Clarity from Vancouver about Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried

vancouver christmas-welcome archbp millerIt’s great to have some clarity for a change. Of course each dose of clarity makes the general confusion which some are fomenting more exasperating. Nevertheless, it’s great to have some clarity for a change.

At the page of the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary in Vancouver we find some clarity from Fr. Pablo Santa Maria.  Of course this would not have been published without the knowledge and consent of Archbishop Miller, who is very solid.

Communion, Marriage and Divorce

Mar 16, 2017
[QUAERITUR: …]Who can receive Holy Communion at Mass? None of us are truly worthy of such a great gift but God’s grace makes us worthy and prepares us to receive this sublime gift through which we are united to Christ and find salvation. We are reminded of this reality at Mass when we prepare for Holy Communion and say “Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

When it comes to the issue of those who are divorced and remarried, some confusion arises. The following paragraphs are an attempt to give some clarity to this delicate matter and to encourage all of us to accompany those who are on the peripheries of the Church.


The Church has always upheld the dignity and vocation of Marriage as a central component of her life: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament”. (1)
However, there are instances when a couple has to divorce. Reasons may vary but usually it is for the physical and mental wellbeing, of one of the parties. When there are situations of abuse, violence, neglect, etc. separation and even divorce are a necessary step. Those people who are divorced but are not living with another person either in marriage or in cohabitation, can and should receive Holy Communion if they are not is the state of mortal sin.


“I say to you, whoever divorces his wife – unless the
marriage is unlawful – and marries another commits adultery.”
– Mt. 19, 31 – 32

In this passage, our Lord is debating with the Pharisees on the nature of Marriage. Here Christ reiterates what he mentioned in the fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel, that divorce and remarriage are a serious sin. [Wait for iiiiit….] When we know we have committed a serious sin, we should not receive Holy Communion. [There it is.]

St. John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter Familiaris Consortio[But wait!  There are some who suggest that because FC is over 30 years old, it is no longer relevant.  These people are trying to repress the magisterium of St. John Paul II.  Once that’s accomplished, just about anything goes.] further reminds the faithful of this truth. Those who are divorced and remarried cannot receive Holy Communion. This is because the previous union still exists. Even though civilly it’s no longer there, in the eyes of Church it still exists for divorce does not end a bond blessed by God.

However, those who are divorced and civilly remarried are not outside the Church. The divorced and remarried should be welcomed as an essential: part of the Catholic community. These members of the Church should share in the life of the Church.They can attend Mass, [not can… must… they must still attend Mass on Sundays and other days of obligation like everyone else] pray, and take part in the activities of the parish. The children born in these situations are central to the life and mission of the Catholic Church and should be brought up in the Faith. In the recent Papal document Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis reiterates the teaching of Christ and of Pope John Paul II: “In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur.” (2)
However, what the Holy Father is also encouraging us to do is to have an examination of conscience and to see how we can help those who are on the peripheries, in this case, those who are divorced and civilly remarried. In some cases they feel ostracized and excluded from the life of the Church. The Holy Father is encouraging all of us, but especially priests to “accompany {the divorced and remarried} in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church” (3)
In some cases the first marriage bond may have never existed. To this end a canonical investigation of the first marriage by a Church marriage tribunal may be appropriate, which may help to regularize the second civil union. In other cases, when the first marriage was indeed valid, the Church invites the couple in the second civil union to abstain from marital intimacy so that they may receive the sacraments.


In recent days, since the Synod on the Family and the publication of the Papal Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, there has been some added confusion to this matter. There are some who say that the Pope has somehow changed this teaching of Christ, which is not the case. The teachings of Christ cannot be changed or re-interpreted according to the fashions of the time, or ignored because they are difficult. [And yet some highly placed people are doing precisely that.] In a recent interview, Cardinal Muller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says that “For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ, the bridegroom, and the Church, his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.” (4)
[NB] In other words, neither the Pope nor a bishop can change the teachings of Christ. The Church has always maintained this practice and teaching reminding us of the sanctity of Marriage and the importance of the Holy Eucharist. St. Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians reminds us all look into our hearts and to see if we are indeed ready to receive Holy Communion as it’s a grave sin to receive Holy Communion when we are in the state of mortal sin. (5)
The ultimate goal of the Church is to accompany those who are hurting and feel excluded and to bring them back into the fold. To encourage them and to lead them to a worthy reception of the sacraments by which they will come to share in the life of our Saviour.  [There are those who are in situations that can’t be “fixed” easily.  They must exclude themselves from receiving “the sacraments” (generally Penance and Eucharist) and be excluded.  To be able to receive these sacraments they must have a firm purpose of amendment.   So, what Father wrote is correct.  People in these hard situations must be helped to a) not receive unworthily until they b) make the tough choice and move to amend their lives.]

Fr. Pablo Santa Maria



Catechism of the Catholic Church N. 1601
FRANCIS, Pope, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, 2016. N. 307.
Ibid, N. 300
I Cor. 11, 27

Father did a good job of laying out the issues in a brief and simple way.

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  1. chantgirl says:

    Well, if Familiaris Consortio is old news, I guess we can ignore Vatican II as well. After all, that happened before some of us were even born.

  2. Aman4allseasons says:

    Fr. Pablo is a friend of tradition, that’s for sure. He has even done what some call a ‘traveling Latin Mass’, where he celebrates the Extraordinary Form at various parishes around the diocese (along with another diocesan priest and the local FSSPs priests). It is a benefit to the diocese that he is at the Cathedral.

    PS: A neat video about his vocation to the priesthood.

  3. mharden says:

    An excellent statement, should be used as a model for other parishes to explain the situation.

    As a permanent deacon, in my homilies I do what I can to underscore the indissolubility of marriage to counteract those seeking to undermine it. Recently, I preached:

    “You see, when Jesus speaks against divorce, he’s not saying divorce is not allowed; he’s saying divorce is not possible. In marriage, the bride and groom present themselves before God. When they give their consent to marriage, when they say “I do”, God transforms the Bride and Groom into Husband and Wife. Jesus says, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” God has joined them as Husband and Wife, transformed them in such a way that they have become one flesh. No human court, no judge, can change that. Someone may have a divorce decree, but they’re still married.”

    I go on the unpack annulments, etc.

  4. Mike says:

    The juxtaposition of ‘ideals’ and ‘accompaniment’ against the clear, consistent Magisterial teaching so well expressed by John Paul II is a subtle but effective reminder that Amoris (besides being the prefabricated product of a sham Synod process) is a hopeless mess, and the current Papacy a hazard to faith and to souls.

    We must be thankful for Archbishop Miller’s pronouncement, even as we must pray on behalf of shepherds who lack his courage or his faith, and for their hapless flocks.

  5. Benedict Joseph says:

    Living proof that the Living Truth is not so hard to convey, though it can be a challenging to absorb. Nevertheless, once heard and made one’s own, there is hope that all things can, indeed, be made new.
    God reward Fr. Pablo Santa Maria.

  6. Serviam says:

    I have an overwhelming urge to say that one sweet word that we are not to use during Lent……

    But instead, I’ll settle for this one: HOORAY!

    And then, of course, amen ;-)

  7. Mathieu says:

    Great article!

    Even though BC is one of the most “liberal” provinces of Canada, I find that the Catholics there are… well, more Catholic, simply because they had to fight against so much. And their seminary is with the Benedictine Monks, so that also accounts for something.

  8. Pigeon says:

    The notion that a document is meaningless because it is old makes my head explode.

    I guess we can toss out:

    *Sacrosanctum Concilium
    *Missale Romanum of Paul VI
    *The collected works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and other doctors of the modernist church
    *The certificate of ordination of Jorge Bergoglio
    *Anything from the early Church that justifies false historicism in the liturgy
    *Barack Obama’s birth certificate

    Next they’ll suggest that the Gospel of Matthew and the rest of Sacred Scripture can be thrown out (I know, I know, they already believe that).

    [The Decalogue?]

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    Yes, I have no doubt innovators want to do away with what JPII said and taught, but will they get away with it. This whole enterprise turns on what Jesus actually said and taught, and that was more than 30 years ago, but they probably find His words inconvenient.
    Their only responsibility is to pass along the faith without tinkering, or, do everything they can to block the efforts of the tinkerers. Can they just do that please?

  10. TWF says:

    Yes, Vancouver is a solid archdiocese with a solid archbishop. Heck, we even receive Holy Communion kneeling at the altar rail at all Novus Ordo Masses at the cathedral…(well the faithful always have the option to receive kneeling or standing, but the altar rail is used).

    Fr. Pablo Santa Maria is a great priest. He is one of seven or eight priests at the cathedral, but he is also the vice-rector, despite his relative youth. I was at the cathedral for an evening Mass on the feast of the Assumption this past summer. Father happened to be celebrating. It was an OF Mass, but celebrated with great reverence. As Father chanted the Gospel, a cloud of incense continued to hover above his head. Rays from the setting sun happened to pass through the sanctuary windows in such a way that the cloud of incense appeared to glow for a moment. It was a profound sight.

  11. tzard says:

    I like his emphasis – you can’t change “teachings of Christ”. It seems when “Church teachings” are used, some forget that these particular teachings are Jesus’. (a sleight of hand)

    What I tell people also is that the purpose of all this it not “merely” to receive communion, but for their ultimate salvation. It’s that serious.

  12. thecatholicshoemaker says:

    I’ve spent some time in Vancouver diocese. In fact, I believe I attended my first Latin Mass there. Even among the Novus Ordo parishes, I was super impressed by father Horden, who I would hope to become a bishop soon. My good friend was received into the Church through his guidance. It’s amazing how refreshing it is just to hear pastors speak plainly about the issue rather than the pretenses we get from so many Church leaders. I tried to make a YouTube video delving into all the doublespeak: Needless to say, it’s easy to get lost amidst it all.

    Contrasting Fr. Spadaro’s comments to this statement from Vancouver is quite telling.

  13. TWF says:

    thecatholicshoemaker :
    Perhaps you mean Fr. Horgan? He’s a very talented preacher. I haven’t heard him preach in years, but it was always a riveting experience. He hasn’t been at Sts. Peter and Paul for some years, but he did an amazing job with the stain glass windows there. He also has a legendary collection of relics.

  14. EMF says:

    Dear Pigeon –

    Perhaps you might be interested in my newly revised and soon to be published Bible. It will be offered in two versions: one with the words of Jesus (in red) and one without. It will not contain any diversionary words written by people long dead. Needless to say, both editions will feature a transparent cover AND as a bonus have the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur by whomever is the current pope.

    “Delete the Black, Read the Red”

  15. TWF says:

    Another thought to add…
    I believe Monsignor Lopez-Gallo, who at the age of 89 still serves on our marriage tribunal, and who served in Rome for many years before coming to Vancouver, also wrote an editorial in the archdiocese’s newspaper explaining why communion for the divorced and remarried is a no go…

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