Nova Scotia

Catholic archbishop forced us out: gay couple

As MPs vote on the issue of same-sex marriage, a gay couple continues to struggle with a decision by the Catholic archbishop to deny them communion because of their wedding.

A Roman Catholic couple has joined the United Church after theCatholic archbishop denied them communion because of their same-sex wedding.

Daniel Poirier and Jack Murphy, of Meteghan Centre, were marriedlast springand announced their wedding with a photograph in the newspaper.

Murphy and Poirier, both 69,have been together for seven years. Theysay residents and parishioners at Stella Maris church accept them as a couple.

But that wedding photo caught the attention of Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, who they believe forced them out of the church.

"We are not the scandal, he is," Poirier said.

The couplelearned from their local priest thatPrendergast had said they could no longer receive communion or hold a leadership position.

For Poirier, this meantgiving uphis role as choir director.

The men have since joined the Deacon United Church in Yarmouth, but once a month they go back to Stella Maris.

"The hardest thing is when people go to communion and we have to sit down," said Poirier, who would normally be rehearsing the choir at this time of year for the Christmas mass.

"It breaks my heart to hear that music and I can't be part of it."

Conflict with doctrine

When Murphy lived in the United States for 10 years with his partner, who died of cancer, he chose not to get communion because he thought it was in conflict with Catholic doctrine.

"Ultimately, I got to believe it wasn't," Murphy said. "For me, the eucharist is the centre of my faith."

The couple met with Prendergast to argue their case, but Murphy said it was clear the archbishop wasn't going to change his mind when he said the men should do what Jesus said to the prostitutes: sin no more.

"I was very angry at that because Danny and I are not prostitutes. We love and are committed to each other," Murphy said.

The next day they got a letter officially declaring they would be allowed to take communion only if they led a celibate life.

Prendergast is out of the country and a spokeswoman for the Halifax archdiocese told CBC News that church officials do not comment on individual cases.

Archbishop responsible for church teachings

But the archbishop is responsible to uphold the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, according to a statement issued Thursday.

In addition, it said, "those who make public announcements that they are living in a manner completely contrary to the teaching of the Church cannot expect to receive Holy Communion unless there is a change in their situation."

Murphy and Poirier say they will always be Catholic, but they don't agree with the church's stance on sexuality.

The say they like their new church and both have joined the choir.

"The big difference is there there's not a wall between the altar and us," Murphy said.

They hope to one day get married in the United Church.