A nearly 90-year-old priest has been removed from active duty Wednesday over comments he made denouncing homosexuality, cohabitation, and abortion in his August series of sermons.
Father Donat Gionet, 85, of Bathurst, New Brunswick, was reportedly relieved of duties for anti-gay and anti-abortion comments issued in his sermons.
The sermons coincided with the timing of the local gay pride parade, reported CBC.
Fr. Gionet reportedly said that people who are gay are a threat to the Catholic Church. He also used some strong words in an interview with CBC later.
“We have to try to fight [homosexuality], destroy it, or do our best to invite people to change their life," he said. “And that's something which is from my duty as a priest. I have to teach the truth to the people. I have to tell them how they should live to be with the Church because if you're gay you're not with the Church."
Father Wesley Wade of the Catholic Bathurst diocese told CBC that it is always a challenge in today’s world to be faithful to Christ’s callings and respect people for what they are at the same time.
Fr. Gionet has reportedly explained that he understood the controversy surrounding his sermons, but felt he had done nothing wrong. He was reportedly very surprised when relieved of his duties.
Representatives from Fr. Gionet's diocese told the Canadian radio that they have heard mixed reactions from the congregation, with some supporting the priest's message, some resenting it.
Fr. Gionet complained to CBC that he will now need to perform Mass “in secret” in his declining years.
His release took some people in the community by surprise.
“Pere Gionet was the priest in my village when I was a teenager,” a commenter wrote on the CBC website. “He was not only our priest; he was a friend, to me and to all youth in the village. To this day I always looked up to him even though we lost track or each other for close to 30 years now.”