Irish Director of Public Prosecutions ill judged investigation of bishop’s homily

The gardai have confirmed that the Director of Public Prosecutions is investigating Dr Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe for a homily he gave at Knock referring to a ‘godless culture’ for breaching theProhibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989. This unwarranted and malicious investigation results from a mischief making complaint from atheist  John Colgan, a former Fine Gael candidate who accuses Dr Boyce of inciting hatred against atheists.

Here is the paragraph from Bishop Boyce’s homily that has resulted in a police investigation:

‘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.’

The second paragraph from Dr Boyce’s homily included in Mr Colgan’s complaint states:

‘Indeed unless we trust in a higher power, in God himself, what hope can we have? St. Paul told his converts at Ephesus that before they came to know Christ, they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). We need the radiance of a hope that looks beyond the horizons of space and time, one as Pope Benedict teaches “that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance” (Spe Salvi No. 35). For the distinguishing mark of Christian believers is “the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness….To come to know God – the true God – means to receive hope” (Ibid, No. 2.3). We thank God for the faith, that enables us to trust in Him.’

Mr Colgan attempts to justify his ludicrous complaint with the following statement:

‘”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.”

Martin Long of the Catholic Communications office said:

“I advise any person to read it and judge it for themselves. It is clearly a reasonable, balanced, honest — and indeed self-critical from a church perspective — analysis of the value of the Catholic faith. Bishop Boyce is a good and holy man and much loved by those who know him.”

Protect the Pope comment: This investigation by the Director of Public Prosecutions is ill judged and serves only to discredit the law in Ireland. Any fair minded person reading Bishop Boyce’s homily will find nothing that justifies police action.

Neither Bishop Boyce nor the Catholic Communication Office should publicly respond to Colgan’s malicious complaint, because that will just encourage more humanist thugs to attempt to bully the Church into apologetic silence. Instead for the next month all the bishops of Ireland should make some reference in their homilies to ‘godless culture’ in a show of solidarity with Bishop Boyce.





14 comments to Irish Director of Public Prosecutions ill judged investigation of bishop’s homily

  • Mark Thorne

    It sounds as if this John Colgan fellow, whoever he is, ought to refresh himself on the basic principles of his own faith, atheism. If he doesn’t like the term “emptiness” as employed by Bishop Boyce, he could easily substitute it with “nihilism”. His Excellency has only iterated here what atheists believe about themselves. What a complete waste of time, money, effort and energy this police investigation is.

  • Karla

    I don’t see anything wrong with the Bishop’s homily, it is crazy that he could be investigated for this. Pray for him!

  • I entirely agree with your comment.
    There is nothing to blame regarding what said Bishop Boyce.
    I think that, on the contrary, his homily was perfect and what he stated is indeed true and therefore relevant.
    Although I may guess, I have difficulty in understanding the approach of the Court!…
    The only explanation I can raise is that the Court is trending towards tyranny and ideology and this is much alarming; if the complaint is registered, it will result in discrediting the law and show a pervertion of the Judicial Institution.
    Vive la libeté d’expression!

  • I agree. Better, though perhaps more malicious (or mischievous) would to search Mr. Colgan’s published comments, articles etc., and report anything offensive to the Director of Public Prosecutions. What’s good for the goose….

  • Neil Addison

    Section 2 of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 defines the offence as follows
    2.—(1) It shall be an offence for a person—
    (a) to publish or distribute written material,
    (b) to use words, behave or display written material—
    (i) in any place other than inside a private residence, or
    (ii) inside a private residence so that the words, behaviour or material are heard or seen by persons outside the residence,
    (c) to distribute, show or play a recording of visual images or sounds,
    if the written material, words, behaviour, visual images or sounds, as the case may be, are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred.

    As a professional lawyer I cannot see how the words used by the Bishop fall under this definition by any rational analysis. The Irish legislation is very similar tot eh Religious Hatred legislation originally proposed by the Labour Government and subsequently altered by Parliament. The reason why I and many others, including the National Secular Society were opposed to the Governments proposals was the likelihood of silly and time waste complaints being made as has happened in this particular case in Ireland. I am quite confident that there will eb no prosecution but the purpose of complaints like this is to frighten people which is indeed the main achievement of our current obsession with “hate crime”.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    It is difficult to believe that any lawyer could take such a complaint seriously. Only in a dictatorship could that happen.

  • Philothea

    Just out of curiosity, is there some problem with this site which disallows a space after a comma? I noticed this in the article and in the comments…

  • Philothea

    Oh, wow, there is!

  • Appreciative Protestant reader

    Looks like the Atheist Thought Police are now spying on clerics’ sermons. With little tape recorders hidden in their prayer books, no doubt!

  • CathChap

    Interesting to see that Terry Sanderson has penned a strong defence of the Bishop’s freedom of speech:

    Our interest in this case comes from the National Secular Society’s long-time campaign to protect free speech from religious restriction.


    And this is why I absolutely oppose John Colgan’s effort to prosecute the Bishop of Raphoe. Free speech is worth nothing unless it is available to everyone, believer and non-believer alike.

    Does Mr Colgan not see that his attempted prosecution of the Bishop is no different from the efforts of Islamists to silence their critics through the use of blasphemy laws or by charges of ‘Islamophobia’ and racism? Or the religious activists who try to close art exhibitions that they claim offend their religious feelings?

    [...] with Mr Colgan. If he doesn’t like what the Bishop said, he should argue with him, not seek his prosecution.

    Actually, there was nothing in what the Bishop said that could be regarded as even remotely inflammatory or an ‘incitement to hatred’. Inciting hatred that will lead to violence against people steps over the line, but criticising their opinions most definitely does not. If the Bishop thinks his pious approach to life is superior to that of atheists, then he should be entitled to say so. Equally, atheists should be able to argue back that the Bishop is deluded and ridiculous, if they want to.

    But if in the unlikely event that Mr Colgan’s complaint succeeds, the people ofIrelandwill have to think twice before engaging in vigorous debate on religious matters lest they, too, end up in the dock. This is utterly ridiculous.

    Mr Colgan should withdraw his complaint immediately and grow a thicker skin.

  • Last year the ” singer ” & professional irritant Sinead O’Connor announced that she intended to kill Pope Benedict should he visit Ireland. I presume the DPP will send the Guards round to her house asap. Seriously though, I have sent a letter to both the Minister for Justice & the Garda Commissioner asking them to arrest Ms. O’Connor, on the basis that a threat to kill is a crime. Can I ask others to do likewise.

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