An elderly priest on the Acadian Peninsula has been barred from performing church services in the Bathurst diocese after he made remarks about homosexuals and women who have had an abortion.
Rev. Donat Gionet, 85, gave the sermon at the Roman Catholic church in Saint-Léolin while replacing the regular parish priest late last month.
He stands by the comments he made in Saint-Léolin, a village of about 730 people located about 50 kilometres east of Bathurst.
Reached in Caraquet on Wednesday, Gionet declined an interview but did provide a written statement.
In a letter written in French that he provided to the Telegraph-Journal, Gionet stated the sermon in question was about the destruction of the Church and the need to seek forgiveness for past sins:
"I said: 'Today, it is we Catholics who are destroying our Catholic Church. We need only look at the number of abortions among Catholics, look at the homosexuals, and ourselves.' (That's when I pointed at my chest - through that action I wanted to say, we the priests) and I continued saying: We are destroying our Church ourselves. And that's when I said that those were the words expressed by Pope John Paul II. At that point, in the St-Léolin church only, I added: 'We can add to that the practice of watching gay parades, we are encouraging this evil' ... What would you think of someone who seeing what was happening on (Sept.) 11, 2001, the crumbling of the towers, had begun clapping? We must not encourage evil, whatever form it takes."
Bishop Valéry Vienneau has revoked Gionet's rights to serve mass across the Diocese of Bathurst, a decision welcomed by Joseph Lanteigne, the openly gay mayor of Saint-Léolin.
"The action taken by the diocese is good and I know it isn't easy for the diocese."
Since the incident, Gionet has quit his position on the Saint-Léolin parish's pastoral committee.
Rev. Wesley Wade, vicar general of the Diocese of Bathurst, said Gionet's teachings don't meet the diocese's goal of following Christ's example of loving unconditionally.
"We have to respect people on their own journey," Wade said.
"The first message of Christ was to reveal to us a loving father and a merciful father and that we are all called to be his children and that we are all loved unconditionally by Him."
While the Church gets criticized as a judgmental institution, Wade said the reality is "it's full of compassion."
In a letter to parishioners earlier this week, Vienneau said Gionet had been pulled from active ministry.
At a meeting last week, Gionet told Vienneau that he had no plans to change or temper his comments.
Gionet also said, as a priest, he has a duty to encourage those who aren't living their lives according to Catholic teachings to mend their ways.