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I started thinking about this question after reading several FAQs on divorced and remarried Catholics. These are in the situation of being full members of the Catholic but being unable to receive the sacraments.

My dad thinks it is unfair of the church to say that they are full members yet not be able to receive the Eucharist. He likens it to a person invited to a birthday party but not being allowed to eat the cake.

Well, after not being able to respond to him for a long time, I think I’ve finally come up with a suitable response.

It is like a diabetic invited to a birthday party, but because of his own condition, is unable to eat the chocolate cake. He could, of course, go and eat it still, but it would cause further harm to himself.

A divorced and remarried Catholic has a certain public status (as all marriages are public status), and can be likened to a diabetic whose medical condition is known to all. Naturally, the community who cares for him would try to prevent him from eating the chocolate cake for his protection.

In the same way, divorced and remarried people have a certain condition that renders them to be not in full communion with the church, a prerequisite for receiving Communion. But they are not the only ones.

Anyone, you and me included, can commit a serious sin, with full knowledge and consent, and thus place ourselves not in communion with the church. When we know this, we know that we should not receive the sacraments unless we intend to change our lifestyle and are able to.

If we are not able to without causing serious harm to other people, then we are not in a state of mortal sin, and we can receive Holy Communion after ensuring that we have done all we can do to change our situation. This includes divorced and remarried Catholics.

An example is needed. Take one such Catholic who has several kids to raise up. No priest who advise her to leave the marriage and be in line with church law because that would cause serious harm to the kids. But what the Catholic can do is to ensure that he or she tries his or her best to change the situation once their kids are old enough to take care of themselves.

Anyone reading this and in this current situation, desiring to return to a full Catholic sacramental life should speak with a priest who can help find ways to achieve that.

Ultimately however, there is no police force guarding the Communion table. Normally the only obstacle to Holy Communion for a Catholic is a serious offense against God’s law that is unrepented and unconfessed. The individual himself is the only judge of that.

This bit is a later addition to the post, because of a conversation last night. During that conversation, I heard an interesting definition of ’sin’, which states that sin is something that causes harm to someone, be it others or self.

In which case, it explains why reception of Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is another grave sin. It also says that a diabetic eating chocolate knowing that it harms her health is committing a sin. 

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