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(WB) The leader of the Mount Rainier, Md.-based LGBT Catholic group New Ways Ministry is calling on Pope Francis to remove a Catholic cardinal and bishop from their public ministries for declaring that LGBTQ people are responsible for the global coronavirus pandemic. 

In a March 24 statement, New Ways Ministry Executive Director Francis DeBernardo pointed to a statement by Cardinal Raymond Burke, a U.S. prelate currently living in Rome, that the “grave danger” engulfing the world was due, in part, because of efforts to promote sexual and gender identity equality. 

DeBernardo also pointed to statements by Bishop Ramon Castro of Cuernavaco, Mexico that transgender youth were among the “evil for which he claims God has caused the virus to infect the world.” 

In a March 21 statement posted on his website, Burke cited what he believed to be some of the causes of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We need only to think of the pervasive attack upon the integrity of human sexuality, of our identity as man or woman, with the pretense of defining for ourselves, often employing violent means, a sexual identity other than that given to us by God,” he said. “There is no question that great evils like pestilence are an effect of original sin and of our actual sins,” he said in his statement. 

According to the Advocate, Burke in past statements has blamed sexual abuse of children by clergy on the “plague of the homosexual agenda.” 

“These irresponsible messages from highly placed church leaders will only incite desperate people seeking an ‘enemy’ behind the virus to perpetrate acts of violence toward LGBTQ people,” DeBernardo said in his statement. “Instead of saving lives, the bishop and cardinal are endangering them,” he said. 

“Pope Francis should remove both men from public ministry for dangerous and irresponsible language about LGBTQ people, and also for promoting ignorant disinformation in the midst of a global health crisis,” said DeBernardo. “The Catholic Church, a worldwide religion already widely discredited, cannot ignore such recklessness.”