The Church teaches that homosexual activity is a moral evil, and that those conscious of grave sin should not receive the Eucharist. The Church also has taught that contracting a same-sex civil marriage can be "obstinate perserverance in manifest grave sin," which would prohibit a person from being admitted to communion.
The diocese agreed with the priest's version of events. "Father Nolan approached Judge Smolenski privately. Subsequent media reports do not change the appropriateness of his action, which the diocese supports," the Nov. 27 statement said.
Nolan, 33, was ordained a priest of the Grand Rapids diocese in 2013.
Smolenski and Nolan have had previous run-ins. The judge is one of several parishioners who has criticized some of Nolan's actions as pastor of the parish; which have included requiring that lectors at parish Masses be Catholics.
In October, Smolenski co-authored a letter to Michigan lawyers raising concerns about Nolan, who is chaplain to the Catholic Lawyer's Association.
The letter said that Nolan had refused the Eucharist to two women in a same-sex civil marriage.
"This hurtful and humiliating action of publicly denying communion because they are gay has caused much hardship at the parish and in the greater community."
"This act by Fr. Scott is a clear indication that he will continue to practice selective discrimination against members of our community," the letter said.
Nevertheless, Smolenski wrote, "We acknowledge Fr. Nolan's right, under the authority of the Church, to deny communion to those who are not in conformity with the teaching of the Church."
The diocese also recognized that right.
"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," the diocesan statement said.
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J.D.Flynn served as Catholic News Agency's editor-in-chief from August 2017 to December 2020.