Judge in same-sex marriage denied communion at Michigan Catholic church

A Michigan Catholic church denied Holy Communion to a state district court judge because she is married to a woman.

Judge Sara Smolenski, the chief judge of the state’s 63rd District Court, told CNN that she was called by the Rev. Scott Nolan, the priest at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Nov. 23. During the call, he requested that she no longer attend communion at the church, saying “’It was good to see you in church on Sunday. Because you and Linda are married in the state of Michigan, I’d like you to respect the church and not come to communion,'” the outlet reported. 

Smolenski was baptized at the church. Her parents were married there in the 1940s, and she and her nine siblings attended the church’s school when they were children. Communion is a holy and sacred act in Catholicism. 

The judge told CNN that other parishes are more accepting of LGBTQ+ people, but she has been distancing herself from the family church since the priest denied communion to another same-sex couple earlier this year.

“He publicly shunned the couple,” Smolenski said. She married her partner of 30 years in March 2016. She and her wife, Linda Burpee, have given financially to the church, including a $7,000 donation in June 2017 for a renovation.

“I am who I am because God made me just like this,” Smolenski said.

Nolan told a CNN affiliate that he believes Catholic teaching gives him no choice but to deny the woman a communion.

“Some of that criteria are just around what’s happening in that person’s life and what do they believe and what are they doing and what are they not doing,” Nolan said.

The Diocese of Grand Rapids issued a statement supporting Nolan’s decision, quoting Pope Francis‘s “Amorus Laetitia,” which says “Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members.”

“No community of faith can sustain the public contradiction of its beliefs by its own members,” the statement said. “This is especially so on matters as central to Catholic life as marriage, which the Church has always held, and continues to hold, as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.”

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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