Divorce is never easy.
From the realization that love has failed to feelings of shame and a tendency to assess blame, divorce poses an untidy conundrum for families even when a couple settles on an amicable legal separation.
In the eyes of the church, a divorced couple remains married until a decree of nullity is issued, if a couple chooses to go that route.
There's even more of a challenge for faithful divorced Catholics, who often misunderstand church teaching on marriage. Divorced people may separate themselves from the church, believing they have been automatically excommunicated or banned from church activities even though they have not remarried.
People who are civilly divorced and do not marry someone else are not prohibited from receiving Communion under canon law.
However, church practice prohibits people in irregular marriages -- those civilly remarried without receiving an annulment -- from receiving Communion, serving as lector or extraordinary minister of holy Communion, teaching in a Catholic institution and holding certain parish or diocesan offices. There is no prohibition on being involved in most other church ministries.
Bethany J. Meola, assistant director in the US bishops' Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said it’s important to make sure that divorced people “don't consider themselves separated from the church, that they realize they are baptized Catholics, they are members of the church, they are called to participate with the church, attend Mass, pray, be present with the church”.
"(It's) helping people in all of these situations to carry their cross and know that they don't carry it alone," she said.
There's no better place to heal from the trauma of divorce than in the church, believes Gregory Mills, executive director of Catholic Divorce Ministry, the Ministry of the North American Conference of Separated and Divorced Catholics.
"People have walked back into the church, willing to admit they made a grievous mistake and want to get right with themselves, their local community and with God," he said. "The ultimate salve for the wound is God and his healing mercy."
Source: Catholic News Service