Divorced Catholics Belong in the Church


Pray in Church

One of the toughest things divorced Catholics have to face is people making judgments about their situation. This I have learned, seems to happen most often in places like the internetwhere people can say things seemingly anonymously that I would expect they would never say face-to-face. My experience is that in personal interactions, there is oftentimes more sympathy but in many cases, that judgement still exists, even if it isn’t mentioned aloud.

I am heartened by Pope Francis’ recent statements “that the Church must accompanynot condemnthose who experience failure in married life.”

In all he does, Pope Francis encourages us to see the Church as a place of compassion. I fondly refer to him as the Mercy Pope. This is the gift that he brings to our world at this time. We are all broken peopledamaged by the pain of original sin and the state of our society which has taken away the last vestiges of dignity that we all share as images of God.

The Holy Father encourages us to see the Church as a place of healing. Jesus ate with sinners after all. The people who most need the Church today and have always most needed her in the past are the ones who aren’t perfect.

Those of us with failed marriages happen to show our imperfection in a way that can be seen by the general population. Think of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What about any woman who chooses life and then experiences the suffering associated with being pregnant outside of marriage? Are our very obviously public failings any better or worse than those of other people? (No one knows by looking at a guy that he was the other party getting that teen girl pregnantbut he knows it.) I don’t think so and I don’t think we should be vilified because of it.

Holy Mother Church does expect us to do our part however. Refrain from communion if you are not in a state of grace. Live a life of celibacy because you are still married. If you’ve received an annulment, you are newly single and should not have sex outside of the sacrament of marriage. Do not spread scandal. Like all Catholics we are called to “be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We don’t get a special pass because of our sufferings.

In September of last year, Pope Francis gave a lengthy interview to Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro in which he states very clearly his expectations of our Holy Mother the Church:

I can clearly see that what the Church needs today is the ability
to heal wounds and warm the hearts of the faithful, it needs to be by
their side. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle. It’s
pointless to ask a seriously injured patient whether his cholesterol
or blood sugar levels are high! It’s his wounds that need to be healed.
The rest we can talk about later. Now we must think about treating
those wounds. And we need to start from the bottom.

People suffering the pain of failed marriage are surely some of the wounded that our Holy Father is referring to. I don’t believe that he intends we take these issues apart with a fine tooth comb to determine who deserves the support and healing of the Church and who does not. Every person, being created in the image and likeness of God, deserves the Church’s love. Does a mother turn away from her child when he makes a mistake?

In fact, in his recent comments on failed marriages Pope Francis tells us also “may the Lord give all of us the grace to understand it and also the grace to never fall into these casuistical attitudes of the Pharisees, of the teachers of the law.”

If you are one of those people suffering from a failed marriage, take heart! Our Holy Father knows you and he sees your pain. Be strong in your walk with Christ and know that you have a place here in our Church. Stay close to the sacraments and remember that Jesus tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). You have a place at the tableyou do belong.



  1. Michael-1094908 June 11, 2015 Reply

    I am new to this so I will be strait forward and ask ”
    Who ever said that divorced Catholics were not welcome in the church or to participate in the church? I was mislead to believe I did not belong during my separation and divorce some years ago and those people who misled me were absolutely wrong! I went away and studied to the point of graduating from a Lutheran Seminary thinking I was not welcome in my own church. Well now I’m back and to be truthful whatever I say about divorce and annulments amongst Catholics or otherwise is like feathers in the wind. Americans like to do whatever they feel like and then find a way to relive their guilt and shame. I definitely do not believe in annulments or divorce but we live in a throw away society that would rather pay money and get on with things than reconcile and forgive. Just my opinion of things

  2. Leo-1097313 July 1, 2014 Reply

    “We don’t get a special pass because of our sufferings.”
    Annamarie –
    The temptation to believe otherwise can be strong though, especially with the lie that our time is running out.
    As far as the reactions of others about our divorce, let them see how you heal and grow in God thereafter. Annulment or not, people can tell how someone has changed through grace.
    God’s grace is not something one can counterfeit.
    Cor ad cor loquitur, Sister

  3. Annamarie-982050 June 15, 2014 Reply

    I do feel judged by those who don’t know better including my parish priest. When i went to confession and confessed my anger toward my ex-husband who walked into the living room, announced he was divorcing me, said his decision was final and there was nothing to discuss (after 25 years), the priest kept saying I needed to repent for any fault I had in the divorce. My ex had untreated depression and wanted a life free from responsibility. He refused medical help, counseling, etc. He wanted to have his paycheck for himself (never paid any support), never saw the four kids, never helped with anything. I kept telling the priest I was only guilty of being imperfect but I loved my husband and tried to create a nice home and family for him. The priest kept saying “it takes two to divorce”. I said “no it doesn’t, in a no-fault state you can be divorced against your will in 30 days.” I still refuse to accept fault for the divorce. I would have gone to counseling or done anything to prevent my children from experiencing that pain. My ex didn’t give me a choice. If your parish priest is judging you, so are other people. Oddly enough, recently, the ex suffered some major health issues that proved something neurological had been brewing at the time of his personality and behavior changes when I begged him to seek medical help.

    • Edward-1080151 June 17, 2014 Reply

      Based on your comments, it seems that you did your best to be a good wife and didn’t want a divorce. I didn’t either but if your spouse insists, you are helpless.
      Shame on your parish priest, he needs to follow the teachings of Pope Francis. Judge not and try to help others heal and find peace. Life is difficult and we don’t need our priests making it more difficult but they are men and have human faults.
      I pray for you and hope that you find happiness.

  4. Theresa-1100404 June 15, 2014 Reply

    I do feel judged for being a divorced Catholic. However, the divorce was not my choice and I realize that there was nothing I could do to prevent it. My spouse wanted a divorce and there’s nothing one can do to make that person stay.

  5. Elizabeth-1075962 June 14, 2014 Reply

    I do not think the statement made about the Blessed Virgin Mary was improper. I feel she was only stating maybe how the Blessed Virgin was being received when those closest to her knew she was with child. We really don’t know how long before Joseph married her, in ,my mind just a matter of a couple days.

    That being said, know one knows the pain I endured when I divorced. When your priest says, you need a divorce, this opened up my sorrow and pain of nearly 18 years of abuse. I moved forward with the help of much needed therapy for years. I begin to heal and received an annulment. I know longer look back on the past, I’m blessed with so many graces of God’s love, how could I complain.

    So, good for you, you wrote your feelings about divorce, move forward, don’t look back, I will pray for you everyday from now own.

    For all those who are going through what ever sorrow and pain, be honest

    with yourself, except your pain and mistakes and ask the Lord Jesus to feel you with all the graces you need to be what you want to be. Even if you screw up, don’t give up, have the love and respect you feel about yourself, and the person that you are, to forgive what you have done wrong and start over, for the great man in heaven will make you stronger each time. We must all learn from the wrong stuff and not go there again.

    God bless all wanting a new beginning in life, rather your young are nearly 70 like me, who wants to be married again.
    Blessings from Elizabeth :–)

  6. Ed-1076286 June 13, 2014 Reply

    Divorced persons can receive Holy communion unless they are living in Sin or remarried outside the church Go for a divorce-annulment . After a few months of hard work the Catholic church gave me one. I did not date until the church annulled my marriage. Obviously being a single custodial parent raising my son and sending him through college and life with zero help from my ex who is now on husband number three(I was hubby number one)was difficult but with my faith etc. and help from my parents I made it through a tough time.

  7. Steven-1099713 June 13, 2014 Reply

    Ya know honestly, people get divorced for many reasons. Perhaps, it was true that, they did not truly love each other, and I would think they did a better thing to split and go find TRUE happiness then to keep mending old wounds that will never heal, even with proper treatment and therapy. But, there is such a thing as ‘case-by-case scenario’, and honestly, that’s kinda what this is. They know in their hearts if they divorced for the right reasons. Let us not judge, but be there to support.

  8. Mark-687718 June 12, 2014 Reply

    Hi Patricia, I don’t want to speak for the author, and she of course can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I understand where she was going with the reference to the Blessed Mother. Obviously any comparison with Mary should be made very carefully and with all due reverence, and I think perhaps the author could have been a little clearer in the comparison, but I don’t feel it crosses the line of being disrespectful. The whole point of the article is about how we, as the Church, should not judge others because of the situation they are in, as we most likely don’t know the whole story. The author is specifically referring to the plight of many divorced Catholics, but relates it to others who might be unfairly judged. In this context, she references our Blessed Mother, and although it isn’t directly stated, the point seems to be that Mary likely experienced unfair criticism and judgment due to the “scandal” of her pregnancy during her betrothal to St. Joseph by people who didn’t or couldn’t understand. In reality, no sin was present in that case, as in the case of so many failed marriages, where the divorced person sitting in the pew next to you may in fact have no blame in the reason(s) for the divorce. So who are we to judge?

  9. Patricia-1089982 June 12, 2014 Reply

    Hi! I was just wondering if you could explain what you meant by ( Think of the Blessed Virgin Mary). Mary was sinless so how does she fit in to this equation? Believe me I’m not saying every woman who divorces is at fault here. I just don’t see how using Mary is relevant to the topic matter. If anything is seems a bit disrespectful. 🙂 Since you seem to be talking about people’s failings and how the Church should be there to help heal them. In the examples you give there is obviously sin involved, (except for the cases of rape) So again how does Mary fit in? I hope this post doesn’t come across as aggressive. I just couldn’t figure out what you meant. Thanks!

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