Can a divorced but no annulled catholic receive sacrements

Can a couple who got civil divorce, but never got an annulment still receive the sacraments if they are both living as single? Also could they have sexual relations with eachother if they wanted to and be OK with the church? Wouldn’t they still be married in the church;s rules?

If you were validly married in the catholic church, then got a civil divorce, you are not able to receive the Sacraments. I do not know, however, if that still applies if you are remaining chaste and not seeing any people. I also do not know if having sexual relations with someone once you’ve been legally divorced is permissible either; sexual relations are meant to be bonding, unitive and procreative. I would think that if you legally are divorced then you aren’t looking at procreating and giving a child a loving two parent home. So I guess I would think that No, sexual relations wouldn’t be allowed.

By receiving sacraments, do you mean receive holy communion? Yes a divorced and unanulled person can still go up for communion, as long as they aren’t involved in a new relationship.

You shouldn’t get involved in a new relationship until and if you receive an annulment.

As for continuing to have sex with the ex, NOT a good idea. Yikes! If you’re not together anymore, you shouldn’t be going there at all!

You need to discuss this matter with a priest who can address your specific circumstances.

Divorce per se is not an obstacle in the case of person who is not in a new sexual relationship.

But as far as any potential mortal sin connected with the divorce (or unwillingness to return) is concerned, that one should be covered with a priest.

First, the marriage must be deemed valid. If it is valid, then you and the ex are still married in the eyes of the Church, since civil government (which granted the civil law divorce) has no authority over the Sacrament of marriage. To the Church, their are only marriages and non-marriages. Annulment is not a “divorce”, but a statement, by Church authority, that no marriage ever existed. If your marriage is indeed valid, then you are still married in the eyes of God, no matter what the government says. However, please clear this up with your priest, as has rightly been suggested.

The presumption is that a marriage is valid until it is proven otherwise.

The Church has something called seperation (which might include a civil divorce) with the bond remaining.


Can. 1151 Spouses have the duty and right to preserve conjugal living unless a legitimate cause excuses them.

Can. 1152 §1. Although it is earnestly recommended that a spouse, moved by Christian charity and concerned for the good of the family, not refuse forgiveness to an adulterous partner and not disrupt conjugal life, nevertheless, if the spouse did not condone the fault of the other expressly or tacitly, the spouse has the right to sever conjugal living unless the spouse consented to the adultery, gave cause for it, or also committed adultery.

§2. Tacit condonation exists if the innocent spouse has had marital relations voluntarily with the other spouse after having become certain of the adultery. It is presumed, moreover, if the spouse observed conjugal living for six months and did not make recourse to the ecclesiastical or civil authority.
§3. If the innocent spouse has severed conjugal living voluntarily, the spouse is to introduce a cause for separation within six months to the competent ecclesiastical authority which, after having investigated all the circumstances, is to consider carefully whether the innocent spouse can be moved to forgive the fault and not to prolong the separation permanently.

Can. 1153 §1. If either of the spouses causes grave mental or physical danger to the other spouse or to the offspring or otherwise renders common life too diYcult, that spouse gives the other a legitimate cause for leaving, either by decree of the local ordinary or even on his or her own authority if there is danger in delay.

§2. In all cases, when the cause for the separation ceases, conjugal living must be restored unless ecclesiastical authority has established otherwise.
Can. 1154 After the separation of the spouses has taken place, the adequate support and education of the children must always be suitably provided.

Can. 1155 The innocent spouse laudably can readmit the other spouse to conjugal life; in this case the innocent spouse renounces the right to separate.

I hope you are still going on your retreat this weekend and that this will not even be on your mind when you get back.

Civil divorce, in and of itself, does NOT preclude you from receiving the sacraments.

I have been separated since July 2010. I have been divorced since March 2011. I have been receiving Sacraments. I have had my pastor involved. I have been undergoing the decree of nullity process. As long as I live chastely then yes I can receive Sacraments.

As for your second question - since sexual relations are meant to be unitive and procreative then there is a chance one could be having sexual relations that could bring a child into this world without a mother and a father under the same roof - this act woudl be gravely disordered under the fourth commandment. I would recommend a good reading of that commandment in the CCC for further guidance.

My bad there. Thank you!

This is incorrect. A divorced Catholic who is living a chaste single life and is otherwise unaware of mortal sin (or has been to confession if they were aware of mortal sin) CAN receive the Eucharist.

My husband left me a little over a year ago and I receive communion, and am eligible according to my pastor as long as I am chaste.

Anne Marie

This is a common misunderstanding, one that even some priests get wrong. Divorce does not preclude you from the Sacraments.

Mortal sin does preclude you from receiving Holy Communion (except in danger of death), and that would include adultery – having sex with a person to whom you are not married in the eyes of the Church. So, generally, divorce and remarriage can bar you from Communion unless the first marriage has been declared invalid in a decree of nullity.

Sexual relations are limited to husband and wife.

Of each other. :stuck_out_tongue:

So, no sex with anyone else, divorce or not.

As for your second question (can the validly married and civilly divorced couple have sex with each other?), I would have to respond – and this is a guess here – that, theoretically, they can have sexual relations with each other, since they are still married. A problem I can see cropping up, though, is that the sexual act is not to be mere “using” of each other; it’s supposed to be life-affirming and marriage-affirming. So my thought is: reconciling, yes; “sex buddies,” no.

Yes thank you for correcting me…I think I may have misspoke when I originally responded. thanks for clarifying :slight_smile:

After my divorce, I was confused about this and asked several priests, always getting the same answer. A lot of Catholics are unsure of these facts. :slight_smile:

God bless you!

I was divorce - not annulled - and remarried. I did not receive any sacraments other than confession until my husband left. The first thing my priest said, while listening to me cry, was that I was finally no longer living in sin and could once again be in full communion with the church.

I’m still struggling through the annulment papers from my marriage in the church (if anyone could point me to a thread on that topic, I’d be most appreciative), but as long as I remain chaste and without mortal sin, I am in good standing.

Truth, the only thing that’s gotten me through this past year has been my church family, and through them, an amazing ministry.

Anne Marie

There is a group here for people going through (or who have gone through) annulments and divorce. It’s under the “groups” tab, next to the “forums” tab on top.

Here’s the link.

yes of course as long as they are in the state of grace. by both living as single I assume you mean not remarried or intimate with anyone else

Also could they have sexual relations with eachother if they wanted to and be OK with the church? Wouldn’t they still be married in the church;s rules?

you would have to speak to your priest about that, technically yes but you could be giving scandal, although why it is anyone’s business is beyond me

if the civil divorce and then trying to resume living together are in some way an attempt to commit fraud, that could be a serious sin indeed (for instance something to do with SS or insurance).

quote=Mamanurse;7969771]If you were validly married in the catholic church, then got a civil divorce, you are not able to receive the Sacraments.

this simply is not true. A divorced Catholic who has not remarried and otherwise is in the state of sanctifying grace can certainly receive the sacraments.

read carefully the canon law sites above, and bear in mind if you have gotten a civil divorce and even thought about annulment, if you resume marital relations it can be interpreted to mean that you accept and forgive any circumstance that led to the separation, even something that may have otherwise been grounds for annulment. These are questions that simply cannot be answered on a general public forum like this. Each marriage situation is unique and you should not be asking anyone except your priest for an answer applicable to your own case.

This is a common misunderstanding, one that even some priests get wrong. Divorce does not preclude you from the Sacraments.

I’m not sure how popular it grew to be but there apparently was once a misunderstanding that ALL civilly divorced people could not receive Holy Communion. This is false.

But now it seems that the pendulum has swung all the way in the other direction and the teaching is that ALL civilly divorced people can receive Holy Communion as long as they haven’t “remarried without their annulment.” This is also false.

In our culture today the vast majority of civil divorces are unilateral. One spouse wants the divorce and the other does not. The spouse who does not want the divorce can do nothing to stop it. She could hire Perry Mason, Ally McBeal and even the clever Matlock to team up but they will lose the case and she will be pronounced “divorced.”

The vast majority of these civil divorces are now for reasons such as “falling out of love, not being loved the way I deserve to be loved, we have nothing in common, I am not happy, I am miserable, I will always be not happy and miserable with that person, etc…” Only a small percentage of civil divorces occur for reasons our true Church would recognize as “morally licit.”

When a civil divorce is forced upon a spouse who has not been guilty of any grave sin that justifies a civil divorce then this is indeed a grave sin on the part of the spouse who initiates the civil divorce. Repentance of this sin would include a willingness to right the wrong.

For example, let’s say that John up and abandons Carol and their children. Carol has committed no grave sin worthy of the abandonment but John is just tired of being “harped on” and asked to do so many chores around the house and he is ready for more free time with the buds drinking the buds. He gets the judge to rule that the children should spend half of their lives outside of the marital home and with him in his new bachelor pad.

John has committed a grave sin (as long as you believe marriage is good and that you should honor vows made before God then this should be common sense). John should not abandon his earthly spouse on Saturday night and then march up and receive His Heavenly Spouse on Sunday morning.

Could he simply go to confession Sunday morning and shed some tears and cry, “Father, I am sorry I abandoned, I mean, had to leave, my “ex” wife. She was a bit bossy and I know that the divorce hurts my children but I prayed about it to God and He is okay with it because He knows my heart and knows that I tried to live with her for 14 years. I will not ever go back to her. My counselor said that my children will adjust.”

Is this what true repentance would look like for John? Is he now freed to receive Holy Communion?

I hope that it is obvious that the answer to both these questions is “no.” However, when we teach that “all civilly divorced people may receive Holy Communion unless they have remarried outside the Church” then we are answering “yes” to these questions… or we are saying that John had nothing to confess and repent of in the first place.

It is possible for a civilly divorced person to receive Holy Communion. Carol, as long as she is remaining faithful to John and is not claiming that the indissoluble bond of their valid marriage has been broken, could indeed receive Holy Communion. John, however, is still in the midst of his grave sin and should not receive Holy Communion.

Notice that our Catechism notes this “considerable difference” where one has “contravened the moral law” through “his own grave fault” (John) and the other (Carol) is “the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law.”

*2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.179 *



Another thing that we must understand is what the “divorce” is that the prophet Malachi tells us that “God hates” (Malachi 2:16).

Well, we know that it is not necessarily the issuing of a civil divorce decree. For God Himself issued Israel a “bill of divorce.”

Jeremiah 3:8 That because the rebellious Israel had played the harlot, I had put her away, and had given her a bill of divorce: yet her treacherous sister Juda was not afraid, but went and played the harlot also herself.

Israel had “played the harlot,” she was adulterizing against God so he had cause to “put her away” with a “bill of divorce.”

We too could pursue a civil divorce (if there are no other alternatives such as legal separation for example) when our spouse persists in adultery.

Commentary on Canon Law…

*What are the just reasons for separation? In marriage, apart from the conjugal rights and obligations in the strict sense, there are principles that regulate married life, that is, general guidelines for the behavior of the spouses. There are five such principles:
Page 895

  1. The spouses must remain faithful;
  2. They must strive after mutual materiel or bodily perfection;
  3. They must strive after mutual spiritual perfection;
  4. The spouses must live together,
  5. They must strive after the material and spiritual good of their offspring.

Reasons for separation, therefore, are those actions that seriously damage any of these principles. Consequently, the reasons for separation may be reduced to these four headings: adultery, grave bodily harm to the spouse or children, grave spiritual harm to the spouse or children, desertion.

Can. 1152 [concerns adultery and is omitted on this webpage]
Page 896
Can. 1153 — §1. A spouse who occasions grave danger of soul or body to the other or to the children, or otherwise makes the common life unduly difficult, provides the other spouse with a lawful reason to leave, either by a decree of the local Ordinary or, if there is danger in delay, even on his or her own authority.
So too, when our spouse is adulterizing against us we could obtain a civil divorce…*

It is so very important, however, to note that God never “divorces” Israel in His Heart. He never claims that He is no longer Her Husband. In fact, just six verses later He states that He is Her Husband…

14Return, O ye revolting children, saith the Lord: for I am your husband: and I will take you, one of a city, and two of a kindred, and will bring you into Sion.

And He was always willing to take Her back upon Her true repentance… just as our Church teaches us we should be…

§2. In all cases, when the reason for separation ceases, the common conjugal life is to be restored unless otherwise provided by ecclesiastical authority

Our Blessed Lord taught us the truth that a man who lusts after someone who is not his wife is an “adulterer” even though he has not yet committed an adulterous sexual act. So too is a man a “murderer” if he hates his brother even though he has not yet pulled the trigger.

This is no different for any other sin including divorce. When I claim in my heart that I am no longer married to the one to whom God joined me then I am guilty of the “grave offense” of divorce. I become a “divorcer.” I am telling God, “Yea, You joined me but I pronounce that I am no longer joined!”

The glossary of our Catechism defines this for us perfectly (of course)…

DIVORCE: The claim that the indissoluble marriage bond validly entered into between a man and a woman is broken. A civil dissolution of the marriage contract (divorce) does not free persons from a valid marriage before God; remarriage would not be morally licit (2382; cf. 1650).

If I am guilty of this “grave offense” then I should not be receiving Holy Communion.

Hopefully this doesn’t come across as “know-it-all-ish.” There are so many things I am still learning about our Faith and I welcome any friendly and charitable dialogue about this topic. I certainly could be missing something. But I love this Church and love being Catholic!!!



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