A bishop in the United States suspended a Catholic priest from public ministry on Wednesday for comparing Black Lives Matter activists to “maggots and parasites”.
Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, was acting in response to an online newsletter written by Fr Theodore Rothrock, who served at St Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel and who was due next month to take over as pastor of the nearby Our Lady of Mt Carmel Catholic Church.
“Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and the other nefarious acolytes of their persuasion are not the friends or allies we have been led to believe,” Fr Rothrock wrote. “The only lives that matter are their own and the only power they seek is their own. They are wolves in wolves clothing, masked thieves and bandits, seeking only to devour the life of the poor and profit from the fear of others. They are maggots and parasites at best, feeding off the isolation of addiction and broken families, and offering to replace current frustration and anxiety with more misery and greater resentment.”
After complaints were made about the newsletter, Bishop Doherty said on Tuesday that he did not review or approve the post before it was published and added that he expected “Fr Rothrock to issue a clarification about his intended message. I have not known him to depart from Church teaching in matters of doctrine and social justice.”
Fr Rothrock issued an apology later that evening. “It was not my intention to offend anyone, and I am sorry that my words have caused any hurt to anyone,” he wrote in a message for parishioners which was later published on the St Elizabeth Seton parish website. He added that the church must condemn bigotry, which is “part of the fabric of our society”, and he added the people “must also be fully aware that there are those who would distort the Gospel for their own misguided purposes. People are afraid, as I pointed out, rather poorly I would admit, that there are those who feed on that fear to promote more fear and division.”
The diocese later released a statement communicating its “pastoral concern for the affected communities” and confirming Fr Rothrock’s suspension. “The suspension offers the Bishop an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese and for the good of Father Rothrock,” the statement said. “Various possibilities for his public continuation in priestly ministry are being considered, but he will no longer be assigned as Pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Deacon Bill Reid will serve as Administrator of St. Elizabeth Seton.”
The newly formed Carmel Against Racial Injustice group, who reposted the original newsletter after it was removed, had previously called on Bishop Doherty to remove Fr Rothrock from leadership and to mandate ongoing training for clergy on systemic racism, which Fr Rothrock’s original parish newsletter had described it as an “alleged” problem.
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