In the eyes of the Church, divorce is not always sinful



What would you say to a married woman who has endured verbal abuse in every way possible for more than a dozen years? It is affecting me mentally, spiritually and physically, and I cannot take it any longer. It is also affecting my young daughter, who receives the same sort of treatment from her father.

I was married by a priest in the Catholic Church and have sought to live up to the Church’s teachings. Would it be wrong in the eyes of the Church to seek a divorce for the sake of my own health and that of my daughter? (City of origin withheld)


The Catholic Church believes that marriage is meant to be a permanent union and that Jesus intended it to be so (Mt 19:3-6). But it is also true that divorce may not always be sinful. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense” (No. 2383).

So it could be that the ongoing emotional violence that you and your daughter have been forced to undergo might justify a separation and divorce. But the wounds from a divorce are wide, and you would want to take every prudent step before it comes to that.

Have you sought out a marriage counselor and encouraged your husband to do the same? My bias is for counseling offered by church agencies, since they would share my views of the sanctity of marriage. And have you sought to bring God into the equation by frequent prayer? Please know that you have the promise of my own prayers as well.


I am a Catholic and single father of two. I was not married Catholic originally and was divorced 20 years ago. I am looking to marry a woman who was married in a Catholic ceremony and divorced 20 years ago because of abuse. The paperwork required for her to obtain an annulment in her home country of Venezuela is almost impossible. I

f I marry her without an annulment, would that ruin my chances to be an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and to receive holy Communion? (Tampa, Florida)


In order for you to marry in a Catholic ceremony, two things would have to happen. You yourself would have to meet with a priest and complete some very simple paperwork regarding your first marriage. That paperwork would then be submitted to the diocesan marriage tribunal, which would then declare that this marriage “did not count” in the Church since you were not married in a Catholic ceremony or with Catholic permission.

As for the woman you seek to marry, her situation is more complicated. Since she was married in a Catholic ceremony, she would have to go through the Church’s annulment process to have that first marriage declared invalid. (That she suffered spousal abuse would be an important factor because it might show that her first husband, from the start, was illequipped to marry.)

She need not seek this Church annulment in Venezuela; canonically, a petitioner may file for a Church annulment either in the place where the marriage took place (Venezuela, in this case) or where the petitioner now lives.

Were you to marry her without these permissions, that marriage would not be recognized by the Catholic Church. Thus, you would not be eligible to serve as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion or even to receive holy Communion, as noted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1650).


I have been an extraordinary minister of holy Communion for about 20 years. During that time, I have dropped the host twice while distributing Communion. I was embarrassed and mortified — to the point where I have even considered no longer giving Communion. What is the proper thing to do if the host is dropped? (Northern Missouri)


There is no need to be mortified — or even embarrassed. As much as we try to treat the Eucharist with the utmost reverence, accidents do occur. I have distributed holy Communion for more than 50 years, but just last week I dropped a host on the floor when two hosts stuck together.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which is the Church’s guidebook on liturgy, says: “If a host or any particle should fall, it is to be picked up reverently; and if any of the precious blood is spilled, the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy” (No. 280). The sacrarium is a special sink that drains directly to the ground.

If you happen to drop a host, pick it up carefully and either consume it or dissolve it later on in water (so that it no longer has the properties of bread) and wash it down the sacrarium. Treating the eucharistic species with reverence reflects the belief of the Church that Jesus meant it when he said at the Last Supper, “This is my body … this is my blood.”

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “By the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood” (No. 1376).

(Accidents can be minimized if people receive the host the way they are instructed — in the outstretched and open palm – rather than grabbing for it, as they would for a brass ring on a merry-go-round.)

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