Communion for the divorced

My wife and I have questions about the Catholic faith-- she is Catholic and I am not.

1- Is it true that a divorced person who is Catholic cannot receive Communion?
Does the answer change if the divorced person was not married in the church and then later converted vs two people who were married in the church and then divorced?

If it is true that a divorced person cannot take Communion, what is the reasoning behind this? Is the inability to take Communion permanent or is there a way to be brought back into it? If there is not, how can that person be saved while being denied the real presence of Christ?

We are looking not just for the rules but the reasoning behind them.

For myself I would also ask how it could be possible that someone could be permanently denied the real presence of Christ (assuming they even would be) for something that may well be considered a mistake ten years later, or for a decision that may have been made due to being in a really unhealthy marriage filled with addiction, rape, physical violence etc.

Cardinal Burke gives good explanation in this video.

Thank you for that but we are looking for more on the reasoning behind it which this video does not go into very deeply.

Simply being divorced does not bar you from the Sacraments.
Being divorced and remarried without an annulment does. The reasoning is that the divorced person without annulment is still technically married. “As long as you both shall live” and all.

Whether the first marriage was valid or not, I’ll leave that to someone else to explain.

These links can answer your question better than I can. They are links to apologists from this site answering very similar questions. I hope it helps.

Some consider the party who is at fault to have committed a mortal sin. A confession, however, will admit one to receive communion.

A live-in arrangement with another changes the scenario altogether but you didn’t ask that question I see.

Here is a quote from the Douay-Rheims edition of the Bible. From the Gospel of Saint Mark, Chapter 10.

"And rising up from thence, he cometh into the coasts of Judea beyond the Jordan: and the multitudes flock to him again. And as he was accustomed, he taught them again. [2] And the Pharisees coming to him asked him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. [3] But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you? [4] Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away. [5] To whom Jesus answering, said: Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you that precept.

[6] But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. [7] For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. [8] And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. [9] What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. [10] And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing.

[11] And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. [12] And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery."

Anyone who is in a state of mortal sin should not take communion. Adultery is a mortal sin. Divorcing one’s first spouse and becoming remarried was defined by Christ Himself as adultery. Therefore, as long as the remarried partners remain in that relationship and have sex, they are committing adultery against their actual (first) husband or wife and are thus barred from Communion until they either break up or begin living together as brother and sister (get separate bedrooms, you get the idea) and go to Confession. However, if you are divorced and chaste then you can go to Communion, since then you are not committing adultery against your spouse.

To the best of my belief (others, please correct me if I am wrong) if you were divorced **before **you were baptized/confirmed in the Church and your marriage was not performed in the Church, then the Church does not consider it a real, sacramental, unbreakable marriage. You can get married validly in the Church in such a case or go to Communion.

And as for your question about how could someone be denied the presence of Christ forever after realizing what they did was a mistake 10 years later:

As I said above, if they just got divorced because the marriage was abusive, etc, and remained chaste, they have no problem and can go to Communion.

But if they got remarried, then even if it is ten years later, they can still fix it by breaking up or by starting to live as brother and sister. Will it be hard, after 10 years of being together? Yes. Is it possible and right? Yes. Christ never promised that the way to heaven would be strewn with rose petals…He took up His own Cross, and told us to do likewise.

That is not completely correct. While it is true that marriage where one party is not baptized is not sacramental it is still considered a valid marriage. It can only be set aside for very specific reasons. This is the basis of the Peterine and Pauline priviledges. In general it requires that the marriage breakdown had to be caused by the suing spouse rejecting them specifically because of the faith. Remember that Christ in your quote from the Gospels was not talking to those who were baptized, but to unbaptized Jews. He did not say it was a sin only once marriage was raised to a sacrament.

As others have said it is not divorce per se that is the issue, but remarriage (abandoning one’s family is a sin, but that is a different topic). Catholics take the teaching of Christ very seriously that in remarriage a person is committing adultery. Since adultery is a mortal sin it cuts the person off from the graces of the sacraments. To receive a sacrament while in a state of mortal sin is to commit the sin of sacrilege. The normal way back to the sacrament is through confession, but for absolution to be valid one must firmly resolve to stop sinning. In the case of remarriage if one confesses adultery with the intent to return home and resume conjugal relations with their new legal spouse then the absolution is invalid and they would still be in mortal sin. As such they receive no graces from the Eucharist and actually pile more sin on by committing sacrilege.

The only way forward is to petition to have the original marriage examined for validity. If it is found that the first marriage suffered from a defect at the time that vows/consent was exchanged then no marriage took place and the parties would be free to contract marriage with their new legal spouse. If the first marriage is found to be free of defect then the only options are to leave their current spouse or become completely continent (i.e. no conjugal contact with the new legal spouse).

One other item of note is that the Eucharist is not required for salvation. Normally there are only two requirements for acheiving heaven. First is baptism and the second in freedom from mortal sin at the time of death. The other sacraments are to strengthen us in this world, but are not strictly necessary to obtain heaven.

For myself I would also ask how it could be possible that someone could be permanently denied the real presence of Christ (assuming they even would be) for something that may well be considered a mistake ten years later, or for a decision that may have been made due to being in a really unhealthy marriage filled with addiction, rape, physical violence etc.

If I do something stupid and say stick my hand in a running lawn mower is it unfair that I still have no hand 10 years later? It is sad and regrettable, but we all have to live with the consequences of bad choices all the time. I am not trying to be harsh, but often times people refuse to acknowledge that they are in situations because of lack of discernment on their part. The Church does accept that one can leave an abusive marriage, but if it is found that the marriage is not invalid that does not mean that the person is free to contract a new marriage simply because their spouse is a despot or dangerous.

In many cases it is possible to return to the sacraments, but it requires putting Christ before earthly desires. Many advocate remarriage as a kindness in a fallen world, but Christ implicitly states that allowing divorce and remarriage is a hardness of heart. In other words it is a way of putting ourselves first and rejecting God.

Unless there was an impediment like too close a kinship or a previous marriage, the Church presumes that marriages of non-Catholics and non-Christians are valid. It doesn’t matter where they were performed as long their own religion accepts them.

That’s why a divorced and remarried non-Catholic who wants to become a Catholic must first have his/her previous marriage examined by the Marriage Tribunal. If it’s found that the previous marriage was invalid and they are granted an annulment then they can be baptized or received into full communion. If the first marriage was found to be valid, then they have a difficult choice to make.

Most of this sounds very reasonable. I want also to mention that for me personaly it is certain that I would have gotten divorced at a point in my marriage had it not been for the words of Jesus stating not to do so. My marriage is in a period of flowering and deep mutual love and I would not have come to that point had it not been for the stern words of Jesus.

One more question though. Lets say a person got married and according to all of the Churches rules that marriage is considered valid. The man abuses the woman physically and so she leaves and later remarries and has children within the new marriage. Does that in any way change the stance of the Catholic Church? I think I know it does not but just want to hear peoples take on it.

Assuming the Church does not allow the sacraments doesn’t it seem harsh to not allow the husband and wife (assuming they are both Catholic) to receive the graces of the sacraments at least for the benefit of the innocent children of that marriage? I understand that salvation and getting into heaven is possible without the sacraments but I also see the great power of those same sacraments and amazing benefit of them in my wife. It would be a great loss for her to not receive them so I can see how this stance by the Church could lessen the quality of life for the children involved in my hypothetical example. Lets add also that in this hypothetical example neither person is capable of being chaste so the option of living together as brother and sister would not work out.

My uncle did not go to communion for over ten years because he married a woman whose first marriage was not annulled. Once that marriage was finally annulled, he resumed going to communion as did my aunt.

Suppose that you do not put away your wife, but you do marry another? The passage says that if you put away your wife AND marry another, then you are committing adultery. But if you don’t put her away, then is divorce and remarriage permitted? It is true that you have divorced her, but you have not put her away.

Divorced Catholics can receive Communion but those who have remarried without an annulment can not. This is because the Church’s teaching is that marriage lasts until one of the spouses dies so those who have divorced are still technically married as long as their former spouse lives. This applies even if one first had a civil marriage with a non-Catholic, divorced and then converted.

You asked about addiction, rape and violence. I hope this answers your question:
“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 reason to leave, either by a decree of the local ordinary [e.g., bishop] or, if there is danger in delay, even on his or her own authority” (CIC 1153).

If one has divorced and remarried and an annulment isn’t granted, one can fix the situation by breaking up or if there’s children involved, they can live as brother and sister and go to Communion.

If the fault lies squarely on one spouse, then I don’t see how divorce can keep the other from confession and communion. Even after a set time when things don’t seem irreconcilable, the one with the fault is able to receive the sacraments, I would think.

Any living arrangements with another party, however, changes the scenario altogether, regardless of who was at fault in the divorce.

I have known men and women, whose husbands or wives left and divorce them, who have chosen to follow the precepts of God and did not remarry someone else. The lived rich and fruitful lives as single people. Like priests and nuns they gave their lives in service of God.

It is an honorable option. And a special calling of God.

If the person’s first marriage was valid (not just performed in the Church but actually valid), then nothing that comes after can nullify it. Only death can end a valid, sacramental marriage, so if either spouse subsequently “remarried” legally, they would be an invalid marriage and unable to receive communion.

It is not that the Church is denying the grace of the sacrament to the couple; the couple has chosen to forego the grace of the sacraments by placing themselves in an irregular marriage situation. It is a great loss for the couple and the family to not have the graces needed to raise a family. This is a consequence of the sin of the couple who persists in adultery. But if the legally-married couple intends to raise their children Catholic, then the children would not barred from the sacraments. They could be baptized in the Catholic Church and receive all the rest of the sacraments, even if their parents cannot.

You are just playing with words here. The answer is still no. A divorced person who remarries without a decree of nullity may not receive communion.

Should be “when things don’t seem reconcilable.” Sorry.

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