LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A Catholic chaplain at a university in Glasgow has been removed after he held a prayer service in his parish “in reparation” after the annual gay pride parade in the city.
Father Mark Morris, the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Glasgow, on Monday hosted a “rosary of reparation for the gross offense to God which is Glasgow Pride.”
The priest also served as the Catholic chaplain for Glasgow Caledonian University, a public university of over 16,000 students, although classes are not currently in session.
The parade, which took place on Saturday, featured Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as grand marshal.
It is Scotland’s largest gay pride parade, featuring over 5,000 participants and watched by over 50,000 spectators.
The university announced it was “extremely disappointed” after hearing about the rosary service, and then announced Morris would not return as chaplain in the new term which begins in September.
“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,” said Pamela Gillies, the university principal.
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“The university will work with the Archdiocese of Glasgow to ensure the continued provision of chaplaincy support for staff and students at our Faith and Belief Centre when the new term starts,” Gillies said in a later statement.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Glasgow told Crux the archdiocese “is aware of the University’s decision and will address the provision of chaplaincy support in due course.”
The spokesperson also pointed out the rosary service “was a private parish devotion unrelated to Father Morris’s role as chaplain.”
The Catholic students of the university have defended Morris and called on the administration “to reconsider this unfair dismissal of our chaplain.”
In a statement posted on the GCU Catholic Community Facebook page, the students expressed “our full support and solidarity with Father Mark Morris at this time.”
“He is a faithful priest who has served our community with joy, dignity, and a smiling face for many years now. We are extremely disappointed that the university has decided to dismiss Father Morris. It is frankly abhorrent that a Catholic priest would be dismissed from his post as a Catholic chaplain for merely reaffirming the teachings of the Catholic faith,” the statement said.
The student group noted that Catholic Church teaching “is very clear” that any extramarital sexual activity is sinful.
“Naturally, it would therefore be expected that the Church would not align herself with a movement like ‘Pride’, which promotes sexual promiscuity and celebrates extra-marital actions which are considered gravely sinful,” the statement continued.
“In no way does this mean that homosexual persons are not welcome here at the chaplaincy, nor does it mean that they have fallen short of the love of God. Anyone who knows Father Morris will know he is a gentle giant and is very careful to be truthful but also charitable. He is well-loved by the students and spends a lot of time with the homeless, providing them with meals and a listening ear,” the students said.
The controversy over the removal of the chaplain comes after a series of incidents which have raised questions of anti-Catholicism in Scotland.
In May, City of Glasgow College refused to allow the Catholic chaplaincy to hold an Ascension Thursday Mass in the campus’s multi-denominational prayer room.
The college had originally allowed for the service before reversing course, despite the fact it had previously allowed the chaplaincy to hold religious services on the campus.
“It seems to me that the college is happy to have a chaplaincy service, and nice pages about equality, diversity and inclusion on their website but reluctant that it should come out of cyberspace and into the reality of religious people’s lives,” Passionist Brother Antony Connelly, the college chaplain, told the Daily Record at the time.
The Catholic student group at Glasgow Caledonian University raised similar concerns, stating the university has “a very warped understanding of ‘Equality and Diversity,’ whereby they have permitted absolutely no diversity of opinion whatsoever.”
Their statement said they are “very sad to see that the opinions and beliefs of Catholics are not valued or respected at the university chaplaincy.”