The Archbishop of St. John's defended his censure of a local parish priest Monday, saying Father Paul Lundrigan's comments were unacceptable within the Catholic Church.

In a sermon last week, Lundrigan challenged the Catholic Church's campaign against legalizing same-sex marriage. Lundrigan called the church hypocritical, criticizing it for fighting same-sex marriages while it remained silent about sexual abuse by clergy members.

FROM CBC NEWFOUNDLAND:
* Local priest bucks church on gay unions

On Sunday, Archbishop Brendan O'Brien spoke to Lundrigan's two parishes. It is a priest's responsibility to deliver the church's official teachings, including any scripture-based position the church takes, O'Brien told them.

But Lundrigan has shown repentance and will be permitted to remain working in the parishes of St. Kevin's in Goulds and St. Joseph's in Petty Harbour, he said.

With Lundrigan sitting near the altar as O'Brien spoke, many parishioners shook their heads, and a small group of gay men and women walked out of the church.

Parishioner Colleen Brophy said she couldn't believe her ears.

"It was absolutely terrible to tell the priest that either be quiet, or you're gone," said Brophy. "They're trying to get people back into the church and this is certainly not doing it."

In a statement issued Monday, O'Brien said he stands by his criticism of Lundrigan, saying a priest must present the church's teaching in an unambiguous way during Sunday homily.

He also said the church is getting involved in the same-sex debate because the proposed law changes the definition of marriage. O'Brien said the church believes marriage between a man and a woman is an institution that is essential to the common good.