A Catholic bishop in Springfield, Illinois has issued a decree to priests in his diocese, instructing them to refuse communion, last rites and funeral rites to anyone in a same-sex marriage.
In his three-page-letter, Bishop Thomas Paprocki definitely seems annoyed that same-sex marriage is now legal in the US.
“In a reversal of millennia of legal and judicial recognition of the marital union as possible only between one man and one woman, same sex ‘marriage’ is now recognised by legislative action and judicial decision as legal throughout the United States of America,” he writes.
So, Bishop Paprocki has set out to make sure that no member of the clergy assists or participates in the solemnisation or blessing of same-sex marriages.
He also instructs that “no Catholic facility or property” including “parishes, schools, health and charitable institutions” should be used for same-sex marriages or receptions.
When it comes to receiving Holy Communion, Paprocki writes that: “given the objectively immoral nature of the relationship created by same-sex marriages, persons in such unions should not present themselves for Holy Communion”.
Similarly, he instructs that anyone in a same-sex marriage should be denied last rites and funeral rites.
“Unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death, deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites.”
Christopher Pett from LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA tells NPR that the Bishop’s comments are “mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme”.
"It systematically and disdainfully disparages us and our relationships,” says Pett. "Bishop Paprocki's decree makes it very clear why so many LGBTQI people and their families feel unwelcome in the Catholic Church and why so many leave it.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke is the organisation’s executive director and has also condemned the Bishop’s decree.
"It is simply cruel and shameful to refuse burial or Communion to those who seek the grace and comfort that our Church offers at some of the most difficult moments of life,” she says, adding that it "is reminiscent of the appalling practice of denying Communion, funerals, and burial to people dying of AIDS at the height of the epidemic.”
The Springfield diocese has defended the decree, calling it necessary "in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues".
Christopher Hale - who edits a website for young Catholics called Millennial - says he believes the decree doesn’t reflect the teachings of Pope Francis.
"Let's be clear: Francis would give a funeral to someone in a same-sex relationship," Hale says. “A church that excludes the LGBT community is a church without a future."