SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
July 4, 2011
Is a divorced person allowed to receive Holy Communion? What if the divorced person is now living common law?
The answer to your first question is definitely yes. A divorced person needs God's grace and love just as much as anyone else. Besides, being present and participating in the prayer of the Church community will be a strong support for that person who may be suffering as a result of the divorce. Continued attendance at Mass is required of a divorced person just as much as for any other Catholic.
When you raise the question of common law living, that's a different story. The Church does not accept common law living as a legitimate form of marriage and therefore, does not permit reception of Communion. However, Mass attendance is still required.
The Church sees marriage as an unbreakable covenant like the covenant between God and the Israelites. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church considers Christ's presence at the wedding feast of Cana a confirmation of the goodness of marriage. Marriage, therefore, by its loving commitment and insolubility, becomes a sign of Christ's presence to the world. God gives special graces to those who commit themselves to each other before God.
However, when a marriage fails, all is not lost. Annulment and marriage in the Church are a possibility. Today, we understand better how situations which may have existed when the marriage took place could have prevented it from being a true sacramental marriage.
One of these may be a lack of psychological and spiritual maturity of the person at the time of marriage. One or both of the marriage partners may have lacked an understanding of the meaning of the sacrament of marriage, its sacredness and its graces, its permanency and its insolubility. Psychological immaturity may result in an inability to comprehend and, therefore, to take on a life-long commitment.
There may have been coercion in the marriage due to parental demands and/or choice or existing situations such as pregnancy. If coercion existed, there was no marriage.
Marriage must be entered into freely. There may have been a previous, undissolved marriage of one of the partners, making them ineligible to enter a new legal or sacramental marriage.
The attitudes and/or intentions of either partner may be a contributing factor. They may fail to understand that a true marriage is an equal partnership of two human beings both created in the image of God who has given them freedom and grace to become fully the persons they were created to be. There may be conflict and worse, violence, and the Church never condones violence.
There are numerous other reasons why people approaching marriage today may not enter into it with the best motivations. The examples we hear about in the media often are far from suitable models and yet they contribute to a gradual loss of the appreciation of the sacredness and permanent commitment of marriage.
The Church gives marriage preparation courses to help prospective marriage partners. But the excitement of preparations for the "big day" may negate some of the principles taught.
CONTACT CHURCH OFFICIALS
I would suggest you contact either your pastor or the marriage tribunal and discuss your concerns with them. They will help you to proceed in whatever way will be best for you.
Most people find the annulment process healing as it helps people understand themselves and why their marriage failed. As Catholics, we know the high esteem in which the Church holds marriage. Therefore, when a marriage fails, there is usually a lot of self-incrimination. Often, relief and peace are felt when there is a better understanding of self and the marriage failure.
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