Can A Civilly Divorced Couple Receive Communion?

Q: I have friends that are Catholic. They are divorced from each other but still live together, something about how they were able to get better insurance this way. Are they still able to receive communion?

Without further details, I’ll assume that your friends obtained a civil divorce but still consider themselves to be married in the Church (Absent annulment proceedings, the Church would concur). While it might be tempting to consider their civil marital status and their sacramental marital status as completely separate, the Church resists this separation. Civil and sacramental marriage are different commitments but they are not unrelated. Blurring the lines creates the possibility for “scandal,” which in Catholic moral teaching means the possibility of leading another into error. There is a risk that others, looking to your friends for example, could fall into sin by misunderstanding the teaching of the Church. It is more common for couples to be civilly married but not married in the Church than, as in your friends’ case, for the reverse to be true. But either situation, if publicly known, can cause scandal. Your friends should make an appointment with their parish priest to discuss how they may be able to go forward. They should also review their options for health insurance now that recent reforms are taking effect.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.