Bishop asks Carmel priest to clarify message of article drawing backlash from community 

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A Catholic bishop is asking a Carmel priest to clarify the message of an article posted online that has received backlash from the local community and beyond.

In a June 28 post that has since been removed from the SetonCarmel.org website, the Rev. Theodore Rothrock of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church wrote that Black Lives Matter, Antifa and “other nefarious acolytes of their persuasion” are “not the friends or allies we have been led to believe.”

“They are the serpents in the garden, seeking only to uproot and replant a new species of human made in the likeness of men and not in the image of God,” he stated. “Their poison is more toxic than any pandemic we have endured.”

Timothy Doherty, bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, said local pastors do not submit articles or homilies to his office before they are shared, so he did not see the article before it was posted.

“I expect Father Rothrock to issue a clarification about his intended message,” Doherty stated. “I have not known him to depart from Church teaching in matters of doctrine and social justice.”

Doherty reaffirmed his public statement on race and social justice originally posted online June 2 following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Dept., which sparked protests nationwide.

“Peaceful demonstrations in the streets are one way to elevate voices for fairness and justice. Not so the wanton destruction of property and violence,” Doherty stated. “Each of us is called to be a healer and peacemaker by virtue of our baptism. This same baptism calls us to link arms with others whose work is to set wrongs right and promote respect for each human being.”

Rothrock’s article prompted the grassroots organization Carmel Against Racial Injustice to plan a peaceful protest at the church from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. July 5. Its leaders released a statement regarding the matter on its Facebook page.

“Carmel Against Racial Injustice is disgusted and shocked by the recent letter written by Father Theodore Rothrock,” it stated. “We are also deeply saddened by the fact that the church leadership did not condemn the statement and saw fit to allow its publication. Silence is the action of being complicit in injustice. We are calling upon parishioners of the church, members of the community and other religious leaders to denounce these statements and join us in active protest of this position. We can not stand idly by and allow a leader of a church that serves 6,000 Carmel families to pass off hateful and racist rhetoric as gospel.”

Carmel Against Racial Injustice is asking the bishop to remove Rothrock as priest and require training and ongoing education for priests and deacons on systemic racism and diversity.

Rothrock and officials from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

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