There will be exceptional situations where access to or resolution by a tribunal will be impossible or where a couple, having repented of any previous fault, now live ‘as brother and sister’ and receive Holy Communion without risk of public scandal.

More common, however, are cases where a couple either refuses to approach a tribunal or has done so and been unsuccessful, but who believe they cannot reasonably separate or refrain from genital intimacy. Such a couple may experience great inner conflict or ‘perplexed conscience’ due to the clear teaching of the Church, on the one hand, and their own yearning to receive Holy Communion, on the other.

The role of the priest or adviser in such situations must be to help people face up to and rightly resolve any such perplexity rather than pretend it away.

The Church recognises that Christ’s unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond 'may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to recognise… (but) it is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive"the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ' (Catechism 1615).

Though they cannot receive the sacrament of the Eucharist such couples are called 'to walk with Christ' through 'a dialogue of faith' and 'advance together towards the conversion required by Baptism, and especially through prayer and liturgical celebrations' (Pontifical Council for the Family, Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried 1997).

They should be invited to a deeper immersion in other aspects of the life of the Church, such as attendance at Mass, reading of Scripture, Eucharistic adoration, personal prayer and participation in the charitable and other works of the Church. With respect to such people the Church wishes to 'pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope' (Familiaris Consortio 84).