09/21/2011 05:35 EDT | Updated 11/21/2011 05:12 EST

Grande-Anse Priest Removed For Anti-Gay Sermons

Father Donat Gionet, a Catholic priest in Caraquet who was relieved of duties for anti-gay and anti-abortion comments in recent sermons, told CBC Wednesday he was merely teaching church doctrine.

Gionet, 85, gave a series of sermons at numerous churches around the Acadian Peninsula about what he considered to be evils eating away at the Catholic Church, including abortion and homosexuality.

The sermons took place the weekend of Moncton’s Aug. 21 pride parade.

After 51 years as a priest, Gionet has been barred from saying mass and administering the sacraments in the Bathurst diocese.

Gionet said Wednesday that people who are gay are a threat to the Catholic Church.

"We have to try to fight [homosexuality], destroy it, or do our best to invite people to change their life," Gionet told CBC.

"And that's something which is from my duty as a priest. I have to teach the truth to the people. I have to tell them how they should live to be with the church because if you're gay you're not with the church."

Representatives from Gionet's diocese said they have heard mixed reactions from the priest's congregation, with some supporting his message but others uncomfortable with his sermons.

"That’s always the challenge in today's world: to be faithful to the callings of Christ and yet respecting people where they are," said Father Wesley Wade of the Bathurst diocese.

"Unfortunately with Father Gionet, with what we were hearing, it was dividing a community."

The bishop and regional senate of priests met with Gionet and asked him to tone down his words.

Gionet said he understood the controversial nature of his sermons, but felt he had done nothing wrong.

He expressed surprise at being relieved of duties.