A Catholic priest who linked autism to homosexuality has canceled his upcoming Australian tour. Church authorities canceled his tours in Ireland and Canada also canceled his tours.
Father Dominic Valanmanal from India was scheduled to appear at a five-day retreat in the southern city of Melbourne.
Syro Malabar Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle in Melbourne had planned to host the retreat. It announced the cancellation but did not give a reason for it.
Autism, homosexuality and ‘sin’
But Valanmanal’s cancellation does come after parents’ groups ran a petition to stop him coming to Australia.
They started the petition after a video surfaced of a controversial sermon he delivered. In it he linked homosexuality to autism. Valanmanal also called autism a ‘sin’.
‘Why does this generation have autism and hyperactivity? I mean, there are mentally retarded children in healthy, active, young families,’ said in the sermon according to SBS.
‘In the name of God I am saying to the young generation which is addicted to alcohol, cigarette, beedi (Indian cigarette) drugs, adultery, masturbation, homosexuality and porn films… when you get married and have children, there is a high possibility of having this kind of children.’
A parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and who belongs Syro Malabar Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle told SBS they felt pressured to take their child to the retreat.
‘I belong to the same church and I am under tremendous pressure to attend his retreat, so that “my son’s autism can be cured,’ Binoy Zacharia said.
So, Zacharia started an online petition to stop the ‘misinformation’.
‘As a parent and carer of a child with autism, I am outraged by the preaching of Dominic Valanmanal and I am starting this petition to block his visit to Australia and stop his spreading of hateful and inaccurate preaching,’ the petition read.
Zacharia added: ‘I want to stop the spread of this misinformation. Unlike what he claims autism is not a disease, and it needs proper therapy and support. My son is going through that therapy.’
‘It is language of hatred and blaming. A responsible person should not use such words.’
Following the controversy, Valanmanal said he regretted what he said in the video.
‘I came to know that some were wounded by the words in a video. That was from a speech I gave years ago, and it was misinterpreted and misunderstood,’ he said in a Pravachakasabdam video, a church news website.
‘I am currently studying the issue and the video. But I am hurt that it pained them. I pray for them from the bottom of my heart and I apologize.’