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Robert O. wrote:

Hi, guys —

  1. Is a divorce initiated in 1969 to 1970 which finalized in 1973, grounds for excommunication latae sententiae?
  2. If so, how would one go about writing a statement of repentance and renew one's obedience to gain termination of excommunication?
  3. What level of the clergy would one approach to initiate this process?

Thank you most heartedly in advance for any advice you may confer.

Robert O.

  { How does one write a statement of repentance, if divorce is grounds for an excommunication? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Robert —

There is a lot of confusion about this, so much so, that I'm not 100% certain of the answer, but let me lay out some principles.

Divorce is not the problem. Divorce and remarriage without an annulment is the problem.

Under the present code of canon law (1983), such a person is barred from the sacraments.
This is not the same as being excommunicated, and this may be the source of confusion.

It is possible that the discipline was different under the 1917 code of canon law that the person in question would have been subject to at the time. I don't have access to that so I can't verify it.

Regardless of whether one is excommunicated or whether one is merely ineligible for the sacraments, the course of action is the same:

  • The person should approach their local parish priest and he can help.
  • If the person in question is presently married, and the person they divorced is still alive, they need to obtain an annulment.
  • Otherwise, they should receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, and if there is an excommunication, which I doubt, the priest can arrange to have it lifted.

Eric

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