ASK FATHER: Christian funeral, burial for divorced, remarried?

From a reader…


Can a Catholic who is divorced and remarried without an annulment receive a Catholic Christian burial?


Can. 1184 lists – exhaustively – those Catholics who may be deprived of a Church funeral:

Can. 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1. notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

2. those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;

3. other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

§2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.

Can. 1185 Any funeral Mass must also be denied a person who is excluded from ecclesiastical funerals.

While our deceased adulterer might possibly fall under the third category, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a letter of 29 May 29 1973 clarified the matter to say that if such people have preserved their attachment to the Church and there is no scandal, a funeral should be given.

The second section of can. 1184 says that if there is any doubt about whether or not to deny a funeral to a baptized Catholic, the local Ordinary is to be consulted “and his judgment must be followed.”

Denying a funeral is a serious issue, and should not be done lightly.

Scandal is more frequently caused in situations where an ecclesiastical funeral is denied than when it is permitted.

Pastoral care should be taken to commend the faithful to pray for the soul of the deceased, and not to glorify whatever objectively sinful state the deceased is in.

In the case of someone in an adulterous union, especially where both the legitimate wife and the current civil spouse are present at the funeral, the priest might have to walk a tightrope of fidelity and decorum to avoid slighting either woman or ignoring the reality.

The less said about the matter, the better it often is.


I removed comments and will say only this.

Everyone: If you don’t like the content of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, then you have to take up the issue with John Paul II who promulgated the 1983 Code, Benedict, who made some modifications here and there, and Francis, who is now the Legislator.  I report what the canons say.  I didn’t write them. You can also take up the issue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Furthermore, I post these ASK FATHER questions for the sake of teaching, helping out, clarifying.  I don’t have to do this at all.  Sure, there are times when questions lead to more questions.  I don’t always have the time to deal with them.  So, I’ll ask you to do what I used to have posted on the combox form: THINK BEFORE POSTING.  If you have question: THINK about it for a while.  Moreover, my combox is not actually an entirely open, public forum.  It is more like my living room.  Those of you who think they can come into my living room and shoot the messenger are not welcome.

Finally, not everyone’s opinion is of equal weight.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr AJ says:

    Yes, very true; sometimes no funeral is worse than a funeral for someone like this. And usually a pastor who denies a funeral will get overruled by his Bishop anyhow, at least that’s what I’ve seen in my own diocese.

  2. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I can’t tell you how many times people have exploded AT ME for telling them exactly what Church documents plainly say. Oh well, you know.

  3. I think people get upset about this sort of thing for three reasons. First, they think that the funeral Mass is a sacrament for the deceased (sacraments are only for the living). Second, they are used to the funeral Mass being a canonization, so when the deceased led a less than stellar life, one could understand a bit of indignance since people assume that the priest will start assuring everyone that the person is in heaven. Third, they do not understand that praying for the dead is a duty of all Christians, especially when the deceased may be in particular need of God’s mercy– and that is what a funeral Mass is really all about.

    I would also like to say that even if, for some reason, one must be denied a Catholic funeral Mass, that does not relieve us of the obligation to pray for such people in private in some appropriate way. (Perhaps a regular daily Mass offered for a “special intention” might also be appropriate.)

    As for what the documents say– no one is really interested in that, sad to say. But as Dr. Peters says, we all know that. I learned a long time ago that reading the documents for oneself is extremely enlightening– whatever the documents are.

  4. UncleBlobb says:

    UncleBlobb kudos to you, Fr. Z., for doing this! Thank you very much. ;)

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