Sacraments Refused by Priest

My Sis in Law who is divorced and remarried to her husband is divorced also, both are Catholic, and neither have an annulment, went to confession the other day and the Priest said that he could not hear her confession because of her marriage situation. He also said that she could not participate in any of the Sacraments. I am at a bit of a loss as to what to tell her. Any thoughts or information out there that may help? thanks


The priest would be sinning himself if he absolves her knowing she is in a irregular marriage. So he just did his job.

I would kindly let her know that the Church has said that while God has given us sacraments, he, himself, is not bound by those sacraments. As long as she begins the process of annulment and draws close to God then graces will be given. She will eventually return to the sacraments, but it takes some time. Unfortunately that’s the consequence of marrying outside the Church.


She and her current husband need to make an appointment with the pastor and discuss a way forward. Living in continence. they could resume the sacraments. They should discuss the way forward such as seeking decrees of nullity for their prior marriages.

Their pastor can help them, but approaching him in confession without intending to rectify the situation puts the pastor in the position of having to refuse absolution. Approaching him in a different setting, in a scheduled meeting, gives him the opportunity to discuss all the avenues open to the couple to return to the sacraments.


Before you bring this possibility of a ‘pastoral solution’ (i.e., living “in continence”, also known as “living as brother and sister”), keep in mind that this isn’t “automatic” or a “right” that they can claim. Rather, their pastor has to propose it, and even then, only if he believes that it’s an appropriate solution to offer. (I just don’t want you to go to them with this, as if it’s something that’s offered to every couple in every situation, and then be disappointed if their pastor doesn’t offer it as a solution.)

This is important, too. It’s not as if “Fr So-and-so hates us”; it’s that, in this situation, he had to refuse absolution.

I’ll keep your sister-in-law and her husband in my prayers!

Also, correct me if I am wrong, an annulment deals with an invalid marriage. If the previous marriage was valid there is no annulment. That’s a case where Christ commands us to be faithful to our first and true spouse for life. Repentance isn’t saying sorry and going on the same. It is turning away from sin. So if the previous marriage was valid, the current marriage is a sin. There isn’t a way to ignore the past and just keep sinning. That would be liscentious.

Is that right?

Well, it’s not that the current marriage is itself a “sin”. It’s invalid, of course. The adulterous relationship is the sin.

However, the pope’s recent encyclical (“Amoris Laetitia”) discussed the possibility of situations in which some divorced & remarried people who are in difficult situations (for instance, situations in which the well-being of children is involved) might find a pastoral solution which will allow them to return to the sacraments. However, the question remains unclear and unresolved at this point in time.

Let me see if I understand this correctly - your sister-in-law divorced your brother, but then remarried him after he divorced another wife? I am confused about the details.

Wouldn’t that be similar as to a homosexual pastor? He can’t practice homosexuality and shepherd the church. They may be identified as married in court, but unless they are living celibate as brother and sister they are in an adulterous marriage. I knew a family in a different church where this must have been something like what they did. They had a son together and her first husband was still living. They had separate twin sized beds in separate rooms and did not practice conjugal intimacy.


Amoris Laetitia was not promulgated as an encyclical. It is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

I probably did a poor job in describing the situation, sorry. My Wife’s sister was previously married to husband #1 and then he divorced her. She then remarried to husband #2. Husband #2 is in the same situation as my wife’s sister. i hope this helps.

:rolleyes: Thanks for the correction. Posting at 11:30 at night, though, I went with “encyclical”. :wink: