Barred from confession due to unblessed marrage

I can make 101 assumptions, but I expect it is not that uncommon for Catholics to make the mistakes and get remarried outside the church without an annulment (so we have 3 issues, defying the church, adultery, and scandal).

I suspect it is also not all that uncommon to realize the mistake and try to correct it (start the process to attempt to attain the annulment, and live a chaste life together (separation would probably make the rest of this question mute)).

At that point the potential scandal still remains (annulment is not yet attained and marriage is not yet blessed). Should the couple still be barred from confession and absolution? Allowed absolution but be barred from communion due to the perception of scandal? Or not even barred when the perception of scandal is not present (ie in a different Parrish).

Is opinion shopping an abuse of the sacrament :rolleyes:… (if the opinions given here differ to the opinion of the local confessor, should the couple find a different confessor - or accept the original’s judgment).

No Catholic is barred from the sacrament of confession. But even with benefit of confession a divorced and remarried person may not approach Holy Communion unless they are living in a state of grace and intend to do so until such time as their current marriage is considered to be valid (if possible).


There really is no opinion involved, it is the moral teaching of the Church. Those not validly Married, yet living as though they are, should not approach the Sacraments. A persons Pastor should be consulted about what needs to be done, and the possibility of Confession/absolution. Attending Mass as an individual after Confession/absolution in a parish where you are not known would seem acceptable in most cases.

A Catholic in a state of mortal sin because of adultery cannot go to Confession and receive absolution unless they intend to avoid the adulterous relationship.

I said that.

…unless they are living in a state of grace and intend to do so until such time as their current marriage is considered to be valid (if possible).


We have 2 civilly married couples in our parish who attend mass every Sunday, but do not receive Holy Communion because neither has been granted an anulment. They both have children so they do not intend to separate, therefore they refrain from receiving the sacraments however, they still come to mass together as a family.

I’m not sure if they would be formally “barred” but they couldn’t receive absolution unless they rectified their marriage situation. I’m not sure even a pledge of chastity would allow them to receive the sacrament (reconcilliation) so they would indeed be effectively “barred.”

i am not sure you are using the term scandal as a substitute for sin? Sin is an issue; scandal is a term we must be careful with. btw was either first marriage in the church? The natural marriage without church approval is not the same as a church approved marriage. Having relations outside the first “marriage” is always a big issue. No confessions or communion are valid in this state

as confession is a sacrament no valid confession for any catholic in a state of mortal sin.

Once the mortal sin is no longer present as celibacy in this case confession is the next step. Only if celibacy remains would the catholic be clear if a relapse occurs the state of sin has returned. Additionally promising to avoid sin with no such intent is a sacrilege.

hope that helps

I am not sure of all the details

There are kids involved, so it is impossible for them to completely sever their relationship - to do so would be damaging to the children. They are living chastely (and usually separately) while waiting on the findings of the annulment panel. They attend church together, and are seen together. As such it appears to the outside that they are living as married and are not avoiding the adulterous relationship. I am not sure they there is a solution to rectify their marriage situation, other than annulment (living completely separately would be fairly difficult due to distance).

I suspect one detail I am missing is if their promise of chastity is only temporary. For it to be valid, it would have to be intended to be permanent until (and IF) the marriage is blessed. The priest might simply feel that is not the case.

There have to be channels by which abuse can be reported, but I don’t think it is fair to the confessor to discuss matters of concerning the confessional, except to take questions to another priest or the vicar of clergy. The seal, or just simple professional discretion, may prevent a priest from defending or explaining himself, or why the details of a particular situation have been applied in a certain way.

If someone has a complaint or criticism to offer about their confessor, they ought to be asked to either talk to him or take it to another priest. I know people need to vent sometimes, but there are some things to which no one outside the situation should be made privy, unless they could offer intervention, encouragement or advice that would be professional. For similar reasons, it is not appropriate to inquire about situations that come under that heading.

I don’t mean that this isn’t a fair topic for forum discussion, because no one here knows those involved. I mean that when someone approaches us to discuss this kind of thing in their own lives, it is better to send them directly to a priest who might be able to help them, and to stay out of it otherwise. It is too easy to get into things we don’t have any business to fool with, and to unintentionally cause harm.

As they should because even in that situation they have the obligation to attend Mass.

Read number 84 from here to see what John Paul says about this:

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”(180)

I am not sure I agree with much of this. If they have civilly married and produced children that obligation should not go unfilled. There are 2 primary paths 1)live civilly married, parent the children and remain celibate, which allows sacraments or 2) live civilly married, parent the children and refrain from the sacraments. Abandoning children is never the correct answer. Cohabitation does not require relations, and allows proper parenting.

That was my understanding. I suggested they should meet with the priest to discuss what they should be doing in order to return to full communion with the church. They are under the impression that they must wait until the annulment is completed (and have not discussed that with the priest)

That is correct. However a pastor must also consider any confusion that might be caused to the faithful if the couple is allowed to return to the Sacraments in public.

I am not sure of all the details.

Then why bring up the subject? :confused:

Right, so the couple are to present themselves for the Sacraments in a manner in which scandal is avoided such as seeking them at a different parish.


A Unique Case.

One final situation is that of those who have repented of their illicit union, but remain together for a serious reason, such as for the sake of their children. Catholic pastoral practice allows that IF their pastor judges that scandal can be avoided (meaning most people are unaware of their remarriage and consider them a married couple), then they may live together as “brother and sister” (without any sexual relations), and be admitted to the sacraments. If scandal can not be avoided, then they must either separate or refrain from the sacraments.


With respect to the aforementioned new pastoral proposals, this congregation deems itself obliged therefore to recall the doctrine and discipline of the church in this matter. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the church affirms that a new union cannot be recognized as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive holy communion as long as this situation persists.
This norm is not at all a punishment or a discrimination against the divorced and remarried, but rather expresses an objective situation that of itself renders impossible the reception of holy communion.
They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and his church which is signified and effected by the eucharist. Besides this, here is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.
The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive holy communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.” In such a case they may receive holy communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.


I will tell you my situation and what happened to me.

When I came back to the church, I was civilly married. My wife had been previously married and divorced. We had to get an annulment for her before we could get our marriage convalidated. That was easy, as she had a lack of form marriage. But it took a while. In the mean time, I was not allowed to participate in any of the sacraments, confession and communion included. I asked about living as ‘brother and sister’ and my priest said it didn’t matter, I couldn’t partake in any of the sacraments until the marriage was convalidated.

So I sat out of communion and I didn’t get to go to confession for about 6 months. Once her annulment came through the priest heard my confession, then our marriage was convalidated, and I was able to continue with the sacraments.

I had absolutely no problem with that, I understood why and I agreed with it. It was hard to deal with, but I obeyed and it worked out just fine.

There is no possible reason from being “barred” from the sacrament of Reconciliation. However, as has been indicated, one may or may not receive absolution, depending on whether or not one has or is showing an intention to repent and turn away from that sin.

That’s speaking in generalities, I know, not particular to the situation in the OP.

Take a drug abuser, for example. He or she goes to confession week after week after week and confesses the same sin, promises to go to rehab and get clean but it never happens, and the Priest, knowing the person well, knows that it’s not ever likely to happen. Still, such a person cannot be barred from confession. It’s a difficult call to make for a priest, and really not their call to make, if someone is or is not likely to change their ways or at least make the effort or do what is necessary to do so.

Besides, the priest can’t know for certain that such a person isn’t going to confess something else that they’ve done.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit