What the Church REALLY teaches concerning divorce, remarriage and the Eucharist

Pope Francis lifts up the chalice as he leads a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
Pope Francis lifts up the chalice as he leads a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican April 19, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

First, and foremost, exclusion from the Eucharist, concerning divorced and remarried Catholics, is not a singular situation meant to highlight a certain ‘apostasy’ against the Church. Any sin, without repentance and the willingness to ‘sin no more,’ fits into the criteria of situations where a Catholic cannot receive the Most Blessed Sacrament.

With that said, the current situation of Catholics who divorce, and civilly remarry–or those who live in a ‘cohabitation’–begs for a clarification on the authentic, and perennial, understanding of what the Church truly teaches.

First of all, the term ‘married’ must be defined along the lines of Catholic Tradition. Marriage, in a true Catholic sense, is a sacramental marriage recognized by the Church, from its origin, as without impediments, and with full consent of the man and woman involved. These ‘canonical marriages,’ bound by a religious bond, differ from any other, which might be termed ‘civil marriages.’

From the Church’s official teaching Magisterium, extremely blessed by the recent contributions from Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, come these basic understandings:

These teaching pertain to all of those Catholics who were initially sacramentally married, and who are currently divorced, and either civilly remarried, or are living in cohabitation with another person.

Not all situations are the same. Culpability varies among spouses, and historical situations. This does not negate the Truth of both Marriage and the Eucharist. Rather, it allows the pastor a better understanding for pastoral care.

Based on Holy Scripture, the Church does not allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to the Eucharist. The Church also does not allow Catholics in these situations to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. {Please note, below, the pastoral paths for the Catholic who desires reconciliation with Jesus and His Church}.

The Church has no power whatsoever to change this Truth. This Truth is based on the Teaching of Jesus Christ as witnessed to in the gospel (Mark 10:11-12). This Truth, moreover, reveals the ontology of Marriage–in other words, the Truth prior to our emotions, opinions, and objections. Marriage (Sacramental) is a participation in Jesus’ nuptial Love for the Church, revealing divorce, adultery, and civil remarriage as anti-Eucharistic, or contradictory to true meaning of Communion.

This practice is especially true for those who persist in their sin to the objective pastoral approach of the Church. In other words, those who fully understand their sinfulness, but remain obstinate and present a source of public scandal for the Church.

The reason for the ban from Sacramental confession is that in order to receive the Eucharist worthily, in all sins, the sinner must genuinely repent, and desist from their sinful situation. In other words, the civilly remarried Catholic must separate from their partner, or, in the case of raising children, live as brother and sister in holy chastity.

It is of utmost importance that people understand that this teaching is not ‘punitive or discriminatory,’ but is faithful to the Will of God as revealed by Jesus, protecting the Sacramental Truth of both Marriage and the Eucharist.

This teaching/practice is not a damnation, or an excommunication. The Catholic in this situation is still part of the Church, and is summoned to the fullness of Catholic Life, sans the Eucharist–for the above mentioned reasons. Therefore, pastors are to seek out these Catholics and offer the fullness of mercy and compassion within the sound Truth of Catholic

Finally, and of utmost importance, the path back to the Sacraments involves true repentance, and the willingness to live according to Church Teaching based on Sacred Scripture. This would involve the ending of adulterous relationships outside of Sacramental Marriage–and, with the aid of the pastor, a chaste relationship for those individuals raising children. This path, however, is not up to the solitary discretion of the Catholic individual. It must be blessed, and guided, by the pastor of the individual Catholics parish, recognized by the Diocesan Bishop.

Hopefully this clears up some misconceptions.

God bless!

JPII on Marriage





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