UK university approves priest for chaplaincy after rejecting him over tweets on abortion, euthanasia

David Palmer
David Palmer | YouTube/David Palmer

An institution of higher education in England has agreed to recognize a Catholic priest as a chaplain after declining to do so due to his tweets about abortion and euthanasia. 

Fr. David Palmer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham posted a statement from the University of Nottingham on Twitter Saturday, indicating that the institution had "introduced a revised procedure for the recognition of chaplains of all faiths who are nominated to work in the university Chaplaincy."

The new policy essentially involves a new chaplain going through a one-year trial period to determine if "the role is right for both the individual and the multi-faith environment in Nottingham."

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"Following constructive and helpful dialogue with the Diocese of Nottingham over recent weeks, it has been agreed that Father David Palmer will be recognised under this procedure as university chaplain for the Catholic faith," the letter stated.

Palmer responded to the news by proclaiming that he looks forward to "getting on with the job."

Palmer announced on Aug. 9 that the bishop of Nottingham asked him to be a chaplain to university students.

Two weeks later, he reported that the University of Nottingham would not "officially" recognize him as a chaplain because of his belief that "assisted dying is killing the vulnerable." He noted that his position on euthanasia aligns with the Catholic Church's teaching on the matter.

"They objected to my Twitter account," he added. "When I asked which tweets they considered 'problematic' they mentioned two … one where I had referred to 'assisted dying' as a plan to 'allow the NHS to kill the vulnerable'… I was told that this language was not appropriate." 

According to Palmer, the university also expressed concern about one of his tweets calling abortion the "slaughter of babies." He stressed that he "refused to back down and defended both tweets as reflecting Catholic belief."

"The abortion tweet was specifically referring to Joe Biden policies on abortion and his receiving of holy communion regardless," Palmer explained.

On Sept. 9, a group of former lay chaplains at the University of Nottingham wrote a letter to the school's vice-chancellor urging the college to reconsider its refusal to recognize Palmer as a chaplain. 

"Fr. Palmer's views on the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until natural death are views we too share," they wrote. "We took the same stance whilst recognised by you as Catholic Lay Chaplains and believe Fr. David's views and language are within the lexicon of mainstream Catholicism. These are fundamental views of the Church, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and articulated in far more robust terms than Fr. Palmer's by popes and saints down through the ages."

Alleging that the refusal to recognize Palmer creates "the appearance of the deliberate targeting of a religious minority," they shared their belief that "strong articulation of the position of the Church on moral issues in no way negates the ability to offer pastoral support to individuals in their unique moments of need." 

"Catholic belief firmly expressed on topical issues currently the focus of national and international debate cannot be a litmus test for a lack of pastoral sensitivity," the former chaplains concluded.

As part of the statement announcing Palmer's appointment, Registrar Paul Greatrix vowed to "fully respect and safeguard our community's freedom of speech and our chaplains' expressions of the tenets of their faith."

In a separate tweet, Palmer expressed gratitude to the "lots of people" who "helped us behind the scenes." He specifically thanked Alliance Defending Freedom International and the Free Speech Union for providing "invaluable" legal advice.

The initial refusal to recognize Palmer as a Catholic chaplain is not the first time the University of Nottingham has faced accusations of expressing hostility toward those who hold pro-life beliefs.

In 2020, midwifery student Julia Rynkiewicz was suspended from her hospital placement due to her involvement with the pro-life Students for Life Society.

After a four-month suspension and a "fitness-to-practice investigation," the University of Nottingham apologized to Rynkiewicz for suspending her and paid her an undisclosed settlement. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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