If one is civilly divorced and has not remarried, can he or she receive Communion? The Church’s Code of Canon Law describes marriage as an indissoluble covenant (see Canons 1055-1057). The law derives these terms from scriptural sources, including St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he compares the union of marriage to that of Christ and the Church (see Eph 5:22). This mystery is so profound that if we were to lose every other sign of God’s love, we would have the right to look at married couples in our midst and conclude that what keeps them in love with one another is the same mysterious force that keeps Christ in love with us. The result, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, is the same: “The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator’s generosity and fecundity” (No. 2335, emphasis in original).

Divorce alters the domestic arrangements of a married couple, but does not affect the indissoluble nature of their union. Church law, thus, views a divorced person as married. This means divorced Catholics cannot remarry unless a Church court finds some flaw in their previous marriage. However, the law states, “On the other hand, [divorced persons] are neither excommunicated nor prohibited from receiving the sacraments” (Commentary on Canon 1155).