A lesbian judge has been denied the Eucharist at the church where she was baptised and has attended for more than 60 years because she is married to a woman.
Sara Smolenski, chief judge at Kent County District Court in Michigan, was refused communion by the St Stephen Catholic Church priest and told she should “respect the church” and not return for the sacrament in future.
Ms Smolenski was baptised in the church as a baby, went to school there and celebrated many life events in the church, where her parents were also married.
She told MLive: “In 62 years, this is the first time I’ve ever been denied.”
The judge added: “I was raised in that church. It created who I am. We were taught ‘love everyone’.”
Three years ago, Ms Smolenski married her longterm partner of 27 years.
She said her priest Father Scott Nolan had been aware for some time she was gay and it had not appeared to be an issue until this month.
Father Nolan told Ms Smolenski over the phone that she was not to continue receiving the Eucharist at the parish.
He demanded she “respect the church” and said her marriage was the crux of the issue.
Speaking to Wood TV 8, she said: “The way he said it was ‘because you’re married to Linda in the state of Michigan, you cannot accept communion.
“I try to be a good and faithful servant to our Lord Jesus Christ.
“My faith is a huge part of who I am, but it is the church that made that faith, the very church where he is taking a stance and saying ho-ho, not you.”
On Thursday, the church issued a statement regarding the matter.
The statement reads: “We appreciate Judge Sara Smolenski’s service to the community. We are grateful for her past generosity. These facts are not at issue in this matter.
“As Pope Francis explains in Amoris Laetitia, ‘The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church. Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members. (186)’
“Lifelong Catholics would surely be aware of this. Inclusion and acceptance have been a hallmark of Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Grand Rapids throughout the diocese’s history. They remain so. They presume, however, a respect on the part of individuals for the teachings and practice of the wider Catholic community.
“No community of faith can sustain the public contradiction of its beliefs by its own members.
“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.
“Father Scott Nolan, pastor of St. Stephen Parish, has dedicated his priesthood to bringing people closer to Jesus Christ.
“Part of his duty in pursuing that end is to teach the truth as taught by the Catholic Church, and to help it take root and grow in his parish.
“Mercy is essential to that process, but so are humility and conversion on the part of anyone seeking to live an authentically Catholic Christian life.
“Father Nolan approached Judge Smolenski privately. Subsequent media reports do not change the appropriateness of his action, which the diocese supports.”