Sis-in-law: Divorce and Holy Communion


Years ago, my sister-in-law fell away from her Catholic faith primarily because, upon her divorce, she was told she could no longer partake in Holy Communion.

Where should my fence mending begin (after prayer, of course)?

What can I show her in the Catechism as the reason for the Church having this rule? In other words, what’s the explanation for the Church’s stance on this matter? Does she need an annulment? Etc?

Thanks for any help you can provide me…


As I understand matters, the Church does not have a problem with divorce, it has a problem with adultery. Divorce is a purely secular matter-- the marriage remains as far as the Church is concerned. Has she remarried? Also, does she want to return to the Church?


Unless she has gotten remarried without an annulment, she CAN still receive communion.

Divorce alone does not separate a person from the sacraments. So long as she has been to confession, she is free to receive.

My catechism is not handy right now, but I’m sure someone else will lead you to the proper section.

God bless!



well I don’t know who told her that she cannot receive holy communion following divorce, because it is not true. She cannot receive holy communion if she remarries following divorce, unless she has obtained an annulment. The reason is simply that one must be in the state of sanctifying grace to receive communion. If she is “living in sin” which is what remarriage after divorce amounts to then she objectively is not in a state of grace. She should ask these questions of the priest in confession, not rely on casual remarks from well-meaning but misinformed “friends”. Divorce itself may or may not be a sin for either party requiring confession, depending on circumstances, or there may be circumstances that led up to the divorce that involve sin that must be confessed, but that is another story, and of course resolved through sacramental confession.


Indeed, that is the situation.


then her first marriage is considered valid until proven otherwise, please search liturgy and sacraments for the many discussions on this topic, and the fine links to church teaching on marriage and annulment. Objectively, if one rejects one church sacrament, one rejects all of them, so why would one seek communion when they have rejected the very authority that makes the Eucharist possible?


Ah. Then it is as others have said, she needs to be (gently and lovingly) reminded of church teachings shown in the Catechism. No one should receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin. Unfortunately, for many the fact that divorce is legal, and that one may thus legally remarry after divorce, may make them think that the remarriage after divorce is not sinful–how can it be sinful if it is legal? (See: abortion, homosexuality, fornication, et. al.)

In this culture where everybody feels ‘entitled’ to whatever they want, whenever they want it, and where personal sin is regarded as practically non existant (how am I ‘sinning’ if I am legally divorced and legally remarried? I’m in a ‘legal’ marriage! I’m not harming anyone! The church needs to get with the program here! I’m not a sinner!), it may be very difficult to get a ‘nice’ person convinced that some action of hers may be, not just ‘sinful’ like a white lie or not recycling etc., but mortally sinful. When many persons tiptoe around not daring to consider anything other than God’s mercy and how all He wants is for us to be happy (this is a very distorted picture of God which many Protestants and not a few Catholics have become convinced of), even hinting that there are things people do which separate them from that benevolent and politically correct entity will raise hackles. You have my prayers as does your sister. God certainly does want her to be happy, I’m not saying He doesn’t, but He does not want her ‘only’ to be ‘happy’ according to desire, which is transient and earthly alone, but to be happy in following Him and His will. . .which has little to do with one’s personal ‘satisfaction’ and everything to do with humility, self-sacrifice, obedience even if causing personal distress, and recognition of an authority that supersedes “me”.


This is a great start, thanks for the replies folks!


Can you provide official Church documents (CCC, Canon law, etc) supporting this answer?

I know of an individual who is divorced, not remarried, and was told that he is barred from receiving communion. I told him that he could but he says that he was told that he couldn’t and that he wasn’t going to get into a he said/she said type of situation and wants official proof that he can receive communion.


Does this help Sir Knight?

…of the innocent party in a divorce the Catechism says,

2386 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.

Thus, the innocent spouse in a marital break-up has the same possibility to receive Communion as other Catholics, with the usual conditions (being free from mortal sin in other areas of life, going to Confession if not, Eucharistic fast and so on).



ongoing thread that has been revived see last link


Thank you.

closed #13

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit