A Roman Catholic bishop says half of a Montana parish agrees with a new priest's decision to refuse communion to a married gay couple.

Paul Huff, 73, and Tom Wojtowick, 66, together more than 30 years and lifelong Catholics, married in Seattle last year.

Rev. Samuel Spiering was in his post as administrator of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown, Montana four days before he met with Huff and Wojtowick to ask them if they had married. The following day, he told them they could no longer receive Communion and dismissed them from their volunteer posts in the church choir. Wojtowick is also an organist.

The men agreed to write a restoration statement in support of the church's definition of marriage as between a man and a woman but refused the demand of separating and divorcing in order to remain active in the church.

Bishop Michael Warfel of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings met with roughly 300 parishioners on Saturday to discuss the issue, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Warfel said that parishioners were even divided.

“The comments from the parishioners were probably 50 – 50,” he said. “In balance, those were both supportive of what the pastor had done in his decision, and then some who were very angry and non-supportive of that decision.”

“There obviously is polarization, and certainly what I want to do is try to effect some healing,” he added. “At the same time, as a Catholic bishop, I uphold our Catholic teachings.”

According to Wojtowick and Huff, the church has lost as many as 40 parishioners over the incident.