Last time we dealt with the Catholic teaching that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Just as this age old teaching, rooted in the Word of God, is being rejected by many, so is the idea that marriage is a permanent union, dissolved only by death. Divorce and remarriage, as I don't need to mention, have become common, and many divorced Catholics are confused as to whether they are still members of the Church and if they should receive Holy Communion. Today I hope to clarify these points.
One day Jesus was approached by a group of Pharisees who asked Him if “a man my divorce his wife for any reason.” (Mt. 19:3 ff.) Jesus responded by proclaiming that “from the beginning” God did not intend divorce to be a part of His plan. Our Lord makes reference to the creation story (Gen. 2:18-25) to state that the man and woman were created for each other, and in matrimony the two become one flesh. Because it is God that joins the two together, no human power has the authority to dissolve this bond. Jesus' words are strong, and even his own apostles are shocked. If Jesus' own followers had trouble accepting this teaching it shouldn't surprise us that people today also find His words hard to live by.
The only way a couple, once married in the Church, can separate and marry another in the Church is to get an annulment. This declaration of nullity, given by a Church tribunal, means that some conditions existed at the time of the wedding ceremony that kept the Sacrament from being valid (We will deal with the specifics of this in next week’s letter).
Some Catholics find themselves in difficult situations. As always, it is important not to judge others. We do not know the road that others have to walk. Nonetheless the Church asks those who are divorced and remarried without having received a Church annulment first, not to receive Holy Communion. They should, instead, offer their sacrifice up as a spiritual communion with the suffering Christ. They are also invited to contact their local parish to see if an annulment is possible. Those who are divorced and living a single, chased life, should feel free to receive Holy Communion. Divorce, while not something the Church supports or recognizes as valid, does not, by itself, separate an individual from communion with the Body and Blood of Christ.