The Catholic Church is very clear on its statutes on marriage and divorce, moreover in relation to receiving the Holy Communion. Many Catholics, including separated and divorced Catholics themselves, are confused or misinformed about the status of divorced persons in the Catholic Church. As a result of this confusion or misinformation, many divorced Catholics fail to participate as fully as they could in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church, and many Catholic communities fail to welcome and embrace divorced Catholics as fully as they should.  

Much of the confusion about the status of separated and divorced persons in the Church arises from the fact that the Catholic Church places a high value on sacramental marriage and interprets Jesus’ injunction against divorce and remarriage very strictly (cf. Mark 10:6-12, Luke 16:18). According to Catholic teaching, marriage is an intimate, exclusive, and permanent partnership of a woman and a man, which exists both for the good of the spouses and for the procreation and upbringing of children.

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Catholics who are separated or divorced but not remarried are members in good standing of the Catholic church. They are free to participate fully in the life of the Catholic faith community. So is a Catholic who is divorced, has obtained a Decree of Invalidity (an “annulment”) and has validly remarried in the Church, or a Catholic whose previous spouse has died.

Catholics who are divorced and remarried, and whose previous marriage has not been annulled by a Decree of Invalidity (an Annulment), are considered members of the Church living in an irregular (or invalid) marriage.  They are free to participate in some, but not all aspects of the Catholic faith community.  For example, Catholics who are divorced and remarried without a Decree of Invalidity may…
-Attend Mass, but not receive Holy Communion.
-Participate in communal celebrations or Reconciliation and visit privately with a priest in Confession

 About their spiritual life or status in the Church:
-Celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick when in danger of death.
-Have a Catholic funeral and be buried in a Catholic cemetery.
-Participate in the public spiritual and social life of the parish, but not serve in public ministries or leadership positions.
-Have their children baptized and enrolled in a Catholic school, religious education or Sacramental preparation program, but not serve as a catechist or teacher in a Catholic school or religious education program.
-Serve as an official witness at a Catholic marriage, but not as a Baptism sponsor (Godparent) or Confirmation sponsor.

Baptized non-Catholics who are divorced and remarried without a Decree of Invalidity may enroll in the Rite of Christian Reception but may not join the Catholic Church until their previous marriage has been annulled.

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