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Troy McCauley wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is it a mortal sin for a Catholic to receive Holy Communion in the Church if they are married by a Justice of the Peace?
  • If so, where in the Bible or the Teachings of the Church does it say this?
  • If a Catholic couple divorces each other and one remarries, can that person still receive Holy Communion?
  • Can a person who has been baptized and confirmed yet:
    • does not go to Church regularly, and
    • has not been to Confession

      receive Holy Communion?


  { What is the permissibility of receiving Holy Communion in these various marital situations? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Troy,

Marriage is the exclusive union of one man and one woman for life, for procreation and love.
One may not receive Communion if one is in a state of grave sin.

As to divorced and remarried Catholics: ongoing adultery is a serious sin. Jesus said that a person who divorces and remarries commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9, Luke 16:18)

  • If the first marriage was no marriage (or found to be null), then there is no problem, because there is no adultery.
  • If the couple lives as brother and sister, then there is no sin of adultery and therefore no problem.

In the case of those married by a Justice of the Peace, ongoing fornication (sex without marriage) is a grave sin. Catholics, because they are baptized and because Matrimony is a sacrament of the Church, must be married according to proper form (where that is possible), that is, with an official Catholic witness. If not, then the Catholics are not married.

The only exception would be a Catholic who has formally left the Church, in which case he would not be considered Catholic and would not be held to the Catholic standard for a sacramental marriage. In this situation, his (or her) marriage before a Justice of the Peace would be a real marriage.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi, Troy —

A baptized, confirmed Catholic who does not go to Church regularly should not receive Holy Communion at Mass without first going to Confession. [He|She] should still go to Mass,
but they have to refrain from receiving the Eucharist. In these cases, it is best to say a Spiritual Communion. While the faithful are receiving one can also pray the Rosary which is what I do in these and similar situations.

Spiritual Communion

O Lord Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
I love you (above all things with all my mind and my heart) and I long for You in my soul.
Since I cannot receive You now sacramentally, at least come spiritually into my heart.
I embrace myself entirely to You and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

Optional add-on: Come Lord Jesus and glorify Yourself through my weak body.


Part of the third commandment — to keep the Lord's Day holy — is attending Sunday Mass. If one knows skipping Mass it is a grave matter, which you now know, it is a mortal sin and has to be confessed before one can receive Holy Communion.

It's no big deal though; almost all parishes have Confessions every Saturday, and you can always call the rectory ahead of time for a private Confession.

Hope this helps,


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