Receiving Communion/Excommunication

I read a blog post (not anywhere on this site) that suggested that people in irregular marriages that receive Communion are subject to automatic excommunication. Perhaps I misunderstood what was written, as I had never heard this before.

I am Catholic, as is my husband; although he is non-practising. My husband and I lived together before we married. (When we moved in together, I was not religious at all, either.)

To make a long story short, I received Communion twice while we were living together. I did non know much about the faith at that point. After we married, I confessed all of these sins and the priest absolved me, without making a big deal over it. I have also learned a lot more about the faith since those days.

My question is quite simple - Did I excommunicate myself by taking communion while living together with my then-fiance?

It is to my understanding that I did not, but the blog post that I read made me worry…

Excommunication is not something you can do to yourself. Only the Church can excommunicate.

Your Priest cannot excommunicate you. Your Bishop can excommunicate but he would need to be in full possession of the facts.

Speak to your parish Priest first.

There IS AUTOMATIC excommunication that happens at the time the act is committed. This information took me all of half a minute to find out on the internet (although I knew this anyway but double-checked).

HOWEVER, you would have to speak to a priest to see if this was the case with this issue. I have heard that you can be married to non-Catholics, so please take proper steps to find out, not just if you’ve been automatically excommunicated, but rather if you can still receive Holy Communion. Holy Communion is not a game or throwaway hobby that one partakes or simply doesn’t take because one enjoys it or the opposite, is worried about something, or can’t be bothered. EVERY step should be taken to ensure that you CAN.

Holy Communion is HOLY. SACRED. DIVINE.

Take those steps. Not enough LOVE is appropriated towards this Sacrament. People go when they could do with going to confession first; vice-versa, people just don’t bother because they have believed something for ages without finding out. This is the central to the Christian faith - Jesus’s body and blood. What more needs to be said?!!’…

*Some excommunications, however, are automatic (effective at the moment the act is committed) and without the intervention of the Church. Catholics are automatically excommunicated for committing these offenses:

•Procuring of abortion

•Apostasy: The total rejection of the Christian faith.

•Heresy: The obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth, which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith.

•Schism: The rejection of the authority and jurisdiction of the pope as head of the Church.

•Desecration of sacred species (Holy Communion)

•Physical attack on the pope

•Sacramental absolution of an accomplice in sin against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments

•Unauthorized episcopal (bishop) consecration

•Direct violation of confessional seal by confessor’*

What this site doesn’t mention, which it should, is that if someone was not in the knowledge of the faith - that these things could incur excommunication or were mortal sins then I don’t think automatic excommunication is always the case but one would need to bring it up in confession, I would imagine. In the case of a returning Catholic, for example.

That is not what the Catholic Encyclopedia says. Don’t tell her that. She must seek advice from her Priest first!

I am not married to a non-Catholic. My husband is Catholic, as am I, and we were married in the Catholic Church. Our marriage is valid, so there are no issues there. I have since learned more about Church teaching and I make sure to go to Confession before receiving Communion if I have committed any mortal sins. (In fact, I usually get to Confession once or twice a month, even if I only have venial sins to confess.)

My question pertains to things that I did before our marriage…I confessed them some time ago, and the priest did not make a big deal about it - he absolved me and that was the end of it. I never worried about it until today.

As far as I understand, I did not commit any sin that would cause automatic excommunication, but I started wondering after I read that blog post…

I hope that this makes more sense.


No. Your understanding is correct. Blogs can sometimes be great, sometimes not.


:thumbsup: SHE ABSOLUTELY should not decide for herself. She MUST see a priest as soon as possible.

I was merely saying there is such a thing as automatic excommunication which there is.

What I am not saying to do is to make one’s own mind up. What I did say was to find out from a priest: 'HOWEVER, you would have to speak to a priest to see if this was the case with this issue. I have heard that you can be married to non-Catholics, so please take proper steps to find out, not just if you’ve been automatically excommunicated, but rather if you can still receive Holy Communion.


Actually, just read the post below me. Tis gooooooood.


It is my understanding that – like mortal sin requiring full knowledge and consent – you cannot be excommunicated without knowing it. In the case of a *ferendae sententiae *(imposed) penalty, the offender must first be warned. In the case of a *latae sententiae *(by the act itself) penalty, the offender must not, among other things, be negligently ignorant of the nature of the act and its penalty. (My understanding continues that in the latter case, if the offender later becomes aware of the nature of the act and penalty, and has not repented nor otherwise corrected his state, the penalty becomes imposed. It would be best to seek the advise of a confessor in such case. :twocents: )

Can. 1323 The following are not subject to a penalty when they have violated a law or precept:

1/ a person who has not yet completed the sixteenth year of age;

2/ a person who without negligence was ignorant that he or she violated a law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance;

3/ a person who acted due to physical force or a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee or, if foreseen, avoid;

4/ a person who acted coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience unless the act is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls;

5/ a person who acted with due moderation against an unjust aggressor for the sake of legitimate self defense or defense of another;

6/ a person who lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. ⇒ 1324, §1, n. 2 and ⇒ 1325;

7/ a person who without negligence thought that one of the circumstances mentioned in nn. 4 or 5 was present.

Also, *Desecration of sacred species (Holy Communion) *(mentioned above), is more than just receiving while in a continuing state of grave sin (which might be the case of a someone married in opposition to the precepts of the Church). The canons further state:

Can. 1367 A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See;…

Who Is Not A Canon Lawyer


Yes. Nowhere is there any law which says receiving Holy Communion while in a objective state of adultery or fornication will result in an automatic excommunication. Since you have confessed the sins and been absolved, and are now married, it seems that you have done all you need to do.

Flag that blog with a “read with caution” warning. Or, don’t read it at all.


I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my comment and respond.

Dans0622 - It is a huge relief to see a response from a canon lawyer (I just checked your blog!) saying that I don’t need to worry about anything. In fact, I unsubscribed from the blog in question’s email list and won’t be reading it again. Thank you again, I really appreciate your time and input.

When we go to confession we say at the end: “For these and all my other sins I am heartily sorry, beg pardon of God and absolution from you, Father.”

So what are you worried about? If you have not confessed sins that need confessing then confess them. But start by saying to the priest that there are some sins which I committed before being a Catholic. However, if you didn’t know they were sins then make sure you let the priest know. To be honest, some people do general confessions which because they take a bit longer one arranges in advance, and then you can profess your sins without worrying that others are waiting. This way your conscience, even if it already is really, can be cleared of worry and guilt Because these things are not helpful to our faith!

…and also someone needs to buy a new Roman Catholic Encyclopedia! :wink:

Full Question
Having an abortion means automatic excommunication from the Church. Are there other sins that carry this penalty?

Yes. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) eight other sins carry the penalty of automatic excommunication: apostasy, heresy, schism (CIC 1364:1), violating the sacred species (CIC 1367), physically attacking the pope (CIC 1370:1), sacramentally absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin (CIC 1378:1), consecrating a bishop without authorization (CIC 1382), and directly violating the seal of confession (1388:1).

Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith. Heresy is the obstinate doubt or denial, after baptism, of a defined Catholic doctrine. Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or the refusal to be in communion with members of the Church who are in communion with him (CIC 751).

Violation of the sacred species is the throwing away the consecrated species of Christ’s body or blood or the taking or retaining of them for a sacrilegious purpose (CIC 1367).

Physically attacking the pope is self-explanatory, as are absolving an accomplice in a sexual sin and consecrating a bishop without authorization from the Vatican.

A direct violation of the seal of confession is one in which both the penitent and the penitent’s sin can easily be determined by the confessor’s words or behavior. Again, the penalty of automatic excommunication does not apply if no one perceives the disclosure (CIC 1330).

Automatic excommunication for abortion (CIC 1398) applies not only to the woman who has the abortion, but to “all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and [this] includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed” (Evangelium Vitae 62).

No one is automatically excommunicated for any offense if, without any fault of his own, he was unaware that he was violating a law (CIC 1323:2) or that a penalty was attached to the law (CIC 1324:1:9). The same applies if one was a minor, had the imperfect use of reason, was forced through grave or relatively grave fear, was forced through serious inconvenience, or in certain other circumstances (CIC 1324).
Answered by: Catholic Answers Staff

I was once in a situation like you describe. You were not automatically excommunicated. But you would have needed to refrain from Communion until you had fixed your sinful situation.

When someone is excommunicated (even automatically), only authorized priests and Bishops may lift the excommunication. In your former situation all that was needed is correcting the sinful situation, going to confession & receiving absolution.

I hope this is helpful

FYI - Some people incorrectly refer to living in sin as “excommunication” because divorce and remarriage without annulment used to be an automatic excommunication. So some people incorrect apply the term “excommunication” to all sinful living situations. They assume that if a person cannot receive communion, they must be excommunicated. But they are not because any priest can hear their confession and absolve them once they fix their sinful situation. A person who is excommunicated needs to confess to a Bishop or a priest authorized to lift the specific excommunication.

“But they are not because any priest can hear their confession and absolve them once they fix their sinful situation. A person who is excommunicated needs to confess to a Bishop or a priest authorized to lift the specific excommunication.”

Phil - That was my understanding, too. I’m glad to see that I was correct, and that I don’t need to try to worry about trying to get an excommunication lifted!

The answer is no.

Receiving Communion while in a state of mortal sin is a sin of grave matter but it does not carry the penalty of excommunication.

Those are good points. Whether or not a mortal sin excommunicates you, you have to go to confession.

You need to re-read the first post. She already talked to the priest - she said she confessed this. She was absolved. matter resolved, nothing further to add.

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