Belfast Telegraph

Bishop says sorry for friar who likened gay people to 'zombies'

Brother Tom Forde lashed out at people who were
Brother Tom Forde lashed out at people who were "morally rotten or at least infected"

By Sarah Mac Donald and Conor Feehan

A bishop has apologised for the hurt caused by a friar's comments about gay people and those who use contraceptives, likening them to infected zombies.

Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell issued a statement expressing his sadness at the "inappropriate language and sentiments" used during a homily at the Capuchin Friary in Co Kilkenny last weekend.

Brother Tom Forde told the shocked congregation: "We sense that many of those around us are physically alive but spiritually dead, morally rotten or at least infected."

He lashed out at spiritual zombies in "the abuse of drugs and alcohol, adultery, fornication and homosexuality, as well as in the acceptance of abortion and contraception and in the move to legalise euthanasia".

Saying he was a fan of TV programmes like The Walking Dead, he said: "The only way to deal with the monsters is to stab or shoot them in the brain."

The bishop, in whose diocese the Kilkenny friary is located, said: "Words can hurt, and care needs to be taken by all, in all situations, so as not to alienate, hurt or cause offence. Furthermore, when harm is done an apology is to be given."

He said that at the heart of the Christian Gospel is the welcome Christ has "for all people".

The Cappuchin Friary Catholic Church in Kilkenny where Fr. Tom Forde gave his homily. Credit: Gerry Mooney
The Cappuchin Friary Catholic Church in Kilkenny where Fr. Tom Forde gave his homily. Credit: Gerry Mooney

The Gospel is about "the welcome and inclusion of all; as every person - no matter their faith, or race, or sexual orientation - is made by God and is loved by God," he said. The bishop said he was saddened that a liturgy was used to convey any sentiment "so at variance with this understanding of God".

However, Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty Ireland, expressed regret that the bishop's statement did not go further. He said it went "some way to address the vile and inappropriate comments made" in Fr Forde's homily. "While I welcome it, it would have been better if the bishop had called out the homily's shameful homophobia."

While he did not expect the Church to change its "homophobic teaching any day soon", Mr O'Gorman said it was up to Church leaders to ensure that the Church's language in this area was moderated.

The human rights advocate added that it was up to the State to ensure that no one can incite hatred.

Following the public outcry over the homily, Brother Forde took notes down from his blog where he had posted them following Saturday's Mass.

The friar was not available for comment, but a statement was issued in response to the furore by Brother Sean Kelly, Superior of the Kilkenny friary.

"The Capuchin Order wishes to state that all are welcome in our churches, irrespective of sexual orientation," it said.

"Unfortunate comments were made about homosexuality last Saturday, which gay people would have found hurtful, and we deeply regret this," it continued.

"When asked about gay people, Pope Francis has said, 'Who am I to judge?' And speaking to a gay man at an audience in the Vatican he said, 'God made you like this and he loves you'.

"We support Pope Francis in his comments on gay people and we will continue to be guided by him and by our own mission statement, which states that we affirm that our fraternities will be places of prayer, hospitality and outreach to all."

Irish Independent

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