Divorce and Catholics


I know that this is more than likely a stupid question but here it goes: Does the catholic who intentionally divorces his spouse for an illegitimate reason condemn himself/herself to Hell?

My cousin, a catholic, is contemplating a divorce. He and his spouse are now separated. As far as I know, there was no infidelity. They seemed happy togethor, have grown children, and get this-- they’ve been married 45 years!! The only thing I can figure out is that now that the children have left “the nest” and now that my cousin has been retired for a few years, he is suddenly in a life that was quite different than when he was constantly working and the kids were around. And somehow that has changed him. I could be wrong but I cant figure out why he wants out of the marriage.

Then again, how could a life long catholic in good conscience decide to get a divorce for no apparant good reason. Divorce is contrary to catholic morality, and he should know that!!


You can’t know if he has condemned himself to hell. Abandoning your spouse without a legitimate reason (like say abuse or drug addiction) is probably grave matter, but for a sin to be mortal his state of mind matters as well.

Plus, he can always repent in the future and confess the sin.


Also remember that divorce is the termination of a civil contract, not the dissolution of a sacramental marriage. Which is why it is not the divorce but any attempt at remarriage that is forbidden.

Which is not to suggest that there is no sin being contemplated here, just that it’s not by definition . . .


I agree with the previous posters. Divorce is a terrible thing, and probably a grave sin in many circumstances, but no sin (to my knowledge, I am not a theologian) is an automatic, unforgivable condemnation to hell. God can, and wants to, forgive you.


Divorce is grave matter. It is a sin against the sixth commandment. When done with full knowledge and free will, and as you say for “no reason,” yes it is a mortal sin.

Unrepentent mortal sin separates us from God and if we die in mortal sin, yes we will go to Hell. But, you have taken a big leap between separated from his wife and “going to hell.” That’s God’s place to judge. You don’t know the details-- although his marriage “appeared” normal, happy, etc-- and you cannot judge whether there is a “legitimate” reason for him to separate/divorce.

It is certainly your Christian duty to remind him of his vow, of its permanency, and to encourage reconciliation and counseling, and that he talk to a priest. It is not within your purview to declare him “going to hell.”

Encourage him to get counseling-- Retrouvaille is for troubled marriages and can help him.


yes, my question was misleading. Instead of wondering whether divorce would condemn one to Hell, I should have stated whether divorce would be considered a mortal sin. Of course I realize that one could be repentant up until the moment of death and be forgiven (of any sin).


Perhaps your cousin - or his wife - are keeping the reasons for the divorce private. It seems highly unlikely a couple would divorce for no reason after all that time. Trust me, divorces are expensive and unbelievably painful, although sometimes necessary.

In your position, asking your cousin if he has discussed his situation with his priest or tried marriage counseling would be appropriate. I wouldn’t assume that he was divorcing without cause.


Go to your cousin and his wife and tell them to sign-up for this:



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