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Cohabitation & Reception of Holy Communion

QUESTION:

I am an 18 year old Catholic.  I got pregnant early this year and gave birth outside of wedlock.  Because I live with the father of my baby outside of marriage, can I receive the Holy Communion?

RESPONSE:

First, while I cannot approve of sin I want to affirm your decision to keep your child and to give birth.  Second, while I can appreciate the emotional and material reasons for cohabitation, the failure to get married is problematical.  Third, if there are the makings of spousal love with the genuine desire and the ability to sustain a family, I would urge the two of you to speak to a priest about getting married in the Church.  However, only the two of you as a couple can determine if this relationship has what it takes to make a life-long and faithful marriage.  You are very young and I cannot gauge your maturity. Further, you say nothing about the man with whom you live. Is he single? Are we talking about fornication or adultery?  While there is some discussion about the status of couples in irregular unions and the reception of sacraments, the usual answer is that such couples should refrain from reception given that they are apparently living in mortal sin.  Sexual intercourse and cohabitation outside of marriage is a grievous moral wrong.  A person in serious sin is not disposed to the graces of the Eucharist.  Indeed, it brings down God’s judgment in terms of scandal and blasphemy. 

Whatever else, contact the priest for the child’s sake so that you might have the baby baptized and then brought up in the Catholic faith.  Peace!  

One Response

  1. Please show me in canon law or church tradition where an unmarried couple should not get married. It seems to me that would be the correct solution. Once they are married they can cohabit without sin and raise their child properly. That is a good thing, not a bad thing. It seems illogical to tell them to not get married.

    I’m not a priest of course or a theologian. But what is wrong with telling them to repent of their previous behavior, go to confession, and cease intimate activities for a short time, perhaps a month, as a penance, or donate to charity, or do some kind of penance, and then be married. I find it ironic, not addressing you personally of course, but in general, that the visible Church of today tolerates and de facto encourages abortion by permitting pro-abortion activists to receive Holy Communion, while denying the sacrament of marriage to a man and woman, particularly after the woman has given birth. Sometimes I think all logic and common sense, not to mention Christian charity, has vanished in the visible church. At least I’m comforted when I remember that the visible Church is not identical to the invisible Church, which is the one that matters on the day of judgment.

    I do not agree when a priest says he will be the judge of the couple’s maturity. Frankly, looking at Church history, I do not see any record of making such judgements. Marriage is a right of Catholics, not a privilege. If a couple wants to be married in the Church, and is willing to confess to their sins, and they promise to raise the child as a Catholic, then I think it’s a horrible deed to deny them. Is this the Church of Jesus Christ, or something else?

    I realize my comments may not be published. But at least I know there is one person who will read them. But I think they should be published. If I am wrong, you have a good opportunity to correct my errors.

    FATHER JOE:

    I cannot make sense of what you are saying. Do you mean cohabitating unmarried couples? That is generally regarded as sinful and dangerous. Why would I suppose that Church law says anything different?

    Did I not essentially say as much about avoiding sin? But there are many details missing. What if the man was married before? Do they even love each other or is this a child from an abusive situation? It may be that the child is the only reason they are together. If such is the case a quick marriage usually translates into an ever quicker divorce. I wrote: “. . . only the two of you as a couple can determine if this relationship has what it takes to make a life-long and faithful marriage. You are very young and I cannot gauge your maturity. Further, you say nothing about the man with whom you live. Is he single? Are we talking about fornication or adultery?” There is also the matter of who is paying the bills. Does she even have anywhere else to go? Has she been disowned by family? Yes, you are not a priest and so I would ask you to be cautious in what comes across as “poisoned” presumption. No one is urging them to sin. Only the priest with boots on the ground can practically assist them. If either of them lacks the ability to fulfill the responsibilities of marriage then no priest would marry them.

    As for permitting pro-abortion activists to take Holy Communion while denying it to cohabitating couples (birthing a baby or not), such is an inexact statement. Both should know that they are not spiritually disposed for the sacrament. However, unless a person is a celebrity, professional secrecy and the seal of confession make it difficult to impossible to withhold the sacrament in many cases. We can tell them to refrain but many will not listen. Reception of the sacraments while in mortal sin is sacrilege and grievously sinful.

    Finally, your remarks about the visible Church not being the same as the invisible Church tempts the Nestorian heresy. The true Church is one just as Christ is one. References to the visible and invisible Church only regard the faith community as a mystical union. It was sometimes referenced by Pope John Paul II who spoke about an invisible Church of the saved or the elect. It essentially means that we cannot know for sure who within the institutional Church will be counted among the saints. However, there is no salvation outside of Christ and his mystical body, the Church. Peace!

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