Catholic divorcees can still receive Holy Communion and go to confession as long as they are “not engaged in a permanent relationship”, the Curia has clarified.
“The official teaching of the Church states that those who are in a permanent relationship outside the Catholic marriage cannot receive the sacraments in a licit way.
“A divorced person (whether they divorced willingly or unwillingly) who is not engaged in a permanent relationship can receive the sacraments liberally,” a spokesman for the Church told The Sunday Times.
The Church was asked for its comments after certain sections of the media reported that a 12-point leaflet distributed to households stated that divorcees would not be permitted to receive the sacraments.
The leaflet was an insert in the monthly magazine Flimkien which is published by the college of parish priests and distributed to all households free of charge. It is based on a question-and-answer format.
One of the questions asks whether those who remarry civilly after a divorce would be able to receive the sacraments. “(Those who believe this) are definitely misunderstanding. If divorce is introduced, those who are divorced can only remarry civilly and not in the Church.
“They cannot get married as a sacrament and therefore they cannot go to confession or Holy Communion anyway. This is because their first marriage still counts in God’s and the Church’s eyes. Divorce does not nullify a valid marriage between two Catholics.”
As the Church has clarified, this means such divorcees will still be able to receive the sacraments as long as they are not in an intimate relationship with a new partner.
Meanwhile, the Church defended its right to distribute such information to the public in light of the ongoing divorce debate.
“The information given in the referred article falls in line with the Church’s mission to teach and enlighten, in this case through its own media,” the Church spokesman said.
“(The magazine) conveys the view of the Catholic Church on different aspects of our faith and on Maltese society. As in the case of other magazines, it is obvious that not all that is published is agreed with by all readers, but like other magazines, it helps readers to (form) a diversified opinion on various issues put before them, as befits a pluralistic society.”
The 12 points in brief
1) If battered wives are granted the right to remarry, so too will their abusive husbands.
2) Although people have a right to marry, there is no such right to divorce, according to a 1986 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.
3) Catholics who vote against divorce are not imposing their values. They have a right to vote according to what they think is best for society.
4) The Church allows priests to leave the priesthood and get married because celibacy is a Church law, not a law of God like the indissolubility of marriage.
5) Divorce weakens the marriage bond, leading to fewer people getting married.
6) If you do not vote it means you do not care about the family or your children.
7) In all countries with divorce, cohabitation increased, marriage decreased and more people fell below the poverty line.
8) There is nothing wrong with Malta being an exception in the world. Malta has the most churchgoers. Unlike the US, it does not have the death penalty. Should those things change too?
9) Divorce increases marital breakdown by 20 per cent. For society’s benefit, sometimes individuals must suffer. For example, people might have to give up their land to make space for an airport. All efforts must be made to reduce their suffering, but the land must be taken for common good.
10) People who remarry civilly after a divorce cannot receive Holy Communion or go to confession.
11) The Church is against abortion, condoms, sex before marriage and divorce because these are all negative actions. However, it is in favour of positive actions.
12) The number of children born out of wedlock increases in countries with divorce because cohabitation increases.