Is Divorce a Sin?

Richard Salbato September 6, 2011

That may seem like a funny question but the answer may surprise you. I decided to ask people this question when I heard a marvelous sermon by my pastor. Separation is a Catholic word and is legal even in the bible but divorce is a civil word and does not exist in the Catholic world. I will explain at the end of this Newsletter but first read my pastor’s sermon to understand the problem.

Father Tom Burns, M.S.C. Pastor St. Frances Cabrini, Crestline, CA

A few years ago an elderly parishioner in her eighties came to see me. She wanted to know if there was any way she could go to confession and receive Holy Communion before she died. It had been thirty years since she had the consolation of the sacraments. I asked her why she had not gone to the sacraments for so long. “I am divorced.” I asked her if she had remarried, and she said, “No!”

“Who told you that you could not go to Confession and Holy Communion?”

She said her family told her she could not go to the sacraments because she was divorced.

I had tears in my eyes as I told her I would hear her confession right then if she wanted.  Also she could receive Holy Communion at that evening Mass. I told her someone had given her some very bad information. She could have received the sacraments all those years.

That same year, a few weeks later, a young man came to see me for anointing before a serious surgery. He asked, “Can I be anointed? I am divorced.”

“Of course,” I told him, “any of our Catholic family can be anointed.  Why do you ask?”

“Because I can’t go to Confession and Holy Communion!”

“Are you remarried?”

“No father!”

“Then why aren’t you going to the sacraments?”

“Because people told me I couldn’t because I am divorced.”

Please don’t let this false information continue in our families. A civilly divorced Catholic who has not remarried can surely go the Confession and Holy Communion. This Catholic is separated from their spouse by the civil law, but this is no violation of the Church law. If that Catholic spouse remains unmarried, they have a right and especially need the guidance of Confession and the strength of Holy Communion.

If the Catholic marries a second time while still married sacramentally to the first spouse, this Catholic comes under the disciplinary law of the Church. He or she may not receive Confession or Holy Communion. To return to the Sacraments the person has to submit the former marriage to the annulment process and it must b e declared Annulled.

The former marriage is studied, and if it can be declared not sacramental for various reasons it can be annulled. This decision of annulment allows the person to return to the sacraments and possibly to marry in the future sacramentally. Also, an annulment says nothing about the children of the former marriage. They are, of course, legitimate and biologically theirs.

Once we are members of God’s family, God will never abandon us. We may leave the Sacraments of the family and deny the Church’s right to guide us or discipline us, be we are still family. We are in the prayers of our Church. God and the Church live us and waits for us.

Let us pray for family life. It is under siege of a society that finds God embarrassing. Today couples Try marriage instead of vowing to committed love. They have sex instead of make love. When is the last time you heard any couple on TV or the movies making love? The media tries to deny anything is sacred, God given, or God guided. Marriage and Family are subject to redefine their very essence of necessity. Thank God for our generous marriage ministry couples: they are committed rebels with a great cause. Contact them.

Jesus tells us He came into our history to bring us His kingdom. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, it is like a pearl of great price, it is a new thrown into the sea of humanity to collect every king. But it is not free. It is not a cheap give-away. It is not a media hype of show-time. It requires us to sell all to buy into the field, to give up some things to earn that precious pearl, to realize the angels of God will separate the weeds from the wheat.

The kingdom is there for all, but there is a sacrifice, there is a price, THERE ARE RULES!

Jesus does deliver, if we allow His way to be our way.”

The most depressing aspects of Father’s sermon is how few Catholics understand their faith. Many make God’s kingdom too liberal and others make it too strict whereas it is not extreme one way or the other. As for this one subject civil authorities have no right one way or the other to be involved in marriage because marriage is a religious sacrament. Civil authorities can make contracts regarding property and custody of children to protect the civil rights of people. But we as Catholics recognize separation, which we call divorce and even the bible allows for separation. Now to answer the question, Is Divorce a Sin? The divorce itself is not a sin but almost always there is some sin involved by both parties even if that sin was at the time of the marriage. However, sometimes there is no sin at all in a separation; in fact it is the moral thing to do.

Now the problem is not the divorce itself but how we handle it afterward, the radical change in life, the children, our faith, etc. Also as you have read how the stupidity of Catholics treat you afterwards.

Another thing is the failure of Catholics to understand Annulments, even priests. Annulments do not do away with a sacramental marriage. That is a permanent vow to God. What Annulments do is look into the time of marriage and sees if all the requirements of a sacrament were fulfilled and if not, the Church declares that the sacrament never happened. All sacraments have these conditional aspects to them.

One reason I wanted to write this is because the individual parishes should have programs to let people know the rules of marriage and divorce and do so in a very well educated system. Too many Catholics have left the Church because they have a false idea of what the Church teaches.

There is a great program that Parishes can buy and this program can teach the pastors and teachers how to present the rules of marriage, separation and Annulments to all the Catholics so that we can bring back those who have left the Church.

You can check out this program at

Or Contact Victoria Lineham at