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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

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Can a Person Who is Legally Divorced Go to Confession or Receive Communion Before the Marriage is Annulled?

Question:

Is it true that a person who is legally divorced cannot go to confession or receive Communion until the marriage is annulled?

Answer:

No. For starters, divorce is not always a sin. But even in instances where it is a sin, absolution for the truly repentant can be attained through confession.

A bigger problem arises when a divorced Catholic without an annulment attempts marriage again. Any such marriage attempted outside the Church is not valid, so, if he lives with his new “spouse” as though they are married, he lives in a state of objective sin.

When a person chooses to live in a state of objective sin, he cannot attain absolution through confession or receive Communion as long as he remains in his present state. The wise thing to do in such a situation is to commit to abstinence until (if ever) his prior marriage is declared null and his current marriage is blessed (convalidated)—then he can go to confession and resume going to Communion.

See this excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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”—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. (1650)

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