An online petition seeking to remove Robert Morlino as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Madison has generated support from thousands of people, after critics said he suggested priests can refuse to perform funerals for gay people.

A recent newsletter approved by Morlino and emailed by a top aide to priests in the diocese says funeral rites "may be denied for manifest sinners" if they would cause unavoidable "public scandal of the faithful." Among issues he said should be considered was whether "the deceased ... was a 'promoter of the gay lifestyle.'"

DignityUSA, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, says that message only serves to distance LGBT people and their families from the church.

The 'change.org' petition had generated more than 4,600 signatures by Monday morning.