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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 order.

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 Cross

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.

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