Divorced and wanting Communion

This is a question both my Mother and I have had since we began attending St. Mel’s Church in November 2010.  We are so excited to be back in the Church and I can honestly say that on Christmas Eve I felt so loved and welcomed.  It was a wonderful service as they all are.

Question:  My mother was excommunicated from the Catholic Faith when she divorced my father some 41 years ago.  She has since been remarried for 37 years to a great man.  I’m not sure if the circumstance of her divorce is relevant.  She has not received the sacrament of the Eucharist since her excommunication.  Is there something she can do to change that decision?  She would like to be able to receive the Eucharist as it would allow her to feel a bigger part of the Parish Community.

As for myself, I too recently suffered through a divorce and I believe that until I confess/repent, I am not allowed to receive the Eucharist.

Please forgive me if my facts are incorrect.  I’ve tried to keep this simple and to the point.  Thank you for reading this e-mail!



Paul Dion, STL said...

This is one of the most misunderstood situations in the Catholic Church in the United States. I really feel sad that people have gotten themselves into this situation and do not seem to have been able to extricate themselves from the error, for whatever reason.

The first thing to say is that there never was an excommunication aimed at the persons who obtained a divorce. This is true even of persons who were validly married in the Catholic Church. It is sad that many people still suffer under the conviction that divorce, in and of itself brings excommunication with it.

What is true is that the penalty of excommunication was applied to people who, after a valid marriage in the Catholic Church and a subsequent divorce, remarried. It must be said that this penalty of excommunication was a part of American Catholic life until about 40 or so years ago. It is no longer such and the American Church is now in line with the Church in the rest of the world.

That having been said, it also true that, though not excommunicated, persons who have been validly married by church and divorced and then remarried are considered to be living in a state of habitual adultery since the marriage, by default, is presumed to have been valid and therefore indissoluble. Since adultery, objectively, is a grave sin, its presence in someone's life is enough to make that person unworthy to approach the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Note the italics of the word "objectively". Just like in every other moral act, there is an objective rule and a conscience rule.

Since we are not here in a position to resolve the question of whether or not the Reader of and her mother may approach the Eucharist, we are constrained to suggest very strongly that they approach a knowledgeable priest with their personal story so as to get guidance for their consciences in this matter. ("knowledgeable" in italics intended). They should be ready to be perfectly forthright in their presentation since the priest will need all the details in order to give them an honest answer before God and according to the Doctrine and the Canon Law of the Church.

Finally, it must be said that these two people should be open to resolving the situation in their own consciences if, after consultation, this seems to be the only moral solution.

Paul Dion, STL
Theology Editor

Paul Dion, STL said...

I reread the whole thing. The daughter is correct in her statement that all she has to do is go to confession and she'll be square and ready to receive, if she is indeed unmarried and unattached by an exclusive relationship. I missed the point that the daughter may indeed be simply divorced and not remarried. The answer is indeed correct. Trouble is that because it seems as though there are two distinct fact situations, I did not include the daughter's possible situation in the answer as clearly as I should.