U.S. Bishop’s Guidelines: No Communion For Sexually Active Divorced & Remarried, Cohabiting, and Gay Couples

Michael W. Chapman | July 15, 2016 | 1:11pm EDT
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Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput, 

head of the archdiocese of Philadelphia. 


(CNSNews.com) – In implementing Pope Francis’s recent letter on marriage and family, the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, released “pastoral guidelines” this month which clearly explain that divorced and remarried Catholics who are sexually active, as well as sexually active cohabiting couples and homosexual couples cannot receive Holy Communion, a sacrament of the Church.

Nor should such people hold positions of responsibility at the parish, such as the parish council, or work in any liturgical ministries, such as lector or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, states Archbishop Chaput.

The guidelines make clear that in the Pope’s letter – Amoris Laetitia (“the joy of love”) – “neither Church teaching nor the canonical discipline concerning marriage has changed.”

Catholics who are separated or divorced may face great suffering, if they are separated from their children, or face a life without conjugal intimacy and the prospect of no children, says Archbishop Chaput in his guidelines. Pastors must offer these persons “friendship, understanding” and “practical help.”

Also, these separated or divorced persons who “consciously refrain from a new union and devote themselves to carrying out their family and Christian duties,” said Chaput, “face no obstacle to receiving Communion and other sacraments.”   

For Catholics who divorce and then remarry, however, they must live chastely, like a brother and sister, if they want to receive Communion.

“Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy,” explains Archbishop Chaput. “This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof.”

Pope Francis. (AP) 

“Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist [Communion],” writes Chaput. If the couple fails to remain chaste, they must go to Confession before they could consider receiving Communion.

They also cannot hold “positions of responsibility” at the parish, said Chaput, adding, “This is a hard teaching for many, but anything less misleads people about the nature of the Eucharist and the Church.”

Sexually active couples who are living together and not married – cohabiting – cannot present themselves for Communion because they in direct violation of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sex, writes Chaput.  Sexual intimacy is only permitted within a valid marriage between one man and one woman, who are open to the possibility of life, i.e., no contraception.

Working with their pastor, a cohabiting couple must resolve to be chaste until they can marry legitimately in the Church, or they must separate, if they do not have children, says Archbishop Chaput.  If the “cohabiting couple already has children, the good of the young may require the couple to remain living together, but in chastity,” state the guidelines.


For same-sex couples who are sexually active, they cannot present themselves for Holy Communion. As Archbishop Chaput explains, “two persons in an active, public same-sex relationship, no matter how sincere, offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community.”

“Such a relationship cannot be accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children,” said Chaput.

Also, “Catholic belief, rooted in Scripture, reserves all expressions of sexual intimacy to a man and a woman covenanted to each other in a valid married,” explained the archbishop. “We hold this teaching to be true and unchangeable, tied as it is to our nature and purpose as children of a living God who desires our happiness.”

“Those with predominant same-sex attractions are therefore called to struggle to live chastely for the kingdom of God,” said Archbishop Chaput.

Pastors “should emphasize to such persons that they are loved by God, that Jesus desires them to receive an inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and that, as with every Christian, this is made possible through the gift of grace,” said the archbishop.

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