In a display of unusual piety, Irish American actor Neal McDonough, the former Desperate Housewives star, has been reportedly fired from his $1 million starring role in the new ABC TV series Scoundrels for refusing to film sex scenes.

The highly paid actor, who grew up in Barnstable on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, was replaced three days into the shooting of the new show for refusing to engage in some passionate love scenes with his co-star Virginia Madsen.

Sources are reporting that the 44-year-old actor believed the racy scenes clashed with his Catholic views and his reputation as a family man. McDonough is married with three young children and is known to have refused to film any sex scenes for Desperate Housewives.

On Desperate Housewives McDonough played the psychotic husband of Edie, the character played by Nicolette Sheridan, and he was killed off in 2009. His work on the Scoundrels series was to have marked his return to TV.

Production on the new ABC TV series had already begun when McDonough objected to the love scenes. One source said McDonough even refused a simple onscreen kiss with his co-star Madsen, best known for her Oscar nominated turn in the film Sideways.

Producers at ABC are said to be hopping mad as McDonough was made aware of the on-screen lovemaking, having been sent the script weeks before the filming began.

Reacting quickly, with its budget on the line, the studio quickly replaced McDonough with actor David James Ellicot and did not comment on the reason behind McDonough's departure.

A source close to the show told the press: "It wasn't just heated love scenes - McDonough wouldn't do any kissing whatsoever, even though those scenes were clearly in the scripts he read before taking the role.

"He didn't tell the producers that cast him on this show that he had any issues with this until shooting started. So unprofessional, and such a shame because he is a great talent."

McDonough is from a conservative Catholic family of six siblings from Barnstable, Massachusetts, and he shot to fame in the TV series Band of Brothers.

He trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and has appeared in more than 20 films, including Minority Report with Tom Cruise and Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers.