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Can a divorced person serve as an extraordinary minister?

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Q. Can a divorced person serve as a eucharistic minister, or do you need to get your marriage annulled first? I have no intention of remarrying, nor am I living with a partner or having a sexual relationship with anyone. What is the Catholic Church's rule on this? (Trinidad and Tobago)

A. Yes, you absolutely can serve as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion — and no, you do not need to get your marriage annulled first. (You would only need to do that if you wanted to remarry.)

Your question reminds me that there is a fair amount of misunderstanding among Catholics about divorce. Sad to say, some Catholics who have been divorced — sometimes through little or no fault of their own — feel that they have thereby separated themselves from the church and may even stop coming to Mass.

So it is helpful when a parish explains on their website, as does the parish of St. Vincent de Paul in Niagara Falls, N.Y., that "Catholics who are separated or divorced, and who have not remarried outside of the church, are in good standing in the church and can receive the sacraments, including holy Communion.

"(They) are encouraged to fulfill their Catholic commitment by attending church on a weekly basis ... (and) to fully participate in all aspects of parish life. (They) are invited to serve in any ministries — including lectors, eucharistic ministers and catechists. (They) may serve as godparents for baptism or sponsors for confirmation. Catholics who are separated or divorced are not excommunicated."

Similarly, St. John Paul II said in his 1981 apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio": "I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life" (No. 84).

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019