Expert Answer Forum

Divorced people in the Church QUESTION from Shirleen July 27, 2000 MY question is this why doesn't the Catholic church allow divorced people take part in the eucharist? and would a divorced person be allowed to become Catholic?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on October 15, 2000 Dear Mrs. Shirleen:
Your question opens a topic that many people are confused about.
Divorced people ARE ALLOWED to receive the Eucharist; and a divorced non-Catholic IS ALLOWED to convert to the Catholic Church.
Divorce is not the problem in these instances. Divorce is a singular one-time sin event that one can ask forgiveness for and be forgiven.
The problem arises when a person LIVES IN SIN. LIVING a life of sin makes that sin not an event of the past that can be forgiven, but an ongoing affront to God that doesn't stop at all, but continues uninterrupted.
A person lives in sin when they divorce and remarry without getting a Nullity of the first marriage.
Thus a single divorced person is not living in sin and may receive communion or may join the church.
A person who is divorced and REMARRIED without nullifying the first marriage CANNOT receive communion or join the Church until they get a nullity of the previous marriage.
The issue is SACRAMENTAL MARRIAGE not legal civil marriage. In the eyes of God a marriage is not a real marriage unless it is sacramental. A Sacramental Marriage can never be terminated except by death. Thus the issue becomes whether or not a marriage is a sacramental marriage or not. If it is not, then it may be nullified and the person is free to marry another.
But if the first marriage was sacramental, then the second marriage is invalid because in the eyes of God, the person is still married to the first person.
Thus, while the civil courts may say a couple is divorced, in the eyes of God, they are still married -- unless the church determines a nullity. For such a person to get married again is to commit bigamy -- married to two people at once -- which is a sin -- thus they are not able to join the church in such a condition or receive communion.
In the vast majority of cases, the Church will find grounds to annul the first marriage. This is particular the case in the United States which is the most immature country in the world. Most marriages are entered into with gross immaturity as to understand what a sacramental marriage really is. Thus this can be, but not necessarily will be, grounds for annulment. If one is in this position, they just need to file the paperwork and then let the Church and the Holy Spirit decide.
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