Remarried after Divorce and Forgiven


Can we act without precedent? Could the Church deal with divorce and remarriage as she did when the Sacrament of Penance was first developing? That is, since a divorced and remarried Catholic commits adultery, enters into a state of permanent adultery, could that sin be forgiven after a period (whose length would be determined by the Bishop) be readmitted to communion? That is, the sin would be forgiven. According to that early Church practice, they would be allowed to do so one time.


If they quit committing the adultery for any reason, such as their former spouse dies and they’re able to get their new marriage convalidated in the Church, or their new spouse dies or breaks up with them so they are no longer having sex with the person, then they can be forgiven by any priest in Confession.

If they just continue committing the adultery, they can’t be forgiven as they do not have any intention of avoiding the sin going forward.


They could also live as brother and sister. But my first question remains. Can we act without precedent? Is the answer always “no.” I haven’t been able to find any precedent, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. How long did it take for a Pope speaking with Magisterial authority to define our Marian Dogmas. Of course, he had plenty of precedent from the Tradition. With divorce and remarriage, our constant tradition is a little more complex than, “if you divorce your spouse and marry another, you can’t go to communion,” but not much more complex. Forgiveness of the sin of adultery would include, as do all other sins, an intention not to do it again. What does Jesus actually say? Using Mark 10, which is the most straightforward version, He first answers the Pharisees’ question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered, “No.” Then his disciples follow up after they return to the house. To his disciples he says, “Whoever divorces his wife commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband, she commits adultery.” What to do about it when they do divorce and remarry he doesn’t say. The woman caught in adultery in John’s gospel he saves from being stoned, and then tells her, “Go and sin no more.” I would guess he meant don’t commit adultery again, or any other sin. I think it possible to find another way, other than the marriage tribunal, to forgive a person who commits adultery by divorcing his, or her, spouse and marrying another. I think they would have to be forgiven by their former spouse, and then complete a penitential period set by their bishop. That our marriage tribunal aren’t in the best shape has been documented by Robert Vasoli’s “What God Has Joined Together: The Annulment Crisis in American Catholicism.” I think Pope Francis, Cardinal Kaspar, are right in looking for a way to readmit he divorced and remarried into full communion, I don’t think they found it. What I’m proposing I think does.



The answer is always no. Objectively a divorced and remarried person is living in a state of adultery. That’s a fact. There must be true contrition and an intention to sin no more in order for them to be forgiven. That’s also a fact. If there’s no intention to sin no more they can’t be forgiven.

I was actually in such a situation for 18 months. Hubby was married previously and needed a declaration of nullity. We were married sacramentally 18 months after our civil wedding. We didn’t go to concession or Communion. It was hard. But we knew it was the only way.


I don’t think it’s the only way. It’s the only way we have now.


It sounds like you are fishing around for some argument that maybe in the near future the Church is going to say it’s okay for a Catholic to get divorced and remarried with no annulment, maybe after the person’s remarriage has lasted X number of years. The Vatican is highly unlikely to okay this at any point in the foreseeable future.

Also, the idea that “forgiveness” means you’re allowed to just continue on with the sin is ludicrous.
The former spouse’s attitude towards it is also immaterial. It’s God who needs to forgive sins, not your former spouse saying, “Yeah it’s okay you cheated on me” or “I don’t care if you cheated on me”. As for a penitential period set by the bishop, there is zero need for this if the person just repents and STOPS SINNING. The priest will give them absolution and a penance and that’s that.

I sincerely hope you are not looking for some excuse or grand plan to justify your own behavior in this regard. God says No. The end.


The pastoral solution of “living as brother and sister” is already a precedent, though.

Note, additionally, that ‘adultery’ isn’t the only sin that arises from this situation. The sin of scandal might also be present – and would continue to be present while the couple continues to cohabitate, even if they’re continent!

Are we reading the same Mark, chapter 10?

A tribunal doesn’t “forgive a divorced and remarried person”. It might find that the person’s first marriage was not valid, in which case that person himself might be free to marry (if his/her second spouse is also free to marry). But, the tribunal isn’t in the business of forgiving adultery.

So… are you proposing that the Church should offer absolution and a return to the sacraments for people who have remarried and now “live as brother and sister”? (It already allows it, in some cases.)

Or, are you proposing that the Church should offer absolution and a return to the sacraments for people who have remarried and have no intention to stop having adulterous relations? (That would mean that the forgiveness has no effect, since they’re not approaching the sacrament of reconciliation with contrition and the resolve to sin no more.)

Or are you proposing something else? :thinking:


You could have waited for the declaration of nullity before you married. Just saying. What if his first marriage had been found valid?


Yes, I am proposing something else. Instead of using what has become a flawed, overly lax, tribunal system, I’m proposing an admission of guilt–confession, a period of penance, and then readmission to communion, absolution. The precedent would be the practice of the sacrament of Penance in the early Church. I think the first spouse should also forgive the adulterer as part of the sacrament. The letter of James says, in the section we use as precedent for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick: “Therefore, confess you sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” The goal of penance is healing. And they only do this one time. We now have people going to communion after 3, or more, annulments. I understand the difficulty of changing what we have been doing for more than a millennium. But what’s a thousand years here or there. Another thousand years would go by, and then the use of penance for divorce and remarriage will seem normal.


It was extremely unlikely. They married because of pregnancy and she told him after they split up (and she confirmed to a witness that she had said this) that as far as she was concerned, marriage was glorified common law with ceremonial benefits, the vows she took were purely symbolic and didn’t really mean anything, and if she wasn’t happy she was free to walk away at any time.


Who says it’s ‘lax’ and ‘flawed’?

Oh! So, what you’re really proposing is what various Orthodox Churches have adopted! So, yeah… there is precedent, but just not in the Catholic Church.

Wait – are you talking about the spouse who didn’t remarry, forgiving their ex-spouse for remarrying? That doesn’t make sense. At least, not in the context of the 21st century…

And the problem with a person who is unmarried (or, married once), although with prior attempts at marriage, receiving Communion is what, exactly, again?


I don’t mean this to be rude, but why should the Church change just because you have a proposal? We could all come up with ideas all day. We don’t run the Church. And I’m not seeing much if any benefit from your proposal. You think a system is flawed, you’re entitled to that opinion, but I’m not seeing a big problem needing proposals from random people to fix.


Well, three prior attempts at marriage isn’t too good for the person or for the Church, since they married, and married in the Church, if Catholic, at least that’s what they said at the altar, and then later, after the annulment process, the Church says through the tribunal, you didn’t really do what you said you did at the time. And they did that three, or two, or four, times. They might have a problem that needs addressing. The tribunal system isn’t set up to address it. Then there’s question of giving scandal to the rest of the faithful. They could, and do, draw the conclusion, well, if your marriage doesn’t work out for you, just go the Church and get an annulment. Easy. Well, it’s not that easy, but it’s still doable. I think that’s a problem. We have a problem with marriage. The members of the Church are still divorcing at the same rate as the rest of the population, and the marriage prep we make couples go through isn’t helping much, or enough. That’s why I’m making the proposal. The Church shouldn’t change just because I have a proposal, I have a proposal because the Church has a problem and people, primarily children, are being hurt. It’s not good for the children when their parents divorce. We make it possible for them to do so repeatedly. I think the penance proposal would help people understand what they are doing, because they don’t seem to understand it now.
We could ask, “Can the Church change.” Many say “No.” She is eternal, which they take to mean immutable, though eternal doesn’t mean that. I say, “Yes,” as long as the change is organic, done in accordance with how Jesus Christ established her.


I haven’t met tons of people with multiple annulments.
The vast majority of people I have met who had a marriage annulled had one (1) marriage annulled. Often by the time they remarry they are significantly older and wiser and more careful about being married again, because of their bad past experience and because having to get an annulment is kind of a pain in the neck. They aren’t handed out like candy at Halloween.

It doesn’t seem to me that a lot of Catholics are using the annulment system like Elizabeth Taylor and going through spouse after spouse. I have not seen any source stating that this is a major problem or issue facing the Church today, or that the faithful are getting scandalized by seeing all their neighbors’ multiple marriages.

Even if I did meet someone with multiple annulments, I don’t think it’s my place to judge what’s good for the Church or whether the person should be having the multiple annulments. Most people don’t go around wearing their annulments on their sleeve like some sort of scarlet letter in any event; you would have to know the person very well for it to even come up.

It seems a bit presumptious of you to be judging other people’s annulments.

Have you been personally affected by a multiple-annulment situation, that you have taken this on as your personal crusade?


Can you developped your thinking and give accurate references, please?

What do you mean?
Someone who has commit adultery against his marriage vows can be forgiven of course, as any sin. If he is repentant, stop the acting, and plan to abstain of this sin. If not, the past can be forgiven, but not the present. So he just remain in a sinfull situation.


Actually if the Church thinks the person has a serious problem they can say that this person can’t marry again in the Church (either ever or until certain conditions are met) EVEN if the declaration of nullity is granted.

You can’t just go getting declaration after declaration without consequence.


You can’t continue to live in sin though. Forgiveness is not forward thinking, you can’t receive forgiveness and do your penance with the intention of continuing to stay in that relationship which would be a sin.
There is precedent for it that goes all of the way back. Trying to change precedent would only lead to more problems.


There’s no such thing as a permanent state of sin. If you’re alive you can mend your ways, and if you’re dead you can’t sin because you can’t make choices anymore.

Someone who remarried after a divorce has several options. The person can divorce their second spouse, or wait until their first spouse dies and then go to the church to have the second marriage legitimized, or get the first marriage annulled.


In the post-AL Church, many dioceses do now allow, on a case by case basis, though who are living in an illicit second union to receive communion…without an annulment and without living as brother and sister. Under certain extraordinary circumstances there are now provisions for this in the Diocese of Rome itself. So yes, it isn’t always a black and white issue.


In Greek, the word used by our Lord was “porneia” which means a sexually-based marriage which was unlawful and invalid in the first place. This clear teaching has been muddied by the use of the word adultery in modern translations. Thus, marriages which involved porneia were examined and found to be invalid - thus annulled.

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