A Roman Catholic priest in Ireland is being accused of committing a "hate crime" by a Humanist who was offended by the priest's references to secularism in a homily last August.
John Colgan, an Irish Humanist, claims Bishop Philip Boyce broke Ireland's recently amended and stricter hate crime laws by "inciting violence." Colgan reportedly told police that a sermon issued late last summer – which is available to the public online – irked him.
According to the report, Colgan claims Boyce broke the hate crime laws twice; first when he claimed Ireland's Roman Catholic Church was being "attacked from outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture."
But the Church believes providing context for the quote is important to understanding Boyce's intention.
"The moment of history we live through in Ireland at present is certainly a testing one for the Church and for all of us," the homily read. "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."
Colgan also took issue with Boyce's claims that "believers … 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."
That quote is actually an extraction from Spe Salvi – a letter written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 about how to address hope.
Colgan issued a statement saying, "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."
Martin Long, Director of the Catholic Communications Office, said the homily – entitled "To Trust in God" - did nothing to incite violence but accurately depicted the state of outside sentiment toward the Christian community in Ireland.
"I advise any person to read it and judge it for themselves," Long said via The Christian Institute. "It is clearly a reasonable, balanced, honest – and indeed self-critical from a church perspective – analysis of the value of the Catholic faith."
Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, President of CatholicCulture.org, says Colgan is misguided and hypocritical in his attack on Boyce's homily.
"(What) is interesting about John Colgan's complaint is not that he accuses Bishop Boyce of saying specific hateful things about secularists, but that he apparently thinks it is a hate crime, first, to prefer Catholic values and, second, to observe that the Church is under attack by those who work to diminish the influence of those values," Mirus wrote in a blog entry.
Police say they have forwarded Colgan's complaint to prosecutors.