Irish Bishop Investigated After Upsetting Humanist in Homily

Country: Ireland

Date of incident: February 2, 2012

Bishop Philip Boyce of the Raphoe diocese in northwestern Ireland was investigated by the police for “hate crime” after arguing that the Catholic Church in Ireland is under attack from “aggressive secularism”.

John Colgan, called a “leading humanist” by the Irish Independent, told the police that Bishop Philip Boyce was guilty of “incitement to hatred” against secularists when the latter said in a sermon that the Church was being “attacked from the outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture.” The complaint is reportedly being taken seriously by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who has opened an investigation. Should the DPP recommend legal action, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act of 1989 allows up to two years in prison if convicted. Colgan said in his complaint that the statements made in Boyce’s homily to a congregation at Our Lady of Knock shrine “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.” Colgan added that the words “attacked” and “arrows” heavily “suggest war-like behaviour.” The sermon, he alleged, implied that non-believers will “end their lives in emptiness.” Colgan argued this constitutes abuse of atheists, humanists and sceptics. Despite the police investigation, widely reported in the secular media, the diocese keeps the sermon, titled “To Trust in God,” prominently on their website. Read Bishop Boyce’s full homily: