Divorced and Separated Catholics
Catechism of the
Catholic Church (Paragraph 1650)
"Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries
who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions.
In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - 'Whoever divorces
his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits
adultery' [Mk 10:11-12] the Church maintains that a new union
cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If
the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in
a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently,
they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation
persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain
ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament
of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for
having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to
Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence."
Can divorced or
separated Catholics join the Catholic Unattached Directory?
We are frequently asked whether divorced or separated
Catholics may join the Catholic Unattached Directory. The Directory
does not merely exists to foster Catholic marriages, it also exists
to foster friendship and companionship. Thus a Catholic who is not
currently free to marry is welcome to join the Directory. However
this answer needs to be expanded if it is not to be misleading.
All of us know Catholics who have suffered the trauma
of separation and divorce. The Church never rejects them in any way.
However the Church teaches, and has always taught, that a valid marriage
between two baptized people is indissoluble and consequently no authority
on earth has the power to end it. Not even the Pope, Christ Vicar
on earth, enjoys such power.
It is important to understand that this truth is
not something the Church invented, she is merely being faithful to
the teachings of her founder, Jesus Christ. Christ is God, i.e. the
God who threw the stars into their orbits and knit you together in
your mother's womb, took our flesh and dwelt among us. To dissent
from the faith of the Church therefore is to oppose the commandments
of God. This would be insanity, for it is God's law that must determine
what is right and wrong, not man's desires.
The Church's teaching on those who have "remarried" illicitly
is clear and has been consistent for 2000 years. Canon 915 warns
that those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are
not to be admitted to Holy Communion". The Apostolic Exhortation
Familiaris Consortio (1981) states in paragraph 84 that this ruling
applies to those who are "remarried" and the Catechism
of the Catholic Church (1992) reaffirms this in paragraph 1650. In
their letter Annus Internationalis Familiae (1994), the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated this teaching yet again
and so did the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in their
Declaration (2000). The Church could not have made the truth much
clearer and it could not be otherwise, as marriage is for life.
Our Blessed Lord said that anyone who puts away
a legitimate spouse and lives with another as if married, commits
adultery. Adultery is a very serious sin. Indeed, the Scriptures
make it clear that adultery is such a serious sin that the adulterer
is in grave danger of hell fire. St Paul warns that those who receive
Holy Communion in serious sin "eat and drink condemnation unto
themselves". It is for their own sakes that divorced and "remarried" people
must not receive Holy Communion.
Some claim that there is a contradiction between
the Church's laws on marriage vows and its compassionate teaching.
This is absolute nonsense because true compassion and love, the divine
charity of the Gospels, must always place concern for the eternal
salvation of others before any transient or earthly considerations.
It is a secular and counterfeit charity which reverses this divine
Misuse of the Directory
It is sadly not unusual these days for lapsed, lukewarm,
dissident and poorly instructed Catholics to enter into invalid marriages
in registry offices or before the ministers of false churches and
then seek a "blessing" from the Church to make them feel
better about their apostasy and sin.
Such "blessing" bestowed inevitable by
dissenting and disobedient priests are of course obviously absolutely
null and void. The Church can clearly no more validly bless an invalid
marriage than it can bless an armed robbery. The priests who administer
these "blessings" are a disgrace to the Catholic priesthood,
for they reduce our holy faith to mere superstition.
If you intend to misuse the directory to find someone
to "marry" outside the Church, you would be well advised
to think again. Such a "wedding", while it may have the
blessing of men, cannot be sanctioned by God's Church, and God's
law is infinitely more important than is man's. Every time you made
love in such a union, you would be committing adultery regardless
of the blessing of the secular state or of disobedient priests. To
intend to involve another in such grave sin is the very opposite
of what it means to love someone.
Not only would you be putting your own and your
future partner's immortal soul in grave danger, you would also almost
certainly be wasting your money. You must clearly understand that
people join the Directory precisely because they take the faith of
the Church seriously and would be seeking to avoid the sort of relationships
that could only end in an invalid and therefore gravely sinful "marriage".
The teachings of Our Blessed Lord on marriage means
that some Christians are called to carry a very heavy cross indeed.
But Christ never leaves anyone to carry a cross for his sake alone.
The heavier the cross, the greater the grace that he gives us through
prayer and the sacraments, especially Holy Communion.
Our suffering must be offered to God for the conversion
of sinners and the salvation of souls. If we persevere our reward
will indeed be great - glory and happiness in heaven for ever. Our
Lord promised that anyone who takes up a cross for his sake will
receive an award a hundred fold greater than the sacrifices they
made. God can never be outdone in generosity.