In what can only be described as an effort to shorten long communion lines, on July 1, 2016, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, announced that pastors in his diocese were not to distribute communion to couples who are divorced and civilly remarried, as well as couples who are cohabitating.
The directive was issued as part of his plan for implementing Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).
Archbishop Chaput also addressed the pastoral care of lesbian and gay people. He wrote that pastors must prudentially judge an appropriate response to couples who “present themselves openly in a parish.”
He continued – “But 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. Finally, those living open same-sex lifestyles should not hold positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical ministry.”
The operative words are “open” and “public.” It appears that same-sex couples, or single gay and lesbian parishioners, are welcome to carry on as usual provided they are closeted and unmarried.
Surprisingly, Chaput did not address the issue of married parishioners who use birth control. They are easy to spot these days, since it is very rare to see a mother and father with 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or more children sitting in a pew together.
He did also not address the issue of gay priests holding leadership positions or carrying out liturgical functions.
On the opposite side of the country, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, California took a slightly different tack: “My own view,” the bishop said, “is that much of the destructive attitude of many Catholics to the gay and lesbian community is motivated by a failure to comprehend the totality of the church’s teaching on homosexuality.”
That teaching includes the conviction that “moral sexual activity only takes place within the context of marriage between a man and a woman.” But, “that’s not a teaching which applies just to gay men,” Bishop McElroy said. “It is a teaching across the board, and there is massive failure on that.”
Bishop McElroy said that all Christians are called to a life of virtue, in emulation of Christ. Chastity is among the virtues of that life, and an important one, “but it does not have the uniquely pre-eminent role in determining the character of a disciple of Christ, nor one’s relationship with the church.”