Preaching to the Catholic parish of Ärkeängeln Sankt Mikael in Växjö, priest Ingvar Fogelqvist allegedly told students at a confirmation class that certain gay people could be “cured” of their “psychological disorder" while other forms of homosexuality are incurable.
The priest added that gay people, as well as those who suffer from impotence or other health problems, should not take on the responsibility of family life.
“They cannot marry according to the Church’s vision. Thus they are not suitable,” Fogelqvist told worshippers in the 2,000-strong parish, according to Smålandsposten.
The comments have been strongly condemned by Växjö’s gay community.
Ulrika Westerlund, President of RFSL, Sweden’s biggest gay rights organization, told The Local comments could cause problems for young people.
“It is problematic that representatives of churches who meet many young people express homophobia in this way,” said Westerlund.
“LGBTQ youth are already at an increased risk of mental illness because of society’s homophobia and transphobia and this type of statement makes the situation even more difficult for these young people.
“The notion that homosexuality can be ‘cured’ has caused much harm in many people’s lives.”
Her comments were echoed by those of Suzana Mocevic, diversity coordinator in Växjö.
“It is deeply unfortunate that in some parts of society people still consider LGBT people sick. It’s sad that the view is taught to children and young people,” Mocevic told the Swedish news agency TT.
When contacted by The Local Fogelqvist was not immediately available for comment, but in a press release emailed to TT he later apologized for his comments and said they had been taken out of context.
“My wording in the interview is clumsy, and I would therefore like to apologize to anyone who may have felt hurt by what I have said. Some of the quotes have also been taken out of context. It was not my intention in any way to express myself in an offensive way against homosexuals," he wrote.
“What I meant by incurable was that homosexuality can be a permanent sexual orientation and is not to be regarded as an illness that can be cured," he added.
Bishop Anders Arborelius also commented on Fogelqvist's statements in the same press release.
“According to the Catholic Church's teaching, it is absolutely not allowed to discriminate homosexual people and it is wrong to exclude them from the community because of their homosexual orientation,” he wrote, but added that the Catholic Church encourages gay people to "lead a life of sexual abstention".
The Catholic Church views homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered" and is strongly opposed to gay marriage.
However, it has not taken an official stand on gay conversion therapy, which medical experts usually view as ineffective and potentially damaging.