A Scottish priest has been removed from his chaplaincy position after hosting a prayer service condemning Pride festivities.
Fr. Mark Morris, the Catholic chaplain at Glasgow Caledonian University, was terminated by the University last week after leading a “rosary of reparation for the gross offense to God which is Glasgow Pride.” The prayer service was held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in the city, where Morris is pastor, against a backdrop of some 55,000 Pride celebrants.
In a statement announcing the priest’s termination, the University said it was “extremely disappointed” in him, reported Crux. University Chancellor Pamela Gillies commented:
“‘The views implied are antithetical to those held by the University, which is strongly inclusive. We actively respect and promote equality and diversity, and this has included having an official presence at the last two Pride Glasgow events.'”
Gillies also affirmed that Catholic students would have chaplaincy services available when the fall term begins, an arrangement that she said would be made in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Glasgow.
But certain Catholics are upset about Morris’ removal. The Archdiocese said it would resolve the need for chaplaincy services “in due course,” but seemed to defend the priest by noting the prayer service was “a private parish devotion unrelated to Father Morris’s role as chaplain.” Crux reported that some Catholic students were appealing to the University to re-hire Morris, calling his dismissal “frankly abhorrent.”
LGBT+ Liberation, a campus group at Glasgow Caledonian, welcomed Morris’ removal. A spokesperson said the decision came as a result of “the resilience of our community and the string of complaints made directly to the university.” But the group also said they sought to work with Catholic students to “co-exist in a way that we are all accepted, and our views respected on an equal basis,” reported the Daily Record.
Jordan Daly, who founded Time for Inclusive Education in Scotland, said it was “sad and disappointing” that Morris countered Pride’s celebration of love and equality with exclusion and condemnation. Daly commented, according to Glasgow Live:
“We are concerned about the message that this could send to the young people of Caledonian University and so would like to stress that these predictable voices of opposition are becoming increasingly drowned out by a Catholic and wider faith community which is supportive of LGBT equality.”
Each year, Pride celebrations increase globally as does Catholic participation. Several U.S. parishes offered some form of outreach during Pride this year, and the top bishop in Mauritius defended the right to celebrate Pride against other religious leaders’ opposition. But that does not mean they are without controversy. Within the Catholic Church, disputes still emerge like this incident in Scotland. For instance, a bishop in Rhode Island countered by calling Pride “morally offensive,” and LGBT-negative Catholics protested some parades in Europe.
Church leaders in Scotland have been increasingly vocal about alleged anti-Catholic discrimination there. The dismissal of Fr. Morris will certainly add fuel to the fires of Catholics with a defensive lens. But as a public university, administrators at Glasgow Caledonian are justified in ensuring the campus is a safe and inclusive place. When it comes to public ventures, the institutional church should not expect access or public money as givens. The denial of them is in no way a form of discrimination. If the Archdiocese of Glasgow wants to fund chaplaincy initiatives privately, it is certainly able to do so. Moving forward, church leaders in Scotland would be wise to send chaplains to campus who are capable of inviting all students into the church with the unconditional welcome practiced by Jesus himself.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 23, 2018