|Concerning the Sacrament of Communion
All priests, especially those who devote much time to administering
the Sacrament of Penance, are aware of just how painful it is for those
who have divorced and contracted another union not to be able to receive
the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
This is painful for the people
involved, painful for their families and painful for priests. The
impression is growing that this prohibition is merely a pragmatic decision
on the Church's part, which can be revised and even revoked or at least
mitigated in certain cases or circumstances.
The problem, however, is of a doctrinal nature, as is crystal clear
from both the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. nn. 1649, 1650, and
1651) and the Compendium of the Catechism (cf. n. 349), which faithfully
present the Gospel teaching of Jesus Christ (cf. Mk 10:11ff.).
Any person who has divorced his or her spouse from a valid marriage and
cohabits with another person is in a state of grave sin — to be precise,
the sin of adultery. To receive sacramental absolution, he or she must
repent and have true contrition for this sin, which means, according to
the Council of Trent, "sorrow or repudiation of the soul for sins
committed, together with a purpose to turn away from sin" (DS 1676).
In the absence of such sorrows for one's grave sins, it is not possible
to receive valid sacramental absolution and, consequently, one is not
properly disposed to receive Holy Communion worthily. St. Paul's
admonitions to those who unworthily receive Holy Communion are well known
and very severe: "Whosoever, therefore, eats this bread and drinks the
chalice of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the
Body and Blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the
bread and drink of the chalice. For any one who eats and drinks without
discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (I Cor
Eucharistic Communion is a sharing in the sacrificial offering of
Christ. Through it, the communicant professes to live for God and to
fulfil his will, and opposes nothing to his love. None of these conditions
is verified in the case of those living in a state of grave sin,
especially when it is a habitual state of sin.
It is not simply that the Church prohibits those in the state of grave
sin from receiving Holy Communion. Rather, those who are in a state of
grave sin place themselves in a situation at variance with the most
profound meaning of making of their own lives a sacrificial offering united
to that of Christ.
It would be a false form of mercy to "assuage" the conscience of those
who are not truly sorry for their sins, or to give false assurances rather
than assisting the faithful to progress along the path of true sorrow for
Sacramental absolution is not some magical sign. Rather, it is an act
implying other sincere acts on the part of the penitent which form the
necessary conditions to obtain validly God's forgiveness. It must not be
forgotten that adultery is an affront to the mystery of Christ's love for
his Church. His is a spousal love which is faithful unto his death on the
Cross. This mystery is represented in the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Correct pastoral care for the
divorced and re-married
For these people, is there nothing left but despair? Certainly not!
These people remain the children of God. Christ shed his blood for
them. They are not prohibited from following a path of humble and
sorrowful prayer. They are obligated to fulfil their religious and
material duties towards their children, ensuring that they are launched on
the path of Christian life. They can and should read the Holy Scripture.
They are not forbidden to attend Holy Mass, even though with a heavy heart
because they are unable totally to offer themselves. They can always
approach a priest for advice and they can open their conscience to him in
an act of humility, which the Lord will see as the beginning of
reconciliation, even if not yet complete.
They may not, however, demand that the Church, or other members of the
faithful, regard their unions as lawful and consonant with the Will of
There are cases in which the Church can examine the validity of the
first marriage and, if such can be declared invalid, it becomes possible
to convalidate the second union which, in fact, would be the first true
There are also cases in which those who find themselves in such painful
situations can, with the grace of God, live fraternally in a non-marital
union, even under the same roof. In these conditions, they can receive the
Sacrament of Reconciliation and subsequently that of sacramental
This is naturally a heroic, generous and fulfilling decision. It is
possible because God can turn even stones into the children of Abraham
(cf. Mt 3:9; Lk 3:8). There is always great rejoicing in Heaven when a
sinner converts, and more so for two, who are prepared to glorify God
through great sacrifice.
The Kingdom of God suffers violence (cf. Mt 11:12), but it is a
violence that brings peace. Faith is necessary to understand, as well as a
conviction that the things which remain unseen are more important than
those that are seen (cf. Heb 11:1-3).