Under new guidelines for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, people living together outside of marriage, and same-sex couples are eligible for Communion only if they "refrain from sexual intimacy," Crux reports.
Conceding that it may be seen as "hard teaching," Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap has also decreed that they cannot hold positions of responsibility in a parish or perform liturgical functions.
That latter prohibition, according to a new set of pastoral guidelines issued by Archbishop Chaput implementing Pope Francis' Apostolic ExhortationAmoris Laetitia, is designed to avoid "the unintended appearance of an endorsement of divorce and civil remarriage."
"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," state the guidelines, which took effect on July 1.
"This is a hard teaching for many, but anything less misleads people about the nature of the Eucharist and the Church," the document says.
Under the guidelines, same-sex couples must live chastely in order to receive Communion, and they cannot hold positions in a parish or perform liturgical ministries or roles.
On other fronts, the guidelines say that couples living together outside of marriage should either be encouraged to separate, if they're incapable or unwilling to be married, or to prepare themselves for marriage while refraining from sex in the meantime.
For those whose marriages break down, the guidelines encourage pursuing the possibility of an annulment, meaning a finding by a Church tribunal that the original marriage bond wasn't valid on the grounds of one or more defects, acknowledging that "in our age, such grounds are not uncommon."
Pastoral care of married couples must be a priority, according to the guidelines, including encouraging frequent reception of the sacraments, common prayer and reading of Scripture in the family, and forming a network of support among "committed Catholic friends and families."
"Christian marriage, by its nature, is permanent, monogamous and open to life," the document says, calling for redoubled efforts to support couples striving to live that teaching.
The document also calls for compassion and understanding for those who fall short, saying that "especially in a culture that is already deeply confused about complex matters of marriage and sexuality, a person may not be fully culpable for acting against the truth."