Calgary diocese cancels retreat with priest who linked homosexuality with autism

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary has cancelled a retreat with a priest from India who has linked homosexuality with autism in his sermons.

Father Dominic Valanmanal was was scheduled to lead a 'deliverance and healing retreat' next month

Father Dominic Valanmanal was invited to lead a parish retreat in Calgary but it was cancelled after his sermons about autism surfaced. (Facebook)

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary has cancelled a retreat with a priest from India who has linked homosexuality with autism in his sermons.

The diocese says it's now reviewing its internal processes to ensure visiting priests are more thoroughly vetted in the future.

Father Dominic Valanmanal, of the Diocese of Kanjirapally in southern India, was scheduled to lead a "deliverance and healing retreat" at the Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Church in northeast Calgary on July 23 and 24.

The Calgary diocese had granted permission for the visit, until revelations of Valanmanal's comments surfaced.

"Why does this generation have autism and hyperactivity? That is to say mentally retarded children are in abundance," he said in a sermon, captured on video, which was posted to YouTube.

"Alcohol, cigarette, beedi [Indian cigarettes], narcotics, Pan Parag [chewing tobacco], adultery, masturbation, homosexuality, porn; if you are addicted to these, I say to you in the name of God … when you get married and have children, there is high possibility of bearing these types of children."

In the video, Valanmanal spoke in Malayalam, a common language for those who are from or have roots in Kerala, a state in southern India. CBC News has independently verified the English translation of his comments.

"The young men and women are not filled with the holy spirit anymore," he said. "Afterward, they lead an animal-like life. They copulate like animals. They bear children like animals. Therefore, those children will be like animals."

Valanmanal said he "cured" a boy with autism during a visit in Ireland. He claimed he had said in the boy's home: "I bind the spirit of autism and hyperactivity that has infested this house. I banish it. Banished to the foot of Jesus's cross."

A flyer advertised Father Dominic Valanmanal's planned retreat in Calgary. The local diocese has since cancelled the visit.

Earlier this week, CBC News sent the YouTube clip to the Calgary diocese for a response. In a statement, the diocese said Thursday the priest's comments about autism "did not reflect the pastoral care and concern that the church has toward children and adults living with autism and their families."

While it reviews its process of vetting visiting priests, the diocese says "we regret any offence, and we renew our support for people living with autism, their families, and caregivers."

Lyndon Parakin, the executive director of Autism Calgary who has two children with autism, said the only logical choice for the diocese was to call off the retreat.

"My initial reaction was shock to see someone assuming a voice of leadership in this day and age that would marginalize people we love this way, in order to push their personal views and philosophies. It's beyond shameful," Parakin said.

"I'm expecting anyone in our community and probably most global communities to recognize that this is a big mistake bringing this guy to Canada."