This document is a companion to Marriage in the Catholic Church: Frequently Asked Questions published in 2006 by the Bishops Committee for the Family and for Life of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. In that document we described marriage as a God-given vocation by which a man and a woman give themselves to each other in a life-long partnership.
It is an opportunity to experience a love that leads to a deeply fulfilling way of life. Marriage expresses a love that mirrors the love of God and is a path to holiness, to being saints. It is a sign and source of hope and support for others and is celebrated by the Church as a sacrament.
Because it responds to the deepest human aspirations, it follows that breakdown of marriage has a profound potential for hurt and disillusionment. Hardly any family in modern society would not be deeply touched by the pain of members or relatives experiencing marital breakdown.
These concerns are compounded when they impact on another sacrament, namely the Eucharist. One of the great joys of the Church is the continuing presence of Jesus in Holy Communion – a gift that draws the body of believers, his body, into closer union for the sake of the world.
Because the sacraments deal with relationships – our relationships with each other and with Christ – misunderstandings can translate into very deep hurts. As a Church we have a responsibility to develop the great way of life to which we are all called while at the same time responding with all our hearts to the complexities of human relationships and actions. It is not easy, and, being human, we sometimes fail.
This small booklet is an attempt to explain some of the principles underlying the Church’s approach to issues around divorce, remarriage and the Eucharist. It is hoped that it provides encouragement and guidance to all who are grappling with the pain of divorce and, in particular, with its implications for their life as members of the body of Christ, the Church.