Unmarried Status

Q. If someone has been married in the Church and the spouse was baptized but never followed any other sacraments; then after several years of being married, the couple gets divorced, but she does not remarry, can she go to confession? Can she receive Communion? Her ex has remarried.

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that validly married Catholic who divorce and enter civil unions “find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists” (No. 1650).

Divorce unquestionably alters the domestic arrangements of a married couple, but our faith teaches it cannot affect the indissoluble nature of their union. Church law, thus, continues to view a divorced person as married. This means divorced Catholics cannot remarry unless a Church court finds some flaw in their previous marriage. However, marriage is the only sacrament a divorced (and single) person may not approach, and the Church’s Code of Canon Law states, “On the other hand, [divorced persons] are neither excommunicated nor prohibited from receiving the sacraments” (Commentary on Canon 1155).

The Church urges compassion and pastoral outreach toward Catholics who have divorced and entered civil marriages, and thus may not receive the sacraments. The Catechism observes, “They should be encouraged to listen to the Word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity … to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace” (No. 1651).