May a person who has been divorced but not remarried receive Communion?
While Church teaching recognizes the seriousness of divorce, it understands that:
(1) There are situations in which civil divorce may be necessary: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense” (Catechism, 2383), and
(2) Divorce may occur due to no fault of an innocent spouse: “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” (Catechism, 2386).
In such cases, divorce is not sinful for that person and he or she may continue to receive communion. However, in other cases - as with all serious sin - a divorced person should go to confession immediately, prior to receiving communion.
If a divorced person later remarries invalidly he or she would then be prohibited from receiving communion as long as that situation persists or until he or she has gone to confession and committed to living chastely. The catechism explains, “Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ—“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”—the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence” (Catechism, 1650).