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'Quick Help' Page: Divorce/'Remarriage' & Holy Communion

 

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Arrow Question / Issue:

"If a Catholic divorces he can receive Communion as long as he doesn't remarry? But, if he does remarry and then divorces this wife, can he receive Communion again?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

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Regarding such personal matters, we suggest contacting a good priest to discuss the particulars of the situation. Please do keep in mind that if the first union was a valid sacramental marriage, the man & woman are married for life and, as Our Lord makes clear, a subsequent union with another person while the other party is still alive (regardless of any 'divorce') is adultery (which, of course, is a grave matter and would preclude one from worthily receiving Holy Communion). As Christ said...

Lk. 16:18: "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."

And...

Mt. 5:31-32: "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.' But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

And also...

Mk. 10:2-12: "The Pharisees approached and asked, 'Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?' They were testing him. He said to them in reply, 'What did Moses command you?' They replied, 'Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.' But Jesus told them, 'Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.' In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. [Jesus] said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'" (emphasis added)

Also keep in mind that Holy Scripture says the following about (non-repentant) adulterers...

1 Cor. 6:9-10: "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God." (emphasis added)

Despite what some may think or want to believe – and regardless of any 'divorce' – no one on earth has the power to end a valid sacramental marriage as long as both parties live...

"A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death." (1983 Code of Canon Law, Can. 1141)

Even if a married couple was allowed to live separately for some good reason, they would still be married (despite any 'divorce') and would still have various obligations with respect to each other.

Should a person get 'divorced' / 'remarried' / 'divorced', a good confession (perhaps even a good general confession) would 'certainly' be required before it could ever be possible for that person to properly receive Holy Communion. And of course, to have a good confession & receive absolution, sincere repentance would be necessary. Once again, keep in mind that if the original union was a valid sacramental marriage and the other party is still living, the 'divorced' / 'remarried' / 'divorced' person is actually still married to the other party (from the first union) and still has obligations towards that party that must be met. There may also be issues concerning harm to children, scandal, bad example, etc. that need to be addressed.

In any case, a good priest would need to go over the particulars and determine if/when the penitent could worthily receive Holy Communion. This determination itself is a very important matter. Please keep in mind that Scripture says the following regarding receiving Holy Communion unworthily...

1 Cor. 11:27-30: "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying." (emphasis added)

The priest should also be able to provide a path in which a willing penitent could eventually return to the sacraments. Also, in the meantime, please keep in mind that someone who is 'divorced' is not excused from the obligation to attend Mass (one can attend Mass without receiving Holy Communion).

In summary, we would encourage a person in this situation to seek advice and assistance from a good priest as soon as possible.


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