I have been married 3 times and divorced twice. My 3rd husband died of cancer. All marriages were not in the Catholic Church. Now returning to my Catholic faith after 4 decades, am I allowed to receive the sacraments? I have already been doing to confession and communion for the past year.

How does the Catholic Church explain going to the sacraments in similar situations?

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    Are your previous spouses still living?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 14:46
  • Welcome to C.SE! Generally we don't allow questions seeking personal advice, because we just aren't equipped to answer them. We do not have the Care of your soul; your parish priest does! We do not have the duty of safeguarding the sacraments; your parish priest does! We cannot sit down with you and have a personal conversation that would cover all the circumstances of your life and situation; your priest can! For those reasons we would be doing you a disservice to try to answer your question
    – user54757
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 15:34
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    Like any library, Christianity Stack Exchange offers great information, but does not offer personalized advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your pastor, priest, or other trustworthy counselor.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 15:35
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    I’ve voted to leave open your question due to Ken’s edit (thanks Ken!) - but just be aware that this site is about only fact oriented questions, not pastoral advice. I’d take this up with your local priest or bishop, as they really do have the final call here, and the most knowledge about your situation and what actions are appropriate.
    – Luke Hill
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 23:35
  • Agree with @LukeHill. Ken's edit saves the question, but please don't substitute the answer with pastoral advice. Welcome to C.SE. Hope you participate further after taking the tour and review the on topic questions. Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 3:00

3 Answers 3


How does the Catholic Church explain going to the sacraments in similar situations?

Each person’s return to the practice of the Catholic Faith is unique and does not have to be done alone. One should strive to seek the spiritual light of a good and theological solid minded priest in each individual’s particular case.

There at times, seems to be a myriad of different variables that make this one of those questions almost impossible to have a standard response.

For this reason many priests will have to have recourse to the local canon lawyer of the diocese and/or the diocesan marriage tribunal in order to determine if one or any of your previous marriages were valid.

Although you state that you were married three times, you have not mentioned if your spouses died before you were remarried. These facts must be taken into account.

If you were married between 1983 and 2006, a loophole existed for some mixed marriages to possibly be seen as valid in the Catholic Church.

Marriages of non-Catholic Christians (Protestant marriages)

Baptized Protestants are not bound by the form of marriage, i.e., they do not have to exchange their consent in the presence of a Catholic official. A baptized Catholic who left the church by a formal act and married after the year 1983 (the year the present code of law went into effect) is not bound by the form of marriage either.*

*The motu proprio Omnium in mentem of 26 October 2009 has now been altered, by Pope Benedict XVI and formal acts of defection from the Catholic Church are no longer recognized by the Church. ”After 4 decades” of not being within the fold puts you in this time frame, so you need to truly seek information from diocesan authorities as how to continue. Nevertheless, be courageous, the Church is there to help you on you journey back.

For the rest, one can follow the general counsels given in Geremia’s answer, although I would prefer a more reconciliatory tone, in his response.


All marriages were not in the Catholic Church.

Assuming you were a baptized Catholic when you attempted marriage outside the Church, those marriage are invalid due to lack of canonical form:

Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses…

cf. this Table of Marriage Validity & Liceity

My 3rd husband

Technically, he was your male concubine, not a husband.

I have already been doing to confession and communion

If you confessed your sins of fornication (if there was sexual activity in those invalid marriages) and disregarding the Church's precept to obey the marriage laws of the Church, then you should be in a state of grace and be able to receive Communion.

  • What if one of the marriages was before a licensed Protestant minister (let's say in the Church of England) and the ex-spouse is still living? Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 21:30
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    @GratefulDisciple Attempting marriage in front of a non-Catholic clergyman in a schismatic sect does not abide by canonical form.
    – Geremia
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 21:37
  • More clear cut than I thought. How do you explain the difference with the Catholic church recognizing Protestant baptism (which is using the Trinitarian formula), but not marriage? Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 2:51
  • @GratefulDisciple "the difference with the Catholic church recognizing Protestant baptism (which is using the Trinitarian formula), but not [Catholics attempting] marriage [outside the Catholic Church]?" Catholics refusing to abide by the marriage laws of the Church are not (generally) ignorant of such laws; they intend to go against such laws. Protestants baptizing are not (generally) refusing to do what the Church does with baptism.
    – Geremia
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 21:09

The answer by Geremia is correct, IMO. I would like to simply add another way of putting it. Today’s main Gospel reading at mass was about the famous episode of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus save her from a stoning intention (in reality, I just read that stoning for adultery hadn’t been practice for a century at that time; it was a clear provocation against Jesus). The end of the episodes is very clear: when Jesus was ALONE with her and after asking her where her accusers were, Jesus told her that He also did not accuse her BUT she would need to change her life for good “Neither do I condemn thee: go thy way; from henceforth sin no more”.

The message is clear, anybody can understand it. Provided that in such a long time the Church has humanly translated the same message in a correct Church procedure (which includes no valid prior marriage, confession and correct understanding both from you and from the priest who confessed and guided you), you shall approach the sacraments as a new person, look ahead and keep going in the same direction. This is the meaning of the verb “to convert” which comes from the Latin language (con-vertere) and means to literally turn in the opposite direction from where we were coming…

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    Please don't say "the answer above" as the positions will change over time. You can edit this to link to or at least name the author of the answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 4:45

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