Sunday, January 29, 2012

Irish Bishop May Face Criminal Charges For Preaching The Gospel

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.


  1. I concur with Martin, going to KNOCK to a CATHOLIC church, gets upset at hearing pro-Catholic reinforcing sermon... they guy must be deluded.

  2. Yes, it's Mr Colgan who's doing the hating. It might be a bit silly to be giving his complaint so much attention. He is one individual who took a notion, and suddenly there is a whole controversy on his terms.

  3. Yes, it may seem silly to be covering Mr Colgan's ridiculous compliant, but what is even sillier is the fact that the Gardai have taken it seriously instead of sending him packing, and they are now compiling a file for the DPP who will consider whether the Bishop should be prosecuted or not. Mr Colgan is a bigot and he is looking for attention, but it is scandalous and a waste of police time for the Gardai to be encouraging him in his petty hate campaign against Christianity.

  4. There is, objectively, nothing in the sermon which could amount to "incitement to hatred", and it could not reasonably be argued that that was Bishop Boyce's intention. To find otherwise would be patently irrational and necessarily raise the question of prejudice or malice. In my opinion, the complaint clearly is without foundation and reason then requires that the motivation for such a complaint being made is looked out. The complaint could not reasonably be taken to be anything other than vexatious - in fact, absurd. That should have been obvious to the Gardai and it ought not to have been referred to the DPP. Presuming Mr Coughlan is at least of normal intelligence, it can properly be construed that he knew that his complaint was unfounded. Why did he attend a Catholic Mass on private property? Not only ought not the Gardai have referred the case but malicious intent on the complainant's part ought to have been investigated by them. A malicious complaint is an offence. There would also appear to be ample motivation given background information relating to the complainant. One has to question the competence or bona fides of the Gardai in referring the book to the DPP. Ironic, given the offence invoked, that irrational hatred of Catholicism appears to be the only rational explanation for the complaint. Perhaps the Gardai involved put aside the facts, the law and logic for some very good reason, not readily apparent?!

  5. Thanks Lynda. Here's a question: can one make a formal complaint against Colgan citing the incitement to hatred act - have him prosecuted for this malicious and bigoted action?

  6. If it is true that the Gardai referred, or gave consideration to referring the case to the DPP, it ought only to have been based on the facts or alleged facts alone (i.e. what Bishop Boyce said in his homily - which was likely independently verifiable) and not on any opinion about, or interpretation of, those words by the complainant. On that basis, the Gardai appear to have (erroneously) determined that the words actually uttered (and as uttered) by the Bishop could possibly satisfy the requirements of the offence of incitement to hatred. Once this has been done by the Gardai, it is out of the complainant's hands, and he has no further responsibility for progressing the case. As the Gardai have, as it were, taken responsibility for the progression of the case against the Bishop, it could not then consider whether the complaint was made maliciously, without accepting that it had erred in referring or considering referral of the file to the DPP. What is the likelihood of that, one wonders? It is also probable that this complaint was considered at a higher level within the force than most because of the relative novelty of the offence itself, the relative novelty of prosecutions or convictions under the legislation, the high public profile and religious status of the actor involved, the likelihood of a great amount of Media attention, as well as the societal implications.

  7. Mr Colgan has probably gone to the media, as he was getting no where, through the official channels. His complaint is complete and utter nonsense.

    But isn't it great that Mr Colgan goes to Knock, (strange behaviour for a humanist!, each to their own I suppose), and I must commend him for reading Bishop Boyce's sermon so thoroughly. If only more people would listen to, and read the homilies one of our better bishops, the Irish Church would be in a better state.

    Keep up the good work Bishop Boyce!

    Mr Colgan, get a life, and stop inciting hatred!

  8. This is just a practise run for the future. This is just a daft joke, but the time is coming when any priest or bishop who preaches the true faith will be punished by the full force of the law. So then we must be zealous and manful in our preaching of the Gospel, and, like St. Stephen, go out in ecstasy even as we pray for our persecutors as they crush us. But for now, it is enough to laugh at them and to manfully continue on our way, preaching the true faith and to hell with the consequences. We proceed with reckless Godly abandon and zeal.

  9. Very sad sad sad. I thought the Gospel was supposed to challenge us, convict us and console us. What would Jesus do and I believe exactly what Bishop Boyce is doing. I tend to think like Martin this is a practice run. Does the Bible not also tell us all (Baptised) "Woe to us if we don't preach the gospel". Can't remember the scripture - but it's there.
    Sandra Doherty

  10. Best not even reporting this, Father, as that is what he wants. Having made a complaint the Guards are forced to record it and send a note to DPP (saying this is a crock of ...). Colgan is just playing the game and we shouldn't help him with more publicity.

  11. Mr Colgan is a freak plain and simple and should be ashamed of himself for uttering such nonsence and to think such a person represented us in the Dial is sad. No wonder the country is in such a mess.

  12. I would like to agree with anonymous of the 30 Jan .Colgan wants comments in fact he needs them , Margaret Thatcher once talked of the " publicity being the oxygen" that feeds this type of nonsense . Calling Colgan names is not the answer let us imitate Our Lord and bless him " for he knows not what he does" .
    As our society becomes more secular and simultaneously more anti social though that does not mean one is the consequence of the other ; society is extracting and trying to use biblical and religious laws to create a secular 10 commandments .There is evidence that we are entering a dark period ; wars ,marital break down , homelessness , hopelessness, violent crime,abuse of people, of drugs and alcohol , financial collapse ,attacks on religion particularly Catholics generals selfishness etc . We need the " faith of our fathers " more than ever.
    Colgans solution would create more .