An Indiana Catholic diocese has suspended a priest from public ministry after he faced backlash for comparing the Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrators to “maggots and parasites.”

Father Theodore Rothrock of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel, Indiana, made the comparison in his weekly message on Sunday, The Indy Star reported.

"The only lives that matter are their own and the only power they seek is their own," Rothrock wrote. "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 and current frustration and anxiety with more misery and greater resentment."  

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Bishop Timothy Doherty suspended Rothrock on Wednesday. The Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana said in a statement that the bishop "expresses pastoral concern for the affected communities.”

“The suspension offers the Bishop an opportunity for pastoral discernment for the good of the diocese and for the good of Father Rothrock. 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,” the statement said. 

Rothrock’s message has since been taken down. It condemned protests across the country over the death of George Floyd earlier this year that have destroyed monuments and other memorials. It also questioned whether Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. would have marched alongside Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

“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,” the statement said. Rothrock added, “Their poison is more toxic than any pandemic we have endured.”

Rothrock on Tuesday apologized for the comments in a message sent to perishers, the Indy Star reported. He said that it was "not my intention to offend anyone” and that “I am sorry that my words have caused any hurt to anyone." 

The newly formed advocacy group Carmel Against Racial Injustice had asked Doherty to remove Rothrock from leadership and require training for priests and deacons on systemic racism following the pastor's initial comments. The group said in a Wednesday statement that “While we recognize the bold action that Bishop Dohertey took in response to Father Rothrock’s words, our work is not done.”  

“We must remain vigilant in our stance that hate has no home at the head of a parish. We have not been swayed from our calling for Bishop Dohertey to completely remove Father Rothrock as a pastor, in any capacity, indefinitely,” the group continued. “In this, we will remain keen to action steps taken, moving forward, regarding Father Rothrock’s suspension. We do know that he will NOT be the head of Saint Elizabeth Seton, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or any other parish in Carmel.”