Annulments and Communion

Authored by James Cavanagh in Issue #30.4 of The Sower

One of the most difficult things about being a DRE is how to handle cases that involve divorced and remarried people who want to become Catholic. They have a strong attraction to the Church and a fervent desire to become Catholic, but because of previous marital situations they’re hindered from entering fully into communion with the Church. Bringing up the subject of annulments is always delicate, and it’s especially awkward when you hardly know the individuals you’re dealing with. Raising the issue of previous marital situations can be painful as old wounds are reopened. It can be painful for the DRE, too.

Experience teaches us, of course, that many cases are relatively simple and rather easily resolved, even if the process takes many months to complete. Even complicated annulments can be a positive experience as they often bring much-needed healing and closure. We’ve all met people who resented having to go through the annulment process at first, but after all was said and done, they were grateful for the process because it allowed them to reconcile previously unresolved issues.

But that’s small comfort to someone who is only just thinking about becoming Catholic. When someone is being introduced to the Church and has taken those first few tentative steps toward becoming Catholic, raising the subject of previous marriages and annulments can be more than a little off-putting. Some people get mad and simply leave, unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to deal with the issue. Individuals who are facing the prospect of going through the annulment process must be assured of the love of God and the support of the Church despite the circumstances. Such assurances, unfortunately, often ring hollow when those who are divorced and remarried are told that they cannot receive communion until they receive an annulment.

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This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

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