Archbishop Charles / WikiCommmons

The Catholic church in Philadelphia will allow couples who are divorced and civilly remarried to accept Holy Communion only if they adhere to a life of chastity, according to new guidelines published within the archdiocese this month.

Catholics who wish to participate in Holy Communion but are divorced and remarried without an annulment must live “like brother and sister” state the guidelines, published by the conservative archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput.

Those attracted to the same-sex are also advised to practice chastity if the wish to remain welcomed in the Church. The guidelines state that a couple 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.

“Those with predominant same-sex attractions are therefore called to struggle to live chastely for the kingdom of God. In this endeavor they have need of support, friendship and understanding if they fail,” it continues.

The document goes so far as to suggest that those attracted to somebody of the same-sex can still lead a heterosexual life.

“Those who work in pastoral ministry often encounter persons with diverse forms of same-sex attraction,” it states. “Many such persons have found it possible to live out a vocation to Christian marriage with children, notwithstanding experiencing some degree of same-sex attraction.”

Known as one of the staunchest conservatives in the US Catholic Church, Chaput published the guidelines, which came into effect last July 1, in response to Pope Francis’ recently published document “Amoris Laetitia” (“Joy of Love”) which urged bishops to be more accepting of those who lived outside of the Church’s doctrine.

Released in April, the Pope expressed his views on divorcees and same-sex relationships, calling on bishops to show greater flexibility in Church teaching to bring Catholics back to the Church, while allowing his bishops the opportunity to interpret the document as they saw fit.

The new seven-page Philadelphia guidelines represent Chaput’s own interpretation - one of the first to be released following the Pope's statement. Chaput has previously served on the Synod (gathering of bishops) that advised Pope Francis in the creation of his Amoris document and was just last month appointed by the the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as chairperson of a five-bishop committee that will promote the teaching of Amoris in the US.

With the new rules set out, the Archbishop addresses Catholic married couples, Catholics and Christians who are separated or divorced and not remarried, Catholics and Christians who are divorced and civilly-remarried, couples who cohabitate and are unmarried and “persons who experience same-sex attraction,” suggesting chastity for the most part.

Most time is spent on the civilly remarried, however, who Chaput says “should be welcomed by the Catholic community” although “Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy.” There are an estimated 4.5 million Catholics in the US who are divorced and remarried without an annulment.

“This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. 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,” the guidelines continue.

“Even where, for the sake of their children, they live under one roof in chaste continence and have received absolution (so that they are free from personal sin), the unhappy fact remains that, objectively speaking, their public state and condition of life in the new relationship are contrary to Christ’s teaching against divorce.

“Concretely speaking, therefore, where pastors give Communion to divorced and remarried persons trying to live chastely, they should do so in a manner that will avoid giving scandal or implying that Christ’s teaching can be set aside.”

Chaput also advises priests in his archdiocese to urge couples to separate if they are cohabiting and are not looking to get married.

The guidelines state: “Often cohabiting couples refrain from making final commitments because one or both persons is seriously lacking in maturity or has other significant obstacles to entering a valid union. Here, prudence plays a vital role. Where one or another person is not capable of, or is not willing to commit to, a marriage, the pastor should urge them to separate.”

If the couple are cohabiting but look likely to marry, chastity is once again recommended.

“Where the couple is disposed to marriage, they should be encouraged to practice chastity until they are sacramentally married,” the rules advise.

“They will find this challenging, but again, with the help of grace, mastering the self is possible -- and this fasting from physical intimacy is a strong element of spiritual preparation for an enduring life together.”

Although Chaput’s guidelines are being received as a conservative take on Amoris, there has been much dispute as to the meaning of Pope Francis’ document and the extent to which is should be regarded as flexible on Church teachings, as Chaput claims he "states clearly that neither Church teaching nor the canonical discipline concerning marriage has changed."

H/T: Archdiocese of Philadelphia