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PRIOLO GARGALLO, Sicily, June 26, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Sicilian LGBT organizations came out swinging when a priest told two female parishioners they could no longer receive Holy Communion.

Paola Desi, 27, and Maria Grimaldi, 25, contracted a civil union on April 3. They are parishioners at Don Sebastiano Gulinello of the Church of the Immaculate.

The priest welcomed the women to Holy Communion until the couple published photos of their ceremony on Facebook. As Paola Desi is disabled and has difficulty walking, Gulinello had delegated an extraordinary minister to bring her the sacrament at home. But now neither woman will be receiving Holy Communion anywhere in the diocese.

“Unfortunately, I cannot do anything about it,” said Gulinello. “I know them, and I’m sorry. It’s not personal: it’s a law of the Church. I’m following the Catechism.”

“But this does not mean that the Lord does not love these two women,” he continued. “They can come to church and continue to follow, but they can’t be given communion.”

Gulinello said the women’s “mistake” was to publish the news of their union on Facebook. It was seen by “all” and their church community didn’t accept it.

“Even the Archbishop phoned me asking if this couple attended the church, and repeated that the doors are open to them, but that they cannot receive the sacrament of the Eucharist.”

The archbishop of Syracusa is Salvatore Pappalardo. (He should not be confused with the late Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, who was an archbishop of Palermo.)    

Civil unions for same-sex couples were introduced in Italy in June 2016. According to Vox Publica Siciliana, Desi, of Priolo, and Grimaldi, originally of Foggia, met over Facebook seven years ago. Becoming alienated from her family, Grimaldi eventually took up residence with Desi in Priolo. Their civil union ceremony was conducted by the now-mayor of the town, Pippo Gianni.

Desi told Vox Publica that Don Gulinello was aware that she and Maria were in a romantic relationship before their ceremony. She claimed that the priest “had been able to see” the “true nature” of their relationship when he came by to bless their apartment. The extraordinary minister of the Eucharist delegated to bring the sacrament to Paola had led a “weekly meeting of faith and prayer” with them, and the women had wanted this person to be a witness of their civil union.

The president of “Stonewall GLBT Syracusa,” Alessandro Bottaro, commented dryly on the situation, saying “It the thing had not been made a public matter, there wouldn’t have been a problem. The love between two women that stays hidden in the shadows can be tolerated, but in public, instead it is mocked and discriminated against with the worst of exclusions.”

Armando Caravini, the president of Arcigay Siracusa, was similarly irritated by the exclusion of the same-sex couple from Holy Communion.

“I find what happened unacceptable,” he said, “and I immediately ask for a meeting with the bishop of Syracuse in order to find a solution to a paradoxical situation.”

Going through a form of marriage, without the permission of the Roman Catholic Church, puts a Catholic outside of sacramental union with the Church, which means that he or she cannot receive Holy Communion or the sacrament of penance before having his or her marriage blessed, if possible. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes marriage only as the sexual and social union of one man and one woman. She teaches that the nuptial act, i.e. genital sex, may take place only within marriage. She also calls people who experience same-sex desires to live chastely, “to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358).

The Church also warns against the sin of “scandal.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, scandal is “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.”