While many gay Rhode Islanders gained a new right last week, Lew Pryeor and Pierre Leveillee lost one yesterday.
The Catholic couple from Woonsocket was told by their priest, Rev. Brian Sistare of Sacred Heart, that he would no longer give them communion at Sunday service.
“I have been a Catholic all my life,” Pryeor told me yesterday after he was informed of Sistare’s decision to deny them the sacrament. “I like to go to church and light a candle for my family. Now, I feel like I can’t do that anymore.”
Pryeor and Leveillee have been together for 34 years and were married in 2007. The couple moved to Woonsocket two years ago. He said they were always accepted at the other local Catholic churches they have attended in Warwick and West Warwick over the years.
His new church in Woonsocket, Pryor said, “is pushing people away when they should be reaching out. They may not agree with me, but they shouldn’t throw rocks at me.”
The couple will leave Sacred Heart and look for a more accepting Catholic church in Woonsocket.
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.
Pryor said the priest told him he would give him communion if he ended his marriage to Laveilee.
Sistare, who could not immediately be reached for comment, is new at Sacred Heart, said Pryeor, who has been taking issue with his new priest’s politically-charged sermons.
Pryeor been posting on Facebook about Sistare’s sermons. From Sunday, July 28:
ok pierre and i went to church today .. new young priest at the Sacred heart church . Instead of saying how we all should follow the ways of the Pope, reaching out to everyone , He talked about the Governor again.. All right already not everyone likes Chafee but instead of showing negativity towards someone due to their beliefs try to reach out to those that are lost are needing help.
And this from Sunday, August 3:
mass was ok today but What political party was my priest refering to as a party that is wrong for thinking the rich should give up some of there money.
Pryeor and Leveillee have been congregants at Sacred Heart since moving to Woonsocket two years ago. Pryeor organized the annual church festival. They live one block from the church and bring their grandchildren to mass. Pryeor said he and Leveillee have been congregants at Catholic churches in both Warwick and West Warwick before moving to Woonsocket and their relationship and their love has always been accepted by other priests.
Other gay couple who attend Sacred Heart have posted on Pryeor’s Facebook posts that they, too, have been told they would not be offered communion.
Catholics believe that the Sacrament of Communion – eating unleavened bread blessed by a priest – is akin to eating the body of Jesus, who they believe is the son of god born of a virgin birth. Devout Catholics believe communion should not be given to sinners until they repent.
The church has a legal right to deny anyone any part of their ritual it sees fit. But preaching politics from the pulpit may be another matter. As a tax-exempt organization, church’s have a legal obligation not to use their non-profit status to push its leaders’ personal politics on its parishioners.
Sistare is also a part of the campus ministry at Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket. He’s also on Twitter, where he follows many conservative politicians and FOX News personalities. In January, tweeted this to Gov. Chaffee:
@LincolnChafee Do RI a favor & go take a job w/ Abomination adm. in DC. Will have to answer to God w/ your support of abortion and sodomy!