Is Divorce a sin according to the Catholic Church?

By Paul Dion, STL

This is a question that I have to answer because a) one of you asked it, and b) there is so much misunderstanding about this question in the Catholic Community.

Therefore, don't dodge this question. Read it.

Ask your Catholic acquaintances what they think, ask yourself what opinion you want to throw out on the table and we'll all be enlightened by the results.

Is divorce a sin, according to the Catholic Church? What are the consequences of divorce for a Catholic?

Ready, get set, GO -----

Go ahead and post your comments below.

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  1. Anna Klein4:15 PM

    I do not think it is a sin if the person does not remarry or engage in some kind of immoraL relationship after the Divorce. Also, there has to be a very good reason for the divorce.

  2. Anonymous4:16 PM

    Yes it is a sin. Man can not unravel what God has put together, or something like that.

  3. Anonymous4:23 PM


  4. ThAnk you for participating. The key to the question is the last sentence of Anna's answer. It is not a sin if there is a very good reason for the action. There are some situations when it can be dangerous for a spouse to continue living the community life, so the relationship must be terminated.

    Per Church doctrine, a divorce does not terminate a marriage. It terminates the community life and protects the legal benefits of the spouses.

  5. Anonymous10:29 PM

    Can the reason of infidelity be justifiable grounds for ending a Catholic marriage? Can it be justification for divorce or annulment? Also, can a divorced person receive communion? I heard somewhere that they can not. If they can not, does that make divorce a sin?

  6. Anonymous9:02 AM

    I think not. Divorce can be the most generous and loving option available. Homicide maybe; divorce never! is supposed to be humorous. However the use of divorce as an excuse to ignore one's obligations to the divorced spouse or to the children of the failed marriage is sinful. The divorce
    only changes the civil duties of the people involved and regulates financial and property matters for the convenience of the state. It doesn’t invalidate a sacramental marriage. Consequently no subsequent similar bond can be entered into. A divorced person who incurs no other bar to Communion may continue to receive The Blessed Sacrament as long he or she doesn’t "remarry."

  7. PAUL DION, STL9:05 AM

    Aug. 7, 2006

    Short quote from canon law commentary

    “Although Catholics should obtain ecclesiastical permission to initiate civil divorce action, in fact a good number do not seek such permission. If a divorce is obtained , the spouses are prohibited from a subsequent marriage since the marriage bond is presumed to perdure even though common life has been definitively terminated. On the other hand, they are neither excommunicated nor prohibited from receiving the sacraments or fully participating in the Church’s life.” (Code of Canon Law, comment on canon 1155)

    Short quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

    “The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic Communion. They will lead Christian lives especially by educating their children in the faith.” (# 1664)

    “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.” (# 2383)

    Comments relative to the spirituality of marriage

    All of your answers are indicative of a fairly solid knowledge of marriage. You hit the nail on the head as far as the canon law and doctrinal portions of the question are concerned. Marriage and the Church Sacrament of Matrimony are exceedingly complex realities. The Church accepts its position of a collateral “player” in the matter of marriage and divorce. It accepts the fact that it is a spiritual, religious reality and not a civil, secular one. It also accepts the fact that sometimes these two boundaries of a single reality meet and result in short circuits. That is the point where people sometimes have to make up their own minds and make conscientious decisions to live before God in a spiritual reality that cannot be conformed to the Church’s accepted way of life.

    Our lives as Catholics are very complex. We believe that our life is a continuum by the side of Jesus Christ. Our life as Catholics is spiritual, legal, intellectual, emotional, private and communitarian. Our Faith is belief in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It is belief in the Bible, Tradition and the Church and its teachings. We, as Catholics believe that it is wrong to believe in God, but not the Church. For us, they go together.

    That is why it is often rather mystifying to us how to keep everything in our spiritual lives on an even keel. In the case of divorce, for example. The basic law and doctrine are fairly cut and dried when it comes to describing the situation with which a couple can be faced that would drive to a divorce. The indissolubility of the marriage is always preserved and the option in favor of the validity of the marriage always comes first. In the canon law and in the sacramental side of the catechism, there is no mention of sin consequent to divorce.
    However, when it comes time to make statements about the spiritual and moral side of the reality of divorce, the language gets stronger. Disciples of Jesus are held to a higher standard.

    Morally, divorce is a grave offense against God and against the covenant of the union itself. Even in civil marriages the language “until death do us part” is at the heart of the contract. Divorce violates that.

    Morally, divorce is immoral because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse and the children traumatized by the separation.

    Morally, divorce is a plague on society. Jesus recognized this and that is the reason why He lashed out against His fellow Jews who had become lax in matters of marriage and divorce and told them that those who divorced and remarried were adulterers.

    It is for these spiritual, moral and ethical reasons that the Catholic Church is so tight about maintaining the continuity of marriage, not just between Catholics, but people of all convictions who heard the words, “’til death do you part” and answered “Yes”.

    Finally, it is always good for Catholics who obtain a civil divorce to approach the priest and inform him of their new situation. The results of that conversation will bring comfort and clarity to the newly divorced person.

  8. Anonymous9:06 AM

    I researched some background information towards a reply to our current burning question and I discovered some interesting facts:

    Roman Catholics believe that the Bible does not allow divorce on any grounds. Valid marriages are indissoluble. However, if it can be proven that a valid marriage had never taken place, then an annulment is obtained. Holy Communion is permitted in the absence of any new marriage in a civil ceremony, or the absence of any other grave sin..

    In regards to divorce being a Catholic sin, the Vatican issued a reply through CardinalMario Francesco Pompedda, during his reign as top judicial official of the Apostolic Signatura (prior to his retirement in May 2004). The Apostolic Signatura is the tribunal of the Roman Curia, the international government of the Church, which assists the Pope in carrying out his functions. Cardinal Pompedda stated: "In itself, divorce is not a sin, and in certain cases it could even be recommended, to resolve Patrimonial or certain civil problems." These remarks appeared in the daily Italian newspaper La Stampa.

    What are the consequences of divorce for a Catholic? In addition to the above information is the following: as it appeared in the Catholic World News - January 1. 2006. In October 2005, after a lively discussion of the issue, the Synod of Bishops affirmed the existing norm, barring remarried Catholics from the Eucharist. The Vatican has consistently upheld the traditional teaching that a valid marriage can never be set aside, and a second marriage is adulterous.

    Well, according to what Jesus said in the Bible, no one should divorce or one is committing adultery. That is pretty plain to me. However, if a situation is so bad, (spousal, child abuse) it can be done, but the extenuating circumstances, whether the marriage was ever entered into with the right commitment and covenant promises, it can be allowed. However, the person cannot remarry, unless the first marriage is scrutinized by the Marriage Tribunal (correct?) to see if in fact there ever was a valid sacramental marriage. Then there is the saying of St. Paul, "It is better to marry than to burn!" I really think a good marriage is indissoluble (I know that is spelled wrong!!!) but there are circumstances that only God and His Church can fix. But now with half of marriages ending up in divorce court, it is a challenge. I did read that of all the people who ('live together”) before marriage that they have twice the divorce rate than other couples who don't live together before marriage. What does that tell us?

    Personally, once is enough for me. I would not inflict myself on another poor man. I forgot about the consequences. Well, if there is a divorce, and the person is not remarried they can receive the sacraments. If the persons do remarry, that is a question for the marriage tribunal to answer. Am I right? Close? or No cigar?

  9. Anonymous9:24 AM

    According to the Catholic Church, it believes divorce is a sin. The Catholic Church takes up to 18 months to annul a marriage that has already been dissolved by the court, simply because it feels it has to do "it's own thing" and put its stamp on the finished product claiming the court ordered "divorce" is not enough. It sends out the most offensive questionnaires to fill out, not only by those directly involved but by those who have been familiar with the relationship ... up to 18 months? How incredibly ridiculous is THAT? Talk about ego driven

  10. Anonymous8:50 AM

    For those that are interested to know more about Divorce and the Catholic Church, here's the long explanation:

  11. Anonymous11:35 AM

    It may lead to sin depending on what happens after that. If one of the spouse remarries, wouldn't that count as adultery? That is probably why the marriage has to be annulled by the Catholic Church.

  12. Anonymous12:52 AM

    You should review 2382 in the Catechism it spells out the Church's position quite clearly. Having said that annulments may be granted after an investigation. They seek to answer the question "was this a valid marriage?" The best advice is to speak with a priest. The Catholic answers website also has a lot of info.

    May God be with you,


  13. Anonymous11:51 AM

    This would be better answered by a a priest or somebody knowledgeable in Theology. Please don't quote me or take my word for a fact. I do not want to contaminate your faith.

    Divorce perse is not a sin. It is not recognized by the Catholic Church (..what God has put together, let no man put asunder..) What would make it a sin is if either one of the divorced couple remarries (even civil). Of course, the Catholic church will not marry them. If he/she engages in sex regardless of whether they are married or not to their new partner, it makes it a sin (6th). If they are divorced and stay celibate, I don't think they are committing a sin. There is such a thing called annulment. Over here, it goes to a Church Tribunal. There are only certain grounds that the annulment is granted. This matter , i suggest, should be discussed with the clergy. My opinion is only based on what I know as far as the 6th commandment is concerned.

    I came across this issue when I got involved with a divorced man (no sex involved here). My conscience was bugging me. I then wrote a clergy noted for his writings on this issue ( I forgot his name). He sent me a literature on the subject and it sort of enlightened me on the issue. Well, the relationship did not last. I thank God for that. I did not want a complicated relationship. If ever, there would be issues with ex-wife and kid/s.

    God bless you and good topic for discussion.

  14. Andy in Wisconsin9:07 AM

    I read the responses and as a man who struggles with selfishness and wants delicious foods, good football games and an active sex life, I am interpeting that if I get divorced that is the end of my sex life if I want the grace of the Church and communion.

    It is almost enough incentive to find a different church to fulfil my relationship with God if I ever find myself divorced. We still teach sex outside of marriage is wrong whether I am a teenager or a 40 year old. Since the biggest religious denomination is ex-Catholics maybe I would not feel alone. The Church can keep the bar where it belongs, it would just be too high for me given I am a divorce man who still wanted sex as part of my relationship.

    Or, maybe it is enough incentive not to get divorced. I have plenty of sins that would keep me from communion but I seek forgiveness and take communion and like the apostle Paul, still feel the struggles the selfish desires even afterwards. But, of course, I can hide most of my sins from the civilian world, divorce would be a public statement and easier for the Church to pass judgement and deny communion. is that the distinguishing characteristic of this sin (I am still married, 18 years and almost to 19!) over other sins?

    God bless us all, even the tax collectors.

  15. Anonymous11:09 AM

    I'm not sure what personal opinion has to do with a clear teaching.

    Civil divorce alone is not the issue. There can be legitimate reasons for the same. Indeed, one cannot pursue an annulment (declaring that there never was a sacramental marriage) without first obtaining a civil divorce.

    Assuming that a sacramental marriage has occurred, divorce PLUS remarriage (or other sexual relationship, in today's anything goes world) consitutes the grave sin of adultery. Catholics not in a state of grace may not receive communion.

  16. Anonymous3:32 PM

    Divorced unnecessarily over 12 years ago, I take Canon 1060 seriously as it states that a marraige is assumed valid unless PROVEN otherwise. My divorced spouse withdrew her petition for nullity after the grounds were established and she found out I wanted the Roman Rota to review our local Tribunal decision. She isn't dating nor am I. We are married and I keep the wedding ring on. She asked me to take the ring off for she has no intention of reconciling. I often wonder if her Pastor would encourage her to attend say a Retroivalle Weekend, what she would say. I alerted our Bishop that her Pastor had told her she was "free to date." How sad that he endorsed her unnecessary decision to divorce by saying. I have both spoken and written to my faithful Bishop to ask him what he thought of dating after divorce and he wasn't sure.. I believe that my wife and I are still married and a member of the clergy would never suggest dating other than one's spouse. So as perplexed as I am with the lack of courage I see in our clergy, I very glad that at least on paper the Church is the only institution in the world that upholds the indissolubility of marriage. Enough for now...

  17. Paul Dion, STL9:43 PM

    Lately, I have had a lot of discussion about marriage and the Catholic "intransigence" regarding the eternal bond of the sacrament of Matrimony. As it turns out, the "intransigence" is not as tough as Jesus would have it. I invite you to the following study, shortened in order that you may stay awake all the way through.

    Let me start by quoting two key passages from Matthew's Gospel.

    Matthew 5:31-32
    31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.' 32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

    Matthew 19:3 -11
    4 Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" 5 He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." 7 They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?" 8 He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
    9 I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." 10 [His] disciples said to him, "If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry."
    11 He answered, "Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted."

    I begin this note to you by reminding you:
    Never read the Bible verse by verse

    When it comes to marriage, Jesus never contradicts himself, not even in Matthew. Jesus repeatedly says that marriage is indissoluble. It is forever and He reminds the Pharisees of the creation of woman in Genesis.

    Since you are stuck on Matt. 19;9, read the whole thing and see that Jesus says "...marries another commits adultery." He doesn't ever give the man the freedom to remarry, ever. He gives him the right to "put his wife away" ["dismiss her"] but never gives the man the right to take another. Never.

    That is why if you continue reading and have the strength and courage to go all the way to Matt. 19;10 you hear the very disciples of Jesus make the comment, " "If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." Gird your loins now, and go all the way to verse 11: ""Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted."

    In other words, "many are called, but few are chosen." (Matt. 22;14) Also, "Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'" (John 6;67)

    In short, the "story" of Matthew 19 is that marriage can never be dissolved. The bed can be divided but the bond can never be broken.

    That is the teaching of the Gospel. That is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

  18. Patricia11:09 AM

    I'm glad this last comment came in from Paul Dion. His clarification comes in handy because my Bible study group was just getting into this very same topic Monday night. And I admit we got hung up on the divorce/fornication topic. And now it can not be more clear that Marriage is indeed forever.

  19. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Having absorbed the message in Matt 5 & 19, particularly on ‘remarriage’ my question is, Is it lawful or unlawful to re marry the same wife a man once divorced?

  20. It is lawful, since the marriage was dissolved by civil law but not sacramentally. The "re-marriage" then takes place before the civil authorities and Church documents will be amended after the couple confesses and renews their sacramental commitment before witnesses.
    The answer presumes that neither the man nor the woman is in a position to cause material, emotional and or economic damage to third parties by the act of reunion.

  21. Anonymous10:33 PM

    Perfect example...I was Married in 1995; Divorced in 2007. We reconciled in Sept 2009 and we have been living together again since May 2010 (we have 4 children) We talk about remarring. During our seperation neither of us were committed to any other person romantically,emotionally or physically. I worry/wonder if we are going to go to hell for getting divorced. Also, not sure what you mean by "Church documents will be amended".

  22. I am sorry, I do not know to which comment you are referring. There are many Church documents, and in your case, some of them would have to be amended if you were to remarry, presuming, of course, that you were married in Church the first time. If you were, the only "marriage" that you would have to do this time would be the one at the city hall, since the Church marriage was not annulled, or so I glean from your comment. So, after your second marriage, you would have to tell your situation to the priest to make sure that all your official church documents would be in order.

  23. Marriage is a holy bond. One that is put in place in front of the eyes of God and by God in a religious ceremony.The Catholic churches position is that the a state government can not remove that holy bond that was put in place by God, only the Catholic church can do that with special religious ceremonies. Which makes sense, after all it is a holy bond put in place by God. Now the Christian bible states that there are only two reasons for why a person can get a divorce.One, if your spouse dies. And two, if your spouse commits adultery against you.There are no other reasons for why it should be allowed. Most people today want to do it for whatever reason they feel like. Financial reasons( take half of assets),child custody, alimony, etc. etc. The Catholic churches postiion is that you can't divorce just for any old reasons like those or basically because you feel like it. The postion of the Catholic church is that God's bond can not be dissolved just because you want half of someone's assets or because you want alimony or for some other stupid reason. They believe these are all just selfish excuses and that God's bond between two people should not be dissolved for stupid reasons or stupid excuses.This does not mean that it can't be dissolved for a stupid reason or a dumb excuse. It can, the Catholic church has the ability to dissolve any marriage especially when there are extenuating circumstances. But they just don't believe in dissolving a marriage for a bunch of dumb reasons or excuses that aren't worthy of dissolving a marriage for.