A Rhode Island gay couple who were among the first group to be legally married under the state’s new marriage equality law has been told by their local Catholic pastor that they can no longer receive communion.
RIFuture.org reported that Lew Pryeor and Pierre Leveillee, who live in Woonsocket, received the news from their pastor, Rev. Brian Sistare of Sacred Heart parish. The news story carries the Pryeor’s reaction:
“I have been a Catholic all my life. I like to go to church and light a candle for my family. Now, I feel like I can’t do that anymore.”
The couple has been together for 34 years, and Pryeor said they have always been accepted in other Catholic parishes, but that they have had trouble since moving to Woonsocket two years ago. Pryeor stated that the new parish
“is pushing people away when they should be reaching out. They may not agree with me, but they shouldn’t throw rocks at me.”
They are now looking for a more welcoming parish in their city.
The issue of their relationship arose when Pryeor went to speak with the pastor to ask him to tone down what he felt were his politically charged sermons:
“Pryeor went to Sacred Heart on Monday to talk to Sistare about his politically conservative sermons. After suggesting that Sistare not alienate parishioners with the priest’s personal politics, Pryeor said Sistare informed him that he would not give him communion anymore because his marriage to Leveillee is not recognized by the church.
“Pryeor said the priest told him he would give him communion if he ended his marriage to Laveilee.”
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end with just this couple, according to the news source:
“Other gay couples who attend Sacred Heart have posted on Pryeor’s Facebook posts that they, too, have been told they would not be offered communion.”
Earlier this year, Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron told Catholic marriage equality supporters that they should not go to communion. However, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop in the same city told the same group not to heed this advice.
This story also brings to mind the case of Barbara Johnson, a lesbian woman who was denied communion at her mother’s funeral. In her case, the priest who denied communion was eventually disciplined and removed from pastoral work.
U.S. bishops have been so involved in the politics of marriage equality that they are forgetting about the pastoral issues in their parishes around LGBT issues. The bishops’ strong rhetoric against LGBT issues is trickling down to the pastoral level, and priests are transferring the bishops’ political zeal into harmful pastoral practices.
This issue of denying communion is related to the recent spate of dismissals of church workers because of LGBT issues. In both cases, church leaders are putting politics ahead of sound pastoral care. Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence needs to step in here to remedy this sad state of pastoral care.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry