist from County Kildare. He was the leader of the "Campaign to Separate Church and State" in the 1990's so he has a history of antagonism against the Catholic Church. He was also an unsuccessful Fine Gael candidate in parliamentary elections. From the article in the Irish Independent, Mr Colgan seems to describe the passing on of the Christian faith to members of the Christian faith as "hostile propaganda". So I take from that we are not allowed, in his eyes, to teach the faith to members of our own religion.
We shall have to see if the DPP is foolish enough to go ahead and press charges, if he does, then it will be time for bishops, priests and faithful to roll in behind Bishop Boyce and oppose them. Are things bad enough in Ireland for such stupidity to reign? That the freedom of religion and freedom of expression so cherished by the founding fathers and mothers of our nation, can be put aside because a non-believer is offended by a Christian pastor proclaiming the Gospel? The answer to that question is, sadly, yes: we are near that stage. However, I personally think, at this time, the DPP will pass on prosecution: such a decision would go down very badly with many. There is already a lot of anger.
We must pray for Bishop Boyce. He is a good bishop, orthodox, gentle and compassionate. He is a Discalced Carmelite, so a brother of mine in the Order. We entrust him to the maternal intercession of our Holy Mother, St Teresa, and to the prayers of his great friend, Blessed John Henry Newman.
To be honest, this appears to be another black mark against Fine Gael: first the unjust attack on our Church and Pope by the leader of the party, Enda Kenny in July, creating a serious diplomatic incident and exposing Ireland to international criticism; then they close down the embassy, and now it seems a member of their party is trying to prosecute a Catholic bishop, not for neglecting his duties with regard to child protect procedures, but because he preaches the Christian faith at a Catholic shrine.
God help us, is it not time for the ordinary Catholics of Ireland to rise up against this insane tyranny? I think if anyone needs to be prosecuted for inciting hatred, it may well be Mr Colgan.