A GAY couple have been told they can no longer receive Communion or participate in church ministry.
The ban came after a new priest at a Roman Catholic church in central Montana learned they had been married in a civil ceremony more than a year ago.
The decision set off a split that has cut attendance at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown. Bishop Michael Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings plans to visit today to discuss how church teachings apply to the situation.
Paul Huff, 66, and Tom Wojtowick, 73 - who have been in a committed relationship for more than 30 years and have lived together in Lewistown for 11 years - said they were stunned by the decision of Fr Samuel Spiering, who also said the men could not sing in the church choir.
Mr Wojtowick said the men in May 2013 so they could make medical and financial decisions for each other.
During an August 25 conference call with Fr Spiering, Mr Warfel and other diocesan officials, Mr Huff and Mr Wojtowick agreed to write a statement that, in part, would support the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman, Huff said.
"It was not our intent to challenge that (concept), but to have the rights of civic protections in our old age," Mr Wojtowick wrote. However, he was later informed that he would also have to include a time-line for the two men to quit living together and divorce.
The men declined further comment until they hear from the bishop on Saturday.