Catholic priest sues after allegedly being fired from hospital for answering patient questions about marriage
A Roman Catholic priest in the United Kingdom is pursuing legal action against a public hospital trust after he was allegedly ousted from a National Health Service (NHS) facility for responding to a patient’s question about the Church’s stance on sexuality and marriage.
Rev. Patrick Pullicino, 73, who was a temporary member of staff at South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, was told that the Trust’s policy on equality and diversity “takes precedence over religious belief” after the patient complained, according to his legal counsel at the London-based Christian Legal Centre.
Pullicino told Fox News Digital that the incident, which took place in August 2019, happened when a Catholic patient at the NHS hospital requested to take a walk with him, during which he told the priest about his same-sex partner and asked what he thought about it.
“So I said to him, ‘Well, what do you think God would say about that?’ This is a Catholic asking a Catholic chaplain – obviously within a secular hospital, but he obviously wanted Catholic doctrine, but that’s all I would give anyway,” Pullicino said.
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“I didn’t try to push it on him, I just sort of laid it out to try to open his mind slowly about it, and it wasn’t a confrontational talk.” After the patient disclosed that his father disapproved of his lifestyle, Pullicino said he would agree and encouraged the patient “to try and make up with his father.”
“Particularly people with psychiatric illness, they definitely need the family support. So I didn’t share too much more,” he said.
Pullicino was later informed that a formal complaint had been lodged against him for his comments. Vanessa Ford, the acting chief executive of South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, reportedly said in a written response to the complaint that the Trust’s policy on equality and diversity “takes precedence over religious belief.”
The priest ultimately had his contract with the hospital terminated while he was on annual leave in January 2020, his lawyers say.
“…it wasn’t a confrontational talk.”
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The reason given for the termination was reportedly “budgetary constraint,” though Pullicino noted his pay was very low, and he offered to work for free. With the aid of the Christian Legal Centre, he is now pursuing a legal case against the Trust, alleging harassment, religious discrimination and victimization.
The trial is scheduled to take place in July at Croydon Employment Tribunal.
Prior to his ordination as a Catholic priest in 2019, Pullicino had a successful career in the NHS as a consultant neurologist, and became well-known for helping to expose the abuses of the Liverpool Care Pathway, an end-of-life protocol that was later abolished.
Pullicino noted that after he was removed from the hospital, there was no one there to provide sacraments and support for Catholic patients.
“Psychiatric patients are extremely vulnerable,” Pullicino said. “They need support, and they particularly need spiritual support. Because with some of the psychiatric problems like schizophrenia, there is a blurring between spiritual and personal dimensions, which can really upset patients. Spiritual support is extremely important for these people.”
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“…with some of the psychiatric problems like schizophrenia, there is a blurring between spiritual and personal dimensions…”
Pullicino said U.K. society is becoming increasingly secularized, noting that the number of self-professed Christians in the country dipped below 50%. He also said the hospital has gone out of its way to hire more Muslim chaplains, though the percentage of Muslims in the U.K. is relatively small.
“It’s like they’re bending over backward to support and bring in a religion like that, whereas Christianity they’re pushing out,” he added. “It’s sad really.”
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“Whilst we can’t comment on active legal proceedings, we are absolutely committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) for all our staff, patients and communities,” a spokesperson for South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust told Fox News Digital.
“We have an EDI policy which we actively promote and with which we expect all our staff members to comply. We respect and celebrate all the protected characteristics of our staff, patients and communities equally.”
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“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure patients’ spiritual needs are met, and we oppose any form of discrimination. We seek to protect all of our patients and members of staff in line with the Equality Act 2010.”
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