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Our readers asked:

Can I Receive Communion even though I’m Divorced?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Question: “Can I receive Communion even though I’m divorced? Why if you are Catholic and get divorced you can no longer attend the Church? Will that ever change? Is it better to stay in abusive marriages? I think not.

Answer: Spread this truth far and wide, because I hear too many who think divorced people cannot receive communion. You can receive communion if you are divorced. You are welcome to receive communion if you are divorced. My mother has been divorced for 46 years and has gone to Mass and received communion every Sunday. Our Church needs to provide more programs for those who suffer divorce.

Divorce is hard and difficult. The Church recognizes with compassion that those who go through what is often the hell of divorce need the sustenance of the sacraments and the support of community. We recognize that the vast majority of divorced people tried very hard to hold their marriage together. See the Catechism #2386.

If one callously causes a divorce, that’s not loving, and therefore a sin that needs forgiveness before joining with the community at the table of the Lord. To receive communion is a sign we are trying to the best of our abilities to live the Catholic way of life. To have dumped a spouse on Monday and come to receive communion the next Sunday is obviously contradictory.

The common problem comes when one is divorced and living with someone or is married outside the Church. That’s when the Church says one should not receive communion, although anyone is welcome to be present and pray at Mass. Here’s a great article on this topic.

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Shannon Rose

    My friend is divorced and NOT in any relationship since. His priest CALLOUSLY denied him communion in front of God and everyone on Easter Sunday. I’m so glad that I an NOT Catholic!!!!

    • Nuno11

      Did he speak with the priest first? It would be more grave for him to receive communion if he was in sin and if the priest knew could also be at fault. Better to be safe than sorry. I hope he spoke with the priest after. It’s hart to understand if you’re not catholic. Receiving communion is different for catholics than protestants. We believe the host truly is the body of Christ, where most protestants believe it’s not. There is grave sin in receiving Christ unworthy and if the priest knew and he gave anyway, would be even worse for him. I would bet anything, that priest wanted to speak with him. You’re friend should set aside his pride and speak with him.

  • Philip Wagner

    spread this truth, the marriage contract belongs to the church and the state has no jurisdiction. The Church does not recognize the state divorce as being legitimate. the church contract over marriage is a covenant and it belongs to the church.this is recognized by SCOTUS and all inferior courts must recognize its rulings. If a spouse thinks that the state has jurisdiction, he or she is in opposition to canon law and has stepped outside of Church governance. Full communion with the church requires proclamation of faith, the sacraments, and governance.seeking or accepting the judgment of a civil courtis a rejection of all three. this is an automatic excommunication by default.the CCC clearly states that divorce may be acceptable if it is the only recourse. In America, divorce is never the only recourse and therefore prohibited. Please refer to the CIC and not the CCC.

  • tab

    My first marriage ended and I had no say in the matter as my ex-wife drove that bus. My second marriage ended, but it was a miserable experience for both us; separate beds after 6 months of marriage, wife took to drinking – a lot and life was just unbearable. We got divorced, this time I filed and she did not contest. I have fallen in love with a wonderful woman. We are both struggling to be together as we are healing. I went to church today for the first time in a long time – because of the notion that I was no longer welcome in the Catholic church since I was divorced. I’m searching for peace, for help and support to get me through tough times, better enjoy more good times and really hold on to the love I have found. I just didn’t feel like I fit in. I went to communion, figured why not, worse case can’t be any worse than my current worse case. I grew up in a very catholic house, my dad now 86 still goes to church almost every single day. I was an altar boy, used to pray all the time about everything. I quit praying when I stopped going to church because I felt rejected and wasn’t going to be a one of those who prayed only when it made me feel better (like those who go to church only Easter and Christmas to put on a show). I started praying again, hence the going to church. So, am I welcome and how do I get back into a routine that isn’t non-sense or lies?

  • Michael

    As a relatively new Catholic I am sometimes accompanied to Mass by my protestant friends. I have no problem with them communing with our Lord as long as they believe that they are receiving His true body and blood in the Eucharist. On the other hand, if their faith dictates that the Eucharist merely represents Him, I would be offended by their participation in communion.

    • Nuno11

      You are leading your friends down a path they should not be going. We must be in communion with Christ before we receive him, which is why confession is offered before mass. I have had many protestant friends attend mass with me but I always tell them they cannot receive communion as they are not catholic and do not know or believe in what they receiving.

  • Paulette Cadmus

    Yes, this is a BIG misunderstanding. Thanks to my state’s very liberal divorce laws, I was divorced Against My Will and for No Good Reason, but there was nothing I could do about it. It never even occurred to me that I could not attend Mass and received Communion, especially since I had done nothing wrong. And yes, it was very difficult for me. I really needed the support of my community and the presence of Christ in my life.

    • Nuno11

      Speak with your priest and tell him…. This is a huge misunderstanding. If you are unlawfully divorced and remarried. Then that marriage is in valid and you are living in sin. Taking communion could possibly be a sin against the Holy Ghost. But if what you are saying is true, then speak with your priest and guide you… Have faith.

  • Theresa LeFebre

    I am ever hopeful that this misinformation will eventually be corrected. People who have divorced have gone through such a difficult time especially if abuse was involved. I agree that the Church needs to be compassionate and find the time for these hurting from the experience of divorce. Not much out there for these people they many time run to other religious establishments for support that we as a Church are not giving.

  • Curry Russell

    This may be the most silly “truth” I have heard yet. IF the Catholics believe that the Body and Blood are Jesus Christ, WHY, WHY, WHY would you deny Christ to a sinner. And if you say you are without any sin, we know that is a LIE from the devil. The way that communion is held by the Catholic church is more like a “Membership only club” as apposed to “Remembrance of ME”. Communion is one of the most dangerous events to partake in if your heart isn’t right, but NO flesh is without sin (Today). It is as if the Catholics do not need others to “NEED” Jesus, and only those who have participated in RCI, or have been confirmed, or are cradle Catholics are welcome to be in COMMUNION with the church. Well here is the Truth, we are all God’s Children, MILLIONS of us have accepted him as our Savior, and no silly rules keep us from HIM. Do you know how silly it is that you produce a “Miracle” by praying over the wafer, transubstantiating it into the actual body of Christ, then locking him in a tabernacle. I am sure Jesus had this in mind when he was sharing with the Disciples. I am amazed!

    • mr prb

      Once upon a time there was this convenant between God and the Jews that went something like, you are My chosen people, follow these 10 laws if you want to remain as My children. Then along comes this Jesus who sits down at his last supper and says, here’s my body and my blood, eat it, drink it because this is the new covenant in my blood, DO THIS in rememberance of Me. Do what Mr. Jesus, accept you as Lord of my life? “No, I said those who eat My flesh and drink My blood will have eternal life. Because I am the bread who came down from heaven, your ancestors ate manna, but I am true food. Are these sayings to hard for you?” There it is, the new convenant, the new testament, available to all. Doesn’t seem silly because that IS exactly what He had in mind…. to eat His body and drink His blood. Once you believe that, we’ll share it with you.

      • Curry Russell

        Thank you, I will go ahead and do those things in “remembrance of Him”. I will live as if Christ lives in me, and not have to consider that Jesus only shows up in body for you to chew on and drink his blood. I promise the second coming will be much more awesome than in some cracker and wine that you stick in a box and mix in with the next batch..

      • mr prb

        We’re just doing what He told us to do, and have been doing it that way for over 2000 years. Can you really read it any other way?

      • Curry Russell

        Honestly, you were brought up with your “forced interpretation”, I have read it for myself with no outside influence and yes, I read it differently. I understand the point either way. Get past the act. The moment you think you have the PHYSICAL BODY OF CHRIST in present tense, and you deny anyone from partaking, Who are you to deny Christ from any one? that alone is what bothers me, not your goofy magic act. Hey but lets look at this another way, if say you or I were born in a different place, we wouldn’t believe what we do anyway. We are all indoctrinated to what we believe and we just need to stick to it and love our faith. I am just glad we both chose Christ as the only way to God’s paradise! Praise Jesus!

      • mr prb

        My “forced interpretation”: was handed down by Jesus, and the meaning has been well protected for 2000 years. Christ is available in many ways, shapes and forms. Communion however is reserved for those who have learned in their hearts what it really means to participate in the new convenant, as Jesus insituted it at the last supper. If you haven’t be instructed in this way, can’t believe what He Himself said or are in a state of serious sin, then you are dishonoring what He told us to do and we don’t want anybody do dishonor Christ.

      • Curry Russell

        Wait, your forced interpretations are based on the Catechism and what the Catholic Church and its leaders told you to believe. These are the same people who withheld the Word of God through the Dark ages, the same people who slaughtered people for reading the Word of God in English, and the same people today controlling who Jesus will accept today. You are blind if you have no knowledge of your own faith and it’s history. Mine isn’t perfect, but don’t think that all Catholics aren’t in a controlled belief structure.

      • mr prb

        You have to go back a little further than the dark ages. Jesus instructed his disciples and gave the keys to the kingdom to Peter. It was them, and the other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life who passed down the meanings through stories and writing. Their successors gathered these writings for you so now you have a bible. That’s what makes our faith so perfect, we can trace its roots all the way back to Christ. Nobody else can say that! What’s actually blind is trying to learn about Catholicism from non-Catholic teachers.

      • Curry Russell

        Blind? So you are being lead by the people keeping people in the “Blind” (Documented fact). Listen. Please understand that I have incredible respect for the Catholic Church and it’s people, but find some of the practices a bit silly. But you and those like you may find our worship practices and our freedom found through faith silly. So as long as Christ is first, I am sure we are both going to make it through those pearly gates!

      • Mike Hayes

        People! People! Let’s be charitable here! Curry, this is mysticism–which makes the bread and wine more than bread and wine–though they remain that way in appearance. The traditional teaching is called transubstantiation-meaning “beyond the substance.” There is one Eucharist–the last supper–and we all share in that together. This unites all of us to Christ through the sharing of the one meal and more importantly it unites us not merely with Christ but with everyone who has partaken—from the disciples to our great-great grandparents. The genius of Jesus is that he uses this meal to remind us that we are all connected—through Him—to one another.

      • Sara Richards

        But not Jews……..

      • Mike Hayes

        Untrue…for all people

      • Nuno11

        Curry, I know this is way late…. but what do you find silly? Everything we are taught and teach are all the same. The church is constant and never changing, this includes the bible and it’s teachings. Jesus him self said, “if you do not eat of my flesh or drink of my blood you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Do you believe communion is the body of Christ? If not, how then will you enter into heaven if you do no receive him…. You said it yourself, you don’t believe. How then can you enter if you have never received? And before you say again it’s our interpretation, Jesus didn’t say the resembles me, or this bread represents me…. NO.. he said “This is my body.” Who are you to deny Christ’s words. Who are you to say Jesus didn’t mean that? He was very explicit. And this isn’t a members only club, it is a grave sin to receive communion unworthy and just a grave to give communion to someone unworthy. Please learn about the faith first before you try to tare it down. There is more to this than you know. However, you seem to be an educated man, learn and see how, the teaching of protestants contadict the bible. The Traditional Catholic’s do not. The truth hurts and that’s why people leave. That is just fact.

      • Michael

        Ijust made a comment and lost it. I don’t quite understand the procedure for posting.

        Oh!!!! Now that I’ve made this innane comment it seems to work.

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