Dale Sand and Tom Pepera, a gay couple from northern Minnesota, were asked recently to no longer take communion or sing in the church choir because of their sexuality. Sand and Pepera, who have been together for five years, said their priest asked them to restrict their participation in church activities after a letter Sand wrote was printed in the Grand Forks Herald on Easter Sunday. In the letter Sand responded to warnings against gay marriage and homosexuality. He wrote that being gay isn't a choice and said God had made him that way.
In response, the Reverend Larry Wieseler, who serves at St. Mary's parishes in Baudette, telephoned Sand and told him he and Pepera should no longer come up to receive Eucharist during Mass, nor should they serve Communion to others or sing in the choir. The couple then decided to quit attending Mass at the church in Baudette. Wieseler said he tried not to be hard-nosed about their sexuality but explained that when Sand went public, he had to take action. "I was just suggesting that he should not come to Communion," Wieseler said. "I said that because you are publicly manifesting that, unless you repent of that, you should not come to receive the Lord, because you are not one with him. You are sort of biting the hand that feeds you." A few weeks ago Wieseler gave a sermon on why same-sex marriage isn't approved by the Catholic Church. The church teaches that being homosexual is not sinful but that engaging in homosexual practices violates natural law and Christ's teaching.
Sand and Pepera each were born into Catholic families and say they take their faith seriously. Pepera said it was the Catholic teaching on Communion that brought him back to the church a decade ago. "At Communion you are truly receiving the body and blood of Christ," he said. "To attain eternal life, you must take Communion." Sand, 43, and Pepera, 49, were married when they first met at a church retreat five years ago. The two men have been active as a couple in their parish for four years, leading the singing and serving Communion, first in Warroad and the past two years in Baudette--the same church where Pepera was born, baptized, and confirmed. "I'm not trying to force the issue," Sand said. "But at the same time, I'm not going to hide anymore. I have for 40 years of my life."