Fr. Andre Metrejean of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in the small town (population 2,000) of Erath, Louisiana posted his objection to the lighting up of the New Orleans Superdome and Smoothie King Center with pride colors on the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
"Come on NOLA Saints. We want to support you. But this kinda of stunt hurts society and souls. Don't bow down to these pressure groups. Kids have rights. Children deserve to have a dad and a mom. Plz dont support immorality. Cancel the PC Culture," the post stated.
The post quickly elicited over 600 comments — some for and some against the priest's remarks.
The Lafayette Daily Advisor quoted one responder, who apparently is in a gay "marriage," as saying the Erath church should be "ashamed" of its stance on gay relationships:
I'm so glad my family supports my wife and myself as a married couple. I'm so disappointed in the Church. That's why I don't go to church because all they do is judge people. And it's sad because I used to go to church growing up. But why go to a very big judgmental place. It's sad because we are Catholics and can't even go to church. Last time I checked, my God doesn't judge. You should be ashamed of yourself.
President of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Lafayette Matt Humphrey responded to the post by pointing to the clerical sex abuse scandal. He said the Erath church "would do well minding the plank in their Church's eye where it concerns children before concerning themselves with the specks in others."
The negative feedback resulted in a petition to remove Fr. Metrejean from pastorship for his "egregious" and "anti-LGBTQIA" comments, which as of publication time has gathered roughly 350 signatures.
But a counterpetition — now signed by thousands of supporters — was quickly launched.
"[T]his counter-petition intends to correct the slander unjustly thrust upon this faithful priest and demonstrate that the majority of Christians in his parish and beyond uphold perennial Church teaching and stand behind this bold leader of the people of God," it reads.
It also defends Fr. Metrejean by saying he "has compassionately preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and does not deserve to be removed from his parish."
Another commenter called the priest "courageous" for helping to take down the "homosexual dictatorship." Another defended him saying, "This holy priest said nothing wrong, untrue nor uncharitable."
And referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states, "Under no circumstances can [homosexual acts] be approved," one commenter said: "Homosexuality is a sin, period."
Fr. Metrejean put forth his own defense of the Church and his Facebook comments in a video response.
In it, he said the comments criticizing the post represent "a bully tactic."
"What does the devil do? The devil always takes truth and enters lies with it. The devil twists the truth. And so the devil is going to say, 'Since the church teaches and preaches against same-sex sexual expression ... that the Church is full of hate,'" he said. "In fact, when people accuse us of hate or disdain because we preach the truth about sexuality and God's plan for it, they are lying. It's a bully tactic. This is what bullies do. They accuse you of something you are in fact not guilty of."
Defending himself against charges that his position is hateful he said:
My parish, my Church, my Bible, my Catholic tradition, my Lord, we don't hate you, we love you. That's why we preach what we do. This is not about exclusion, this is not about judging others, this is about saving souls and bringing people the power of the blood of Christ.
The Heart of Jesus beats to this day in Heaven, the Louisiana prelate said. The heart of Jesus was pierced for every single person, and Jesus died for all of us to heal us of our sins.
At the end of the video, he said, "If you don't agree with me, let's agree to disagree." But he asked a favor: Pray to the heart of Jesus and ask that if the teachings of the Church are true that they be revealed as such to the one who prays.
The priest also recommends a video called Desire of the Everlasting Hills which chronicles the lifelong journey of three people "who try to navigate the waters of self-understanding, faith and homosexuality." The video takes its name from one of the names given to Jesus in the Litany of the Sacred Heart.
The supporters of Fr. Metrejean explain their reason for creating the petition, saying, "[A]lthough he surely counts it a blessing to be persecuted in the name of Christ in accord with the Beatitudes, we as Christians cannot stand idly by as a just man is unjustly torn down."
"We especially cannot remain silent when our own father, a true father who has done so much for the people of Erath, is calumniated by the media," a supporter said.
Supporters are urging the public to sign the petition supporting Fr. Metrejean.