Q&A – Can you receive Holy Communion if you are divorced?
By Father John Flader
Unfortunately, I am divorced because of the violence at home, which prompted me to leave with my young son. I now find myself unable to attend Communion and feel very deprived of the spiritual food I need. Is there anything I can do?
WHO told you that you cannot receive Communion? You can. The Code of Canon Law teaches: “Any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion” (Can. 912).
And who is prohibited by law?
“Those on whom the penalty of excommunication or interdiction has been imposed or declared, and those who persist in committing a grave and manifest sin, should not be admitted to holy communion” (Can. 915).
Does a divorced person, as a result of being divorced, commit an overt grave sin? No, they are not, at least not for the simple fact of being divorced.
Only if they actually live with a new partner and have sex with that person, whether or not they are civilly married, or if they do not live together but have such relationships, that they would commit a serious sin
But isn’t it a sin to divorce? No, not in itself.
We can distinguish two cases. When a spouse has been the cause of marriage breakdown through domestic violence, adultery, sexual abuse, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, etc., they have committed a serious sin.
To be admitted to Holy Communion, they must regret what they have done and ask for absolution in the sacrament of penance, as well as do everything to repair the damage and, if possible, resume conjugal relations with their spouse.
And of course, they cannot enter into a new relationship that involves the acts reserved for marriage.
In the case of a spouse who is the victim of violence or another form of abuse, he has not committed a serious sin and therefore can most certainly be admitted to Holy Communion, again on condition that he does not live not in sin with another person.
Of course, it is not always easy, or even possible, to put all the responsibility for the breakdown of a marriage on the feet of only one of the spouses.
Therefore, everyone must be sorry for their contribution to the breakdown of the marriage.
And if, as we said, one of the spouses is now living in an immoral relationship with another person, they will have to end the relationship before they can commune.
Only if they have received the annulment of the marriage from an ecclesiastical tribunal, can they marry a new partner in the Church and be able to commune.
Alternatively, if the years have passed and they feel they can refrain from marital intimacy and live âlike brother and sisterâ in the new relationship, they can also be admitted to communion.
It should not be considered harsh.
It was Jesus himself who said: âWhoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. (Mk 10: 11-12)
From the beginning, the Church, in obedience to its divine founder, has not allowed divorce and remarriage in the Church.
As a result, those who âremarryâ outside the Church are considered to be living in a state of sin and cannot be admitted to Holy Communion.
In this matter, the Church is faithful only to the teaching of Christ, which concerns the indissolubility and the holiness of marriage, so important for the life of the Church and of society.
In addition, the Church does not impose anything on the couple in this irregular marriage situation.
It was they, after all, who freely chose to enter into a relationship in which they knew they could not receive Holy Communion.
Although they cannot receive Communion, the Church, as the good mother that she is, opens her arms wide to welcome those in irregular marriages in other aspects of the life of the Church, including including attendance at Mass, prayer, reading of Scripture, and participation in charitable and other works of the Church.
Both the couple and the ecclesial community wait in hope for a time when the couple can once again receive the sacraments, by a declaration of nullity of the previous marriage by an ecclesiastical tribunal, the decision to live together as brother and sister, or death. of the previous spouse.