Rhode Island Gay Couple Denied Communion at Parish

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.

 

Lew Pryeor and Pierre Leveillee

Lew Pryeor and Pierre Leveillee

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

 

53 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Following up: here’s a .pdf copy of the Parish Bulletin, which contains some fascinating information:

    http://www.catholicweb.com/bulletins/50977/Aug-04-2013.pdf

    Among other revelations:

    1. This guy is only in his first month as a pastor.

    2. Bishop Tobin himself will be installing him as pastor on Aug. 25, and preaching the homily at his installation Mass.

    3. The MAYOR OF THE CITY happens to be the Church’s Choir Director!

    Hmmmm….I think the political intrigue is getting deeper.

    Reply
  2. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    I am outraged. When Uganda announced the death to gays law, the Catholic church had a lukewarm response. Now Russia. We should be at the forefront of this issue. Instead, the Catholic church is participating in the hate. This is not OK. Does anyone remember the Holocaust? Because the systematic degrading of GLBT people is not something we can abide. Something big must happen in the direction of tolerance and love, or Catholics of faith must walk. It is too much. We cannot sit tacitly by and let this happen, “hoping” the intolerant leaders of our church are reformed. It is time for big action.

    Reply
    • Mary
      Mary says:

      It shouldn’t be so hard to be gay and Catholic. Enough is enough. I agree with Annette, it is time to walk if nothing happens in the direction of acceptance immediately. It seems to me that the Catholic Church is not the Church Jesus intended it to be. Pope Francis has thrown out a crumb with his few words about not judging gays and everyone is grabbling for it. It is time he throws out the whole loaf that will change the “hope of gays being accepted in the Catholic Church into a reality.

      Reply
  3. pjnugent
    pjnugent says:

    [T]he morality proper to the life and action of society and the state is not univocally the morality of personal life, [or] even of familial life. Therefore, the effort to bring the organized action of politics and the practical art of statecraft directly under the control of the Christian values that govern personal and familial life is inherently fallacious. It makes wreckage not only of public policy but also of morality itself. (John Courtney Murray)

    Reply
  4. slbina
    slbina says:

    This happened to me after Mass two weeks ago.
    Let me give a little background: I am the middle of 7 from a strict Catholic upbringing. I have been going to my church for 10 years. My partner and I have been in a committed relationship for almost 12 years. My partner started going to weekly Mass with me 6 years ago and was considering joining the church. Our children go with us. Last year after we finalized the adoption of our daughter I spoke to our priest about having our daughter baptized and receive her 1st communion and attending PSR. I explained our family situation to our priest and he said the church was to bring ppl back to God not distance them. He was very positive about our daughter receiving PSR education and joining the church. After this discussion I was comfortable in her attending PSR. She received her sacrament Easter weekend. During the last year, after the church knowing, I have weekly received communion.
    Two weeks ago after mass the kids wanted to say hi to Father. After they all ran and said hello, he pulled me aside and said since you are in this relationship you are no longer able to receive communion. HE’S KNOWN FOR A YEAR!! He could have told me when I spoke to him privately, but no, he waits until now, and I have to wonder what the motivation is…..namely did a higher $$ donator say something….what is the motivation???
    This was a week before Pope Francis came out and said that he didn’t have the right to judge anyone…. seems that the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas must feel they are more justified than he.

    Reply
    • newwaysministryblog
      newwaysministryblog says:

      So sorry and sad to hear of what happened to you. No Catholic who desires communion should be denied it. I suggest you contact the Adorers of the Precious Blood, nuns in Wichita who are very supportive of LGBT issues. They might be able to help you find a welcoming pastor.

      Reply
      • Annette Magjuka
        Annette Magjuka says:

        I am outraged that LGBT people have to go from parish, to parish seeking an “understanding” priest. We must stop the insanity immediately! All Catholics who participate and do not demand change are complicit in this devaluation of human beings and families. Denying communion?! This is outrageous. NO. No, no, no. This must change NOW. Catholics must demand that these unholy priests stop the injustice, the derision, and the hate. I am furious.

        Reply
    • pjnugent
      pjnugent says:

      May i apologize on behalf of the faithful church for the misbehavior of this errant “pastor”? How awful.
      I hope you and your partner and your kids are able to find another home.

      Reply
      • Annette Magjuka
        Annette Magjuka says:

        Why should people act as if the priest is within his rights to deny communion! NO. No, no, no. The congregation should rise up. No. This behavior is not acceptable. All are invited to the table. All.

        Reply
  5. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    In 1974 I was denied holy communion by a priest who said that I was going to hell. He fancied himself as an exorcist but saw in my eyes that I was not ready “to be changed.”

    Reply
  6. catholic in ri
    catholic in ri says:

    Fr Sistare was incardinated into the Providence Diocese from the arch-conservative Franciscan Friars of the renewal, founded by Fr. Benedict Groeschel of EWTN and Courage fame.

    Reply
    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Ah-ha! That certainly explains a number of aspects of this outrage. I wonder if Pope Francis himself is aware of the anti-Pastoral hate being promulgated by EWTN. It’s time somebody brought the issue to his attention. He’s the POPE! He has full authority to do something about their hate-mongering in the name of the Church.

      Reply
  7. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    Its all about POWER. This priest does not see himself as a bridge from the laity to Christ. He sees himself as the self appointed cleanser of the church. HE has the power to deny Jesus to gays. How that must inflate his ego. Too bad that he has let his own self importance trump his real pastoral role.

    Reply
  8. Will
    Will says:

    “Pryeor said Sistare informed him that he would not give him communion anymore because his marriage to Leveillee is not recognized by the church.”

    By seeking out, supporting, and facilitating a marriage that is against church teaching, it’s well within a priest’s right to deny them communion. Communion is not a right, but a privilege that can be lost by people’s actions. It’s no different than denying communion to a politician who actively (and unrepentantly) advocates for pro-choice (pro-abortive) policies. This isn’t a rejection of their homosexuality, as a chaste homosexual – as Pope Francis states “someone [who] is gay and he searches for the Lord and has *good will* “- is able to receive communion, but a rejection of their anti-Catholic actions.

    Reply
    • Joseph Gentilini
      Joseph Gentilini says:

      When you deny communion to anyone, you are judging that person’s soul. These gentlemen searched for the Lord and had “good will.” The priest in this situation is the one who is bring scandal to the church..

      Reply
    • RelapsedCatholic
      RelapsedCatholic says:

      Funny, I have two family members with such experiences. My wife’s grandmother and her sister both divorced their husbands (alcoholics that left them for other women) their parish priest laid the blame at their feet and told them they could no longer recieve communion. The sister was indignant and became a Baptist, my grandmother smiled and said ‘see you next Sunday’. She continued to show up and remained a Catholic until this day.

      My aunt divorced her abusive husband and remarried a wonderful man. She avoided church for many years out of fear of judgement by the priest her Catholic school education told her was coming. When she was diagnosed with the terminal lung cancer that would claim her life she returned to talk with a priest. When he expressed confusion about her not coming for communion she told him about her remarriage. He responded ‘Never let anyone come between you and Jesus’. She and her family returned to the church.

      Which one acted like a Shepard of men? Which one acted like Jesus?

      My takeaway is this, a priest should never ban someone from sitting at the table. It’s not his table.

      Reply
      • Lawrence
        Lawrence says:

        Take heart in the gospel in which Jesus said not to claim the place of honor at the table, but to sit at a lower place and perhaps be invited to move up? Some priests think they can place themselves at the head of the Lord’s Table and discriminate against everyone else — But the Lord Himself will turn the table on them.

        Reply
  9. Joseph Gentilini
    Joseph Gentilini says:

    If you believe that it is the public behavior that is the problem in this case, then you must also state publicly that you are against the death penalty which is also condemned by the Church. Then a person who is using artificial birth control and lets this be known will then also be liable to be refused communion. God is the judge which is what Pope Francis is saying.

    Reply
    • Will
      Will says:

      To your second point, a person who has stated to a priest that they have facilitated an abortion is to be advised that they must receive reconciliation before receiving communion, as the priest cannot desecrate the eucharist by knowingly giving communion to someone who is in a state of mortal sin. Priests are charged to protect the sanctity of the eucharist as best they can. This charge doesn’t prevent people from receiving the eucharist when they should not, as do people who have kept their sins private, but it cannot be dismissed simply because it’s in disagreement with some parishioners.
      (To your first point, no one is forced to share their opinions -whether they be in agreement or disagreement- of the Church. Certainly sharing your opinion with a priest or fellow parishioner does not necessarily equate to facilitating that opinion, which is an issue to itself when it comes to voting)

      Reply
  10. RelapsedCatholic
    RelapsedCatholic says:

    The body and blood of Christ are not a weapon to be used for compliance. If the priest truly believes in real presence than he would know that offering the Eucharist to the worst murderer could not make something so holy into somethinhig profane.

    Reply
  11. Tim Ferreira
    Tim Ferreira says:

    This story is heartbreaking. In other issues of rights, it is sometimes a matter of waiting for an older generation to pass, and the younger generations to be the new majority. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be an option for this issue.

    Although Pope Francis recently made waves with his “Who am I to judge?” quote, it does not repair the damage that was done when the 2005 instruction made it clear that gay men should not be permitted to enter the priesthood, and that this issue would no longer be left up to the local bishop. Until this instruction is rescinded in some way, or authority returned to the local bishops, we can count on the echo chamber to continue reverberating this same nonsense. What a shame, since it would be a great gift to the world to open up the priesthood to men who do not have to hide who they are. Celibacy is celibacy. But not permitting gay men to become priests is blatantly wrong. Jesus had a word for folks like these: hypocrites.

    Reply
  12. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    Jesus is not the problem. These unholy priests, bishops, and their ilk are the problem. And it is flat out wrong to isolate, persecute, and diminish the LGBT children of God. This is the sin here. The judgment, the withholding of the Eucharist, and the unjust treatment of LGBT people.

    Reply
  13. Friends
    Friends says:

    Something which nobody is pointing out is that the only “Practice” involved here is the Eucharist — not active Mass attendance. If, as in my case, you don’t find the Eucharist to be a spiritual practice that’s personally relevant or meaningful, you can still be a fully-engaged, weekly-Church-attending Catholic, which I am, without ruffling anybody’s feathers or breaking any rules. I happen to be an active member of a splendid (and very large) Newman Center Catholic Community at a major state university. I also happen to be transcendentally married to my beloved Ascended Soul Spouse Husband, Jeffrey Maitreya Mylett. (Google his name for the full story about him.) The Newman community connection works perfectly for me. Perhaps I’m just lucky.

    But I’d like to suggest something which might have a very direct and dramatic impact on this abominable practice of stigmatizing and marginalizing gay Catholics. What if ALL Catholics — including those whom the local priest deems “qualified” to partake in Communion — were to wear t-shirts saying: “Until ALL may share The Lord’s Supper, NONE should feast without them!” A mass (and Mass) boycott of Eucharistic Communion, in the name of those who are being wrongly and hatefully excluded because of the gender of the person they love, would be a very powerful (and I think, ultimately, very effective) statement of our universal solidarity with those who are being marginalized, stigmatized and oppressed.

    Comments?

    Reply
  14. Becky Moreno
    Becky Moreno says:

    If being gay is a sin… why didn’t they include it in their top 10 list? The Church sholud stick too what is important… the poor, the meek, the elderly, social injustice and the teaching of Christ, who never commented on homosexuals. Maybe because… hanging out with 12 dudes… one just might be a little different too.

    Reply
  15. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    The church has always been selective about which “sins” it will go after. How about ferreting out the sin of greed when congregants have three homes and tons of money but give little or nothing to the poor or make their money on the backs of low wage workers here and abroad. That would be too sensitive for the hierarchy or someone like Fr. Sistare as that is where their money comes from. As long as you don’t make an issue of your “sin” then they don’t have to react. Fr. Sistare wants the gay marriage congregants to get a divorce land then it will be alright for him to give them communion so he doesn’t have to do anything more. What hypocrisy .

    Reply
  16. Charles Jones (@CharlesJones265)
    Charles Jones (@CharlesJones265) says:

    Upon examination of the Sacred Heart parish website, I find a link to “Father’s blog” which leads to this: – – http://frsistare.wordpress.com
    And instead of the pastoral, thoughts of a shepherd guiding a parish family are his wild off-the-rails political rantings taken right from the Republican party, NOM, and AFA playbooks about – well, you can pretty much guess.
    Further distressing is that this website is not an independent blogger website, it is the diocesan website!
    Oh my gosh.
    Well, interestingly, the Bishop’s postings there tend to be much more focused on pastoral and spiritual issues.
    Additionally, I read the Sacred Heart parish mission statement. It reads like a true service-oriented affirmation of gospel values of love and service.
    Father Sistare’s politically-inspired rantings do not reflect this mission statement in any way. I think he is a very bad fit for this parish, if their mission statement really does reflect the parish spirit.
    I suspect (hope) that Fr. Sistare is a loose canon and his thoughts are not reflective of the general tone of the diocesan administration. The bishop and other clergy (as well as his parishioners) may perhaps be aware of Father’s strong feelings, but quite probably are not aware of all of his actions, which will likely only increase after reading the politically-motivated tone of his existing written record.
    But either way, I think we need to make the diocesan administration aware of his very un-pastoral leanings which have now turned into actions excluding God’s children from reception of the holy sacraments.
    John 11:35
    Charles Jones

    Reply
    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Thanks for the follow-up research, Charles!

      I do believe I’ve found a historical analogue for this clunker of a priest. His name was Fr. Charles Coughlin. He gradually morphed from a New Deal supporter into an anti-Semitic Nazi sympathizer. And he was ultimately silenced by his bishop. Read all about him here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Coughlin

      Heads up to Bishop Tobin: Your Excellency, you’ve apparently got a “rogue priest” on your hands!

      Reply
  17. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    But until there is a fix in the RC “rule book,” LGBT people will continue to be collateral damage based on the whims of these non pastoral priests and bishops. These are real people, and real families. This is not OK. It is not OK that the RC teachings allow for any of this horrible behavior.

    Reply
  18. susan faccone
    susan faccone says:

    I love the way churches pick and. choose.which so called sin the want to punish the congregation.for. so because they are
    gay they can’t get communion, what about divorced people, they shouldn’t be allowed either., what about couples who live together. Where does it say if you sin , no communion?
    I think if they want people
    .to come back to the church they better become more tolerant of people and.let God take care of what “sin” offends him.

    Reply
  19. Lawrence
    Lawrence says:

    So it sounds as though it was okay to receive Holy Communion when they were admittedly gay. But as soon as they pledged to love and cherish one another for the rest of their life, then they were denied the Eucharist. The solution, according to the priest, is to divorce. But then, they would be denied because they are divorced. A curious paradox.

    Reply
  20. Friends
    Friends says:

    There has been a very gratifying protest response to the Woonsocket debacle — and it was in fact sponsored by two validly ordained Catholic priests! I knew one of them, Fr. John Reardon, when he was an MSW student at Smith College. He’s now one of the two co-pastors of the Church of the Holy Paraclete in Rhode Island, which has its authentic lineage through the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht.

    (The OCC was in fact in full communion with Rome until the 19th Century, when the political declaration of alleged Papal Infallibility simply became too much for them to handle. Nonetheless, their Apostolic Lineage remains completely intact, and bishops from the OCC have routinely participated as co-consecrators for all of the major Anglican bishops in England since that time.)

    Read about their “Affirming The Eucharist For Everyone” celebration here:

    https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/502026903212736/

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  5. […] experience are fired for supporting equal rights, couples committed to each other for decades are denied Communion, and priests face expulsion for attempting to offer pastorally-sensitive […]

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