In some instances, priests or laity have actually encouraged them to make their own ‘private’ conscience judgments in this regard. This is a misunderstanding of conscience.

For Catholics, the formation of conscience includes trying to understand an issue in the light of the Church’s teaching.

Precisely because one is a member of the Church, one should give allegiance to the Church’s teaching; so, in this instance, those who have married or re-married without the Church’s blessing should strive to understand why the Church does not permit them to receive the Eucharist.

Furthermore, as we have emphasised, marriage is never just a private, personal event; it has significance both for the wider society, and – in the case of Catholics – for the Church community.

Even though no one, including the Church, is able to judge the personal guilt or innocence of another person, it would be wrong for people to think of their marriage and of their participation in the Eucharist as ‘private’ matters over which they have sole control.