PHILADELPHIA — The leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia says divorced and remarried parishioners should abstain from sex and live “like brother and sister” if they want to receive Holy Communion and haven’t had their previous marriage annulled.
Archbishop Charles Chaput issued a new set of pastoral guidelines for clergy and other leaders in the archdiocese that went into effect July 1.
The guidelines say Catholics in same-sex partnerships, civilly remarried parishioners and unmarried couples living together should not be permitted to serve on parish councils, instruct the faithful, serve as lectors or dispense Communion.
Such “irregular” relationships “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community,” the guidelines state, acknowledging it is a “hard teaching.”
Church teaching says that unless divorced and remarried Catholics received an annulment — a church decree that their first marriage was invalid — they are committing adultery and cannot receive the sacrament of Communion.
The new guidelines also address Catholics “who experience same-sex attraction.” Chaput says such parishioners can still live out a heterosexual marriage with children, despite that attraction. Others in same-sex relationships should avoid sexual intimacy.
The guidelines, posted on the archdiocese website, urge leaders in the archdiocese to offer compassion, love, guidance and respect to all parishioners.
Chaput says the instructions stem from Pope Francis’ sweeping document on family life released in April. That document — called “The Joy of Love” — opened a door to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.
Francis didn’t create a churchwide admission to Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics as some progressives had wanted. But in the April document, he suggested bishops and priests could do so on a case-by-case basis in what could become a significant development in church practice.