How You Can Help Divorced Catholics


When I was younger, I always wanted to be a writer, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would grow up to write about divorce, especially due to personal experience. Yet, here I am, writing every week about that very controversial, painful, and misunderstood issue. The hardest thing about writing articles to help divorced Catholics find healing is knowing some people believe I am promoting or condoning divorce. There couldn’t be anything further from the truth. I am the most pro-marriage person I know and my desire is that all marriages would be permanent, exclusive, life-giving, and happy unions. But, the reality is divorce happens. And it happens to good, faithful, traditional Catholics just the same as it happens to anyone else.

I use the term “misunderstood” because there are many Catholics who have never been divorced (thanks be to God!) who tend to look down upon those who have been and see them as nothing more than complete failures and bad Catholics. This attitude is in direct contradiction of the second greatest commandment, the Judeo-Christian ethic of love thy neighbor as thyself. No matter what role a spouse played in their divorce, whether they are the one who left or the one who was abandoned, there is one thing that is certain: there is an entire community in the Church that feels desperately hurt, unwanted, and alienated. These people need to be able to connect with the non-divorced Catholics in their parishes and neighborhoods, feel accepted, and worthy of friendship.

Even after 20 years of dealing with this issue on both a personal and a professional basis, there is never a time my heart does not break over hearing about yet another couple’s divorce. It is one of the worst tragedies I can imagine. I recently received an email from a divorced Catholic, and I feel compelled to offer a few corrections to some inaccurate perceptions some non-divorce Catholics may have.

First, here is an excerpt from her email:

Recently my daughter married in the Church, and the wedding coordinator at the parish told the wedding party about how and when to proceed to Communion. She then said if we were divorced we couldn’t receive. WOW.

When I first was divorced, after I talked to my parish priest, I went to a 12 week seminar for divorced people at a local protestant church. I didn’t want to change my religion, but was just trying to get back into society in general. They were such a great help, I can’t say enough good things. I am still a Catholic and practice my religion, but I really don’t think the Catholic Church likes to admit there are many divorced Catholics—we are not counted out, but are pushed aside to a great degree.

If anyone wonders why divorced men and women can seem bitter at times, this woman’s testimony would be an excellent illustration of why. It is important for all Catholics to know what the Church teaches: Catholics who have been divorced, but not remarried without an annulment and who are in a state of grace are welcome and encouraged to receive the sacraments. The sacraments are the best opportunity to find healing after divorce and unless a person is not in the state of grace (which applies to all of us) a divorced Catholic should partake as often as possible.

Second, it’s so important for all Catholics, regardless of their state in life, to welcome and help each other, no matter what our situations are. Each and every one of us should take care to never push someone aside because of circumstances such as divorce, struggling with addictions, same-sex attraction, gambling, pornography, etc.

Pope Francis recently gave a homily in which he warned of the trap some people fall into of “perfect piety.” The Holy Father said these people suffer from, what he called “The Jonah Syndrome”; that Christ called them hypocrites because they have “an attitude of perfect piety,” which looks at the doctrine of salvation but does not care for “poor people.”

As Catholics, we should all be looking out for each other and helping one another just as Simon of Cyrene encountered Christ who he assumed was a common criminal, yet assisted him in carrying his cross all the way to Calvary. Especially since the holidays are coming upa time of year that’s difficult for anyone who is sufferingnow is a great time to look to our brothers and sisters and see how we can help.

Please send your comments and questions to and if you’re on Twitter, you can follow me at @lisaduffy



  1. John B. August 24, 2015 Reply

    Hey, you used the misleading “escape clause” in this article concerning being in a state of grace… so you did know divorce on its own can be mortal sin,,,, Church teaching. Dang, so you are leaving it out now on purpose and removing any hint that divorce for selfish reasons is a Grave offense, remarriage or no remarriage. One can only wonder why you would want to put others souls at risk in you recent articles. How are they going to feel when they realize they should not have been receiving and not knowing does not make them less culpable. Wow. I will pray that you realize that sometimes it is loving to tell the truth, no matter how a person “Feels.” Eternity is a very long time feelings here are short lived. Jesus promises us PEACE, not happiness on Earth… eternal happiness comes if we are worthy to spend eternity with Him.

    • Lisa Duffy August 24, 2015 Reply

      Hi, John – Anyone who divorces for selfish reasons would obviously not be in a state of grace. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf (I can use all I can get) but there is no “escape clause” here.

  2. Michael-750925 December 28, 2013 Reply

    Good article! If a person has experience as a divorced person and has been healed, they can give good advice on how to get through it. Frequent reception of the Sacraments, Reconciliation and Eucharist, is key. Being a friend and trying to include divorced Catholics in activities is an ordinary charity that should be done. Of course this is difficult since stable Catholic families may not want these “unknown quantities” , ie, divorced Catholics too close to their family unless they already know them well. It can also be uncomfortable for us as singles to fit into activities since we are the “odd man out”. In a nutshell I would just say do any ordinary charitable thing you can think of that may help them fit in. As the article says be welcoming to all.

  3. Dominic-981542 October 30, 2013 Reply

    Hi Lisa . .What you say is common sense , Why would any one push people away because they have lost there marriage , Most are willing to help if needed , No matter what is said people will always go on being who they blindly are.
    The sadist think about divorce is most have all the wrong answers as to why it happened including the professionals who help with theses cases . . !

  4. Luara-1021251 October 29, 2013 Reply

    I love this article because it is the best way to show understanding, give comfort, and concern to the persons involved in a hurtful good byes of marriage. It’s a great expression of support rather than being judgemental to them. I believe that God is good all the time he will never abandon us, he will still love us and he is ready to forgive us if we only acknowlege our faults and ask forgiveness to him.

  5. Maureen-484565 October 27, 2013 Reply

    After 15 years and 4 children age 12 to 6, my husband didn’t want to be married anymore. The pain of such unnatural death as divorce is, goes on for years. My annulment was final 4 years ago and the wisdom I gained in that process still enlightens my path. The Eucharist, frequent confession, and adoration have always carried me through these very financial and emotional challenging times. I love my Catholic Faith and am very grateful to be in communion with it!

  6. Jennifer-997186 October 25, 2013 Reply

    Boy Doug you sound bitter…

    I am the youngest of 4 daughters. My sisters were all married about 12 years with their first husbands… the oldest – her husband one day just left her for a woman 10 years younger than them and moved to another state, the second oldest was physicallly and mentally abused for 12 years until she finally decided to leave, the third oldest’s husband cheated on her everytime she was pregnant. All of their incomes went down after their divorces – even though they had custody of their children – child support was either inconsistant or nonexistant. They have all since got annulments and have remarried to good men for around 12+ years now again.
    I never thought I would get divorced either, but my ex is now a “woman” , yes full surgery and everything. I never knew anything about “his” desire to be a woman until long after our marriage. We met at a NET retreat at my parish and he was part of a prayer group at Marquette U ( a Catholic Univ.) our faith was always a big part of our relationship. 3 years ago when he decided to go full time as a “woman” I tried to “roll with it”, but I could only take so much. I am very heterosexual. Our divorce was final last Oct. (2012), we have joint custody of our 5 children and still remain “friends”, both of us still strugle finacially… annulment is in the works.

    My ex likes to say it is just a “normal” divorce – “she” still loves me like my husband did – I didn’t change he/she did.

    Divorce happens for a variety of reasons. We live in a society that wants to destroy the institution of marriage. The media and politics have a lot of influence, some good most negative. It’s the society we have been born in, we do our best to make a positive influence on it.

    It’s all we can do

    & let God do the rest 🙂

  7. CatherineRose-996317 October 24, 2013 Reply

    Lisa, thank you for writing this. I wouldn’t wish the pain of divorce on anyone. Although I’ve been divorced, I counsel married (and soon-to-be-married) friends to do whatever they can to keep their marriage intact.

    Those who see it as ‘an easy way out’ haven’t known that there’s nothing easy about it.

    Knowing I have my faith just may be the only thing that keeps me going, and for that I am grateful.

    So thank you, again. Your words touch more people than you may even know.

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