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On Sunday, supporters and critics of Fr. Theodore Rothrock faced off outside St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. One contingent shouted "Black Lives Matter!" while the other cheered, "Go, Fr. Ted!"
Father Rothrock was suspended last week after condemning anarchist groups. "Black Lives Matter, Antifa and the other nefarious acolytes of their persuasion are not the friends or allies we have been led to believe," he warned in his June 28 church bulletin. "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," Rothrock continued. "They are maggots and parasites at best, feeding off the isolation of addiction and broken families, and offering to replace any current frustration and anxiety with more misery and greater resentment."
"They are 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. Their poison is more toxic than any pandemic we have endured," he added. "The father of lies has not just been seen in our streets, we have invited him into our home. Now he is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith."
Almost immediately, Fr. Rothrock came under fire by media and a newly-formed group calling itself Carmel Against Racial Injustice, which petitioned Bp. Timothy Doherty of the diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana to remove the outspoken cleric from ministry.
Succumbing to pressure, Doherty suspended Rothrock and demanded he issue an apology: "I expect 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."
Doherty said he hadn't approved or previewed the priest's article. "Pastors do not submit bulletin articles or homilies to my offices before they are delivered," he said.
An online statement titled "Pastoral Response to Racism," detailed Doherty's action to suspend Fr. Rothrock. In the July 1 decree, the bishop cited Fr. Rothrock's June 28 bulletin article and canon 1333, which suspends "either all or some acts of the power of orders," as pretext for his action.
"The suspension offers the bishop an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese and for the good of Fr. Rothrock," the decree read. "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 as his next appointment."
At Mass at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church on Sunday, Doherty conceded that Black Lives Matter promotes radically pro-LGBT, anti-Catholic ideology, but told parishioners that the slogan, "black lives matter" is broader than the institution from which it originated.
"It is a mistake to say that foundation is the headquarters of a coordinated or very diverse movement," Doherty suggested. "We can't capture the facts of what's happening across different movements inside and outside of the United States by simply referring to a general 'they' or an 'it.'"
"And if anyone asks you, you can tell them that this bishop says black lives matter," he added.
Doherty's message did not go down well with his audience.
"You're an enemy bishop!" a man shouted.
"You're a coward!" a woman yelled multiple times before being removed from the church.
Reportedly, more than a dozen other parishioners turned their backs to Doherty and followed her out of the church.
Meanwhile, among Fr. Rothrock's backers outside the church was a Lutheran minister. He explained to the Indianapolis Star his reasons for protesting on behalf of Fr. Rothrock:
The group Black Lives Matter is a Marxist front organization. This is a call, as well as what Fr. Ted was saying, for people to wake up to what Black Lives Matter the organization is doing. They're using race to destabilize and to divide this country over race during the time of a presidential election.
In the diocese of Lafayette, some observers are noting, it is left to lay Catholics — and a Protestant pastor — to defend a faithful priest from a bishop brandishing "woke" leftist sympathies.