ASK FATHER: Can divorced, remarried without “annulment” be Extraordinary Ministers of Communion?

From a reader…


Can divorced/remarried laity, without decree of nullity, become Special Ministers of Communion?

The short answer is “No!”

The longer answer is “Noooooooo!”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Magpie says:

    Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is the only acceptable term. EMHCs should be safe, legal, and rare.

  2. dmwallace says:

    Nor can they calls themselves “Special Ministers”:

    ‘This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened’ (Redemptionis Sacramentum, no. 156).

  3. mcferran says:

    This is where more accurate language is useful.

    If a person receives a civil divorce from his or her spouse, and then the spouse dies, and then the person marries another person in a Catholic ceremony, then YES that person can be an EMHC.

    If a person receives a civil divorce from his or her spouse, and then receives an ecclesiastical annulment, and then marries a person in a Catholic ceremony, then YES that person can be an EMHC.

    If, however, a person receives a civil divorce from his or her spouse, and then goes through a civil marriage ceremony, while his or her spouse (from whom there is a civil divorce) is still living, then that is ADULTERY.

    As long as we continue to use the phrase “divorced and remarried”, people won’t understand what the problem is. The problem is that the second relationship is adulterous. Even after a civil divorce, a husband and wife continue to be married according to the Church – which is what counts in the long run.

  4. Justalurkingfool says:

    But, based upon observed personal experience such a person can be a Cantor in the Byzantine Rite.

  5. wmeyer says:

    It is deeply disturbing to me when a priest, who clearly should know better, refers to EMHCs as “Eucharistic ministers.”

    That said, it is very difficult to comprehend the original question, assuming, of course that the writer understands that these people cannot even receive communion.

  6. “The short answer is ‘No!'”

    Wrong answer! Anyone who thinks there are no divorced and remarried EHMC’s is naive.

  7. Volanges says:

    In all my time involved in liturgy I’ve only known one person actually ask, “You are aware I’m divorced, aren’t you? Are you sure I can do this?” In her case the answer to both was ‘Yes,” because she was neither remarried nor in a new relationship.

  8. Volanges says:

    wmeyer, it depends on how long the priest has been around. When IMMENSAE CARITATIS, the 1973 document that first gave permission for EMHCs, was released in English the ministry was called “Special Minister of the Eucharist”. Rapidly followed the “Eucharistic Minister” appellation. When you’ve been using that term for 30 years it’s difficult to do an about face.

    I wonder how many priests have read Redemptionis Sacramentum? When it came out my Pastor read it but the other priest in the parish refused. He told me point blank that he didn’t want to know what it said. [Words are not sufficient for the contempt I have for such men.] How many just waited for their bishop’s direction on its implementation?

  9. Joe in Canada says:

    Does “divorced/remarried” mean “divorced and then remarried” or “divorced or remarried”? IN the first case, clearly no (understanding the rest about nullity). In the second case, people who are divorced and NOT remarried can be, people who are divorced AND remarried civilly cannot.

    Fr Z is far from naive. The question was not “are there any?”, it was “can they be?”

  10. wised says:


    Sadly true, and with a priest condoning.

  11. Matthew says:

    Well it is going to be hard to keep the cast of thousands on the stage at my local parish then.

    What happens if there are more EMHC than communicants, I’m sure I’ll find out in the next few weeks.

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    The short answer is “No!” The longer answer is “Noooooooo!”

    What a scream. Have to remember that one!

  13. tcreek says:

    A Catholic friend was married for 20 years, got divorced and remarried outside of the Church. He and his “new” wife have been EMHC for many years with the knowledge and encouragment of the pastor. A major problem of our Faith is not just the shortage of priests – the priests we don’t have – but the priests we do have.

  14. Joe, of course Father Z knows exactly what I meant–that in all too many instances the proscription against divorced-and-then-remarried EMHC’s is all too often honored more in its breach than in its observance. The “naive” would be those blissfully ignorant of this situation.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as being divorced and REmarried in the Catholic Church. One is either divorced or married or an adulterer. Thus, the question:

    “Can divorced/remarried laity, without decree of nullity, become Special Ministers of Communion?”

    makes no sense from a Catholic point of view, since they are not remarried, only married and in adultery.

    He who controls the language controls the mind. Catholics should NEVER use the term divorced and remarried. Say what it is: divorced (and living chastely), married, or divorced and adulterous. If every Catholic would adopt that change in nomenclature, we would either see a change in society or we would all be in jail, but, either way, we would influence the thoughts of many.

    The Chicken

  16. The Masked Chicken says:

    He who controls the language controls the mind.

    We have to stop using the term, “divorced and remarried.” The term is illogical from a Catholic point of view, since it is, strictly speaking impossible. One is either married, divorced (and living chastely) or divorced and adultering. To remarry may seem like a proper use of the term, but one can only remarry if there is already an outstanding marriage, otherwise, one is simply married. The,” re,” is redundant, even in the case of a widow, because she is not remarrying, she is marrying for a second time, which is a subtle difference. ” Re,” implies doing over. There are no do-overs in the Catholic Church.

    If we called a relationship what it is: fornication (if they are not married and living together), marriage, chastely divorced, or adulterously divorced, we would either change society or wind up in jail, but, either way, we would have an impact on society.

    The Chicken

  17. acardnal says:

    Chicken, I have been making a similar point for some time. The Church grants a decree of nullity when it determines that there was no sacramental marriage. If there was no sacramental marriage, they are free to marry – not “remarry”. If one is in a valid sacramental marriage, they are married to one another “’till death do us part.”

  18. Okay… the rabbit hole of nitpicking about the terms is hereby closed. This Q&A had a specific purpose and that the purpose was pretty clear. I can always close the combox.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    Sorry, for both the rabbit hole and the double post. Bad way to start a Monday.

    The Chicken

  20. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Especially cuz Jesus used those equivalent very words. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another…opps, I mean, whoever divorces his wife and enters into a pseudo-quasi-ersatz relationship dubbed misleadingly by others as marriage but in reality just a….oh, you all know what I mean.”

Comments are closed.