In November 2020, the university reached a settlement with a pro-life undergraduate student in a midwife program.
Julia Rynkiewicz, a 25-year-old Catholic, received an apology and payout after she was blocked from entering her program's hospital placement phase after the university learned of her leadership of a pro-life student group.
The university overturned its decision, but Rynkiewicz sought an apology.
Fr. Palmer told CNA that after the meeting where his social media posts were discussed, the university authorities contacted the bishop to say that they still had concerns, asking him to provide an alternative priest.
The priest said that the bishop declined to nominate another priest and that following further discussions, the university agreed that Palmer could offer Mass on campus on Sundays as a “guest priest.”
The university’s spokesperson said: “The university values highly Catholic chaplaincy as part of our multi-faith approach where dedicated chaplains provide invaluable support to staff and students of each faith. We have no issue with the expression of faith in robust terms, indeed we would expect any chaplain to hold their faith as primary.”
The spokesperson added that the university was grateful to Bishop McKinney “for his solution that the current chaplain remains the recognized chaplain on campus and that Fr. David will celebrate Sunday Mass each week on campus.”
“The University of Nottingham remains committed to supporting staff and students of Catholic faith and continuing our 90-year tradition of providing Catholic chaplaincy for them,” the spokesperson said.
Palmer wrote on Twitter that the university does not pay for chaplains. He also said that following the authorities’ decision, most pastoral work with Catholic students would take place at the Newman House and St. Paul’s in Lenton, a parish led by Palmer that includes the university within its boundaries.
As a young man, Palmer was drawn to the Hare Krishna movement. But at the age of 21, he had a conversion experience and became a Christian.
In 2018, he wrote: “I steadily went ‘up the candle,’ becoming an Anglican Evangelical (ordained in 1999), an Anglo-Catholic and then, finally, a Catholic.”
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He was ordained as a Catholic priest for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in 2011. The ordinariate was established by Benedict XVI to allow groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining elements of their patrimony.
Palmer told CNA that he rejected the university’s explanation for its decision to deny him recognition.
“The university says they have ‘no issue with the expression of faith in robust terms,’ but this is precisely what they had an issue with,” he said.
He added: “The university claims to support ‘diversity and inclusion,’ but it appears that diversity only goes so far, certainly not as far as the Catholic chaplain being able to express ‘robustly’ mainstream Catholic beliefs.”
Palmer also took issue with the university’s statement that “the current chaplain remains the recognized chaplain on campus.” He said that the previous priest chaplain had left, leaving a lay assistant to the priest chaplain.
He said: “The suggestion that they are grateful for the bishop’s ‘solution’ almost seems to imply that the bishop somehow agrees with the university ‘policing’ the expression of Catholic teaching on pro-life issues.”