Receiving Communion


If a couple married in the Coptic Orthodox Church gets a civil divorce but do not remarry and remain chaste, can they continue to receive communion?

Thanks for any help provided.


  • I think this all depends on their relationship with their father of confession. Confession/Repentance is also a mystery that is as important as Communion.
  • It also depends on why the got divorced because usually in the Coptic Orthodox Church we really don't have divorce yet there are two acception a to this rule so if it is by those two acception then I Believe they can continue to take communion
  •'s not as simple as that. Every marriage case is unique and has a very specific way of dealing with it, so there will always be different results as to what happened to both parties in relation to participating in the church sacraments (meaning communion, confession and marriage)
  • Thanks for the replies minatasgeel and bmoaanes2. The couple in queston are civilly divorced which is not acknowledged by the Coptic Orthodox Church so in the eyes of the Church they are still married. One spouse filed for divorce because the other spouse developed a drinking and drug addiction and has become physically and mentally abusive to the spouse and children.

    The spouse that filed for civil divorce is under the impression, I don't know if she is right or wrong, that she can no longer receive communion. She has not entered into another relationship and has no plans to do so. My understanding is that she would really only have committed a sin if she had entered into another relationship and would thus be committing adultery. Since she has not done so I believe she can at present time continue to receive communion.

  • @quinas...i have heard of similar cases before. This may be called a "separation" i guess for the lack of a better word. yes, it may not look like she has not done a sin, but we cannot justify this by our own judgement. I recommend, and I do hope you push for this if you really care about that person, that she talks to a priest about this, specifically her father of confession. He will guide her on what is sinful and what is not, and what should be done now. 
  • One of the issues with these kind of situations is that the parties seem to lack contact with spiritual fathers in the Church. She needs to be with a constant relationship with the priest at all times with much much patience. Otherwise, it becomes this cycle of not trusting and knowing who the person is, and not being able to come back into communion.
  • Thanks for the feedback everyone. I will let her know that she needs to see her priest and keep him abreast of all that is going on.

    Thanks again.
  • if someone is having this degree of physical and emotional distress, but still does not talk to her father of confession, then something has gone wrong somewhere.
    the confession father should have been involved from the beginning of the troubles, helping to advise both people how to get help, and helping to advise the couple how to involve social services, police etc. when necessary. i know the priests in my church give very good advise in these situations.
    i hope and pray this can be sorted out with a priest to give the right advice.

    i do know someone in the coptic church who is civilly divorced. i did not ask why, i don't know the person well enough and it happened before i joined my current church. but i did meet the spouse (who did not look like an axe murderer and who comes to church occasionally) and this person i know takes holy communion regularly.
  • No one seems to be addressing the 800 pound screaming maniac gorilla in the room causing havoc. The OP's original question was can someone receive communion after a civil divorce. Minatasgeel's answer is absolutely correct that it will have to be addressed as a case by case basis. But we can take this opportunity to explore what the Church teaches generally and why or why not people refuse to see the deeper problem.

    The main issue that people seem to neglect is that divorce is a sin. In Malachi 2:16, God says, "For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”  Divorcing a spouse is acting treacherously and therefore it is a sin. It makes no sense to correct a sin with another sin. Thus, if a spouse develops a drinking or drug addiction and it destroys the family, divorce by definition is retaliating sin with sin. This is definitely not how God wanted it, nor how we are to behave as children of God, nor how we reflect the image of God in us. When the Pharisees wanted to test Jesus to see if he would justify divorce "FOR ANY REASON", he clearly stated that is not how God created man, that is not the image of God, who is a united Trinity, not divorced persons.

    Thus, while we all have complete empathy for someone who is abused and morally agree that one who abuses must be dealt with, we can never allow divorce to be the answer. Yet, the trend in the past few years is that we ignore what the gospel says about divorce and what the Orthodox Church has taught for hundreds of years and seek to "reform" the Church's view on divorce. And if not outrightly trying to reform the Church's view on divorce, some are proactively claiming a victim of severe abuse who has divorced (civilly or ecclesiastically) should be exempt from Church canons against divorce. Why? Is there any theologically sound or patristically developed or scripturally based evidence to support any ecclesial "reform" of the divorce? Or have we all simply yielded to the generationally accepted, irrational influence of our times? It's no surprise that people in Egypt have sued the Church for not remarrying a divorcee. (This is the nature of sin. Read St Athanasius' On the Incarnation.)

    The real problem here is not the spouse who falls to alcohol or drug addiction (or any other abusive habits). That needs to be addressed somehow, but the answer is NEVER divorce. If a child does the same destructive actions as the divorced abusive spouse - take drug addiction as an example - does it make any sense for that child's father to run to civil court and emancipate himself from his child? Does the child not remain this father's child regardless of the abuse he put on his father and regardless if he has been granted emancipation? Why are people nonchalant about divorcing a spouse while likely condemning a father who emancipates himself from his child? 

    If the Church grants an ecclesial divorce based on the one exception Christ Himself allowed, it is not a sin in the same sense. Yet, divorce is still hated by God. It is still a corruption of the image of Triune God.  Even the spouse who had the favorable judgment for divorce by the Church is never the same. Divorce never resolved anyone of anything, especially spiritually.  As Malachi said, divorce "covers one's garment with violence." 

    Why are so many people running to the courts to get civil divorce, unrepentant of divorcing and expecting to take the sacraments if they do not have polygamous/extra-marital affair? Think about it for a moment. Is this any different from an unrepentant murderer who does not murder children but expects to receive the sacraments? No. Yet, no one would ever condone or believe the latter is justified to have the sacraments unconditionally. 

    I know some will say that if I am not married, I cannot talk. And if I am married and not suffering from completely destructive abuse that brought on divorce, I cannot talk.  But Christ did suffer that abuse and much more. He suffered to the point that everyone despised Him and we all hid our faces from Him. (Isa 53:3). Yet, what does it say about this abuse? "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him". (Isa 53:10) This doesn't mean anyone should endure suffering or destructive behavior. Our God is the King of Peace and he grants us peace. He is not the God of abuse. Anyone who endures abuse should find a solution that pleases God.  That forbearance of evil behavior becomes an offering to the Lord. In the end, the one who suffers will justify many (Isa 53:11). Can anyone say the same about divorce?
  • edited June 2016
    From what I understand the Coptic Church "officially" grants divorce on two conditions: infidelity and a spouse who apostatizes. The latter condition is not found in any scriptural condition, but by pastoral concerns. I think we should not underestimate pastoral concerns in these situations, and I believe this has been historically acknowledged as such, even when divorce is, as you correctly put it, "covers one's garment with violence" even when justified. And yet like war, it has become a necessary evil for a few conditions historically.

    And like war, even when justified, penance could be necessary for healing before partaking in the Eucharist. But again, this requires one to remain diligent and patient in one's relationship with one's spiritual father.
  • edited June 2016
    Thanks for your comments Mina. I did not know that the Church allows two condition. I am glad to be corrected. I must rely that the Synod knows more and is guided by the Holy Spirit to allow for conditions that are not scripturally based. 

     However, I'd like to comment on "pastoral concerns". Pastoral concerns falls under the umbrella of canons. Church canons are specifically worded to express how the pastoral process works. Canons are the expressions of pastoral concerns. So when the Church sees some wrong action, it expresses its pastoral authority by creating a canon. Take for example, canons on drinking alcohol. These canons are worded so that if anyone is committing a wrong behavior, the church tells us what is to be done and what is the punishment for those who refuse to stop behaving sinfully (although I don't like the word punishment). There are 5 types of "punishment" and excommunication is the least used. Prohibition from the sacraments is used most frequently. The punishment usually differs for people who commit the wrong behavior and clergy who commit the wrong behavior. 

    The problem we now face is that people are divorcing (pun intended) canons from pastoral care. There is a trend to believe that pastoral care (often from the clergy) outweighs the enforcement of canons. Unfortunately, such inappropriate theological belief from the clergy has led to the laity seeking "pastoral care" of their problems and self-medicating with civil divorce (or turning a blind eye to the canons and to their sinful behavior). In essence, we no longer view the canons in any authority, nor are we viewing the priesthood with any authority but seeking to "fix" the problem with the sin of divorce. Then these same people insist that the Church unconditionally allows remarriage or partaking of the sacraments without repentance. 

    "Pastoral care" is now a widely used neologism that has become synonymous with "The Church needs to reform rigid rules FOR ANY REASON that I personally don't agree with". (Anyone reading this should recognize that these are the same evil words and same evil attitude the Pharisees used in an attempt to trap Jesus against the Mosaic law.) Divorce is the prime example for the belief that bending the rules is for a greater good, all the while ignoring the fact that divorce is a sin that leads to other sins.
  • edited June 2016
    I also heard of cases of "annulment" (a word I am very much against and has no theological basis except from a Latin influence) where a spouse was not honest about themselves in some manner and therefore, the "victim" can be considered as never having been married (whereas the guilty party is not to be remarried). But if you ask me, sometimes these "annulment" cases happen after there has been considerable relations, maybe even children involved, to the point where I would think the spiritual damage is just as bad as "divorce" (dare I say, this should also be called "divorce"). This is all in the Coptic Church. I personally feel some "reform" in this silliness is justified.

    I would say generally that yes, there is room for abuse with "pastoral care". And this is because people feel "entitled" to the holy mysteries of the Church. Such feelings of entitlement (I.e. Pride) is the prime reason for excommunication more than anything. What ends up happening is people who rarely set foot in church while being married, and the priest barely knows them, may get a divorce, and then expect any average priest (in fact even demand it) to give them a pass for the Eucharist and remarriage. That is the problem. And yet one can find those loose priests out there unfortunately. Sometimes the abuse of pastoral care can also come in the form of libel to the opposing party, demonizing him/her just to get your own person a pass, with no concept of fair trials.

    The important point is though is regardless of the reason for divorce, one needs time for penance, which requires constant relationship with a spiritual father.

    The controversy in Egypt is in fault partially because of the people who really want a secular marriage separate from the Church, and that's a problem of jurisprudence, because essentially what ends up happening is some people end up Muslim just to get a divorce and remarry, and that is painful for the church. In other countries where one is granted divorce and marriage in a secular setting, the Church can deal with these people on an individual basis. Pretty much the whole purpose is trying to bring the person back into repentance, where the feelings of entitlement is taken away and acknowledging of wrongdoing if possible is presented and understood. I think that is an important way to move forward for the sake of healing, and the only way one can know this is not by mere words, but also by spiritual relationships that the priest may maintain with the people involved.

  • Remnkemi, thanks for your responses. I understand what you are saying but getting a civil divorce is not an ecclesiastical matter. If you were to get married civilly, it wouldn't be considered a sacramental marriage. The person in question is seeking a civil divorce to protect herself in the secular society. If she doesn't enter into another relationship and remains open to a possible reconciliation in the future with her spouse how is she committing a sin? She is not entering into adultery. I understand that we are not supposed to give up on our spouses. She has been married for ten years, 9 of which she has been trying to help him while she was getting beaten and trying to keep her family from becoming homeless. The final straw was when the husband started abusing the children. I just found out that the priest had been involved in the beginning and the bishop even visited their home a few times. The husband has not changed or shown remorse.

    So my question is where does the responsibility of being a spouse begin and end versus the responsibility of being a parent?
    And would just moving out and not getting a divorce be any better?
  • 1 Cor 7:10-11 To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) - and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
  • in the uk, we have something called 'separation' which is when married people separate their bank accounts (etc.) and live apart while they decide whether to divorce or reconcile. in some cases it is a good idea.
    but we really can't tell your friend what to do from across the world via the internet and without corresponding with everyone involved (wife, husband, kids, bishop, priests, social worker etc.) 
    it is a difficult and very sad case. may God guide your friend and show her how she can serve Him in His church and in her family.
  • Quinas,
    I am a little confused at what you are trying to say. What do you mean that "the person in question is seeking a civil divorce to protect herself in the secular society"? What is she in danger of in the secular society? What does civil divorce accomplish that has protected her from the secular society? All a civil divorce does is grant legal separation of a contract. It doesn't do anything else? If the danger she may face is anything non-legal, then a civil divorce is useless and she may be more protected by other means that does not involve divorce at all. 

    A civil divorce will not prevent a physical abuser from beating her or her children. Nor will it prevent poverty and homelessness. They are all connected but you are implying a cause and effect relationship: This husband's mental state is progressively deteriorating because he remains in this marriage and that civil divorce will free this wife and her children from him while she physically relocates away from him. Neither reason is valid. The husband's mental state and increased abuse may continue or progress after a civil divorce. Physically relocating herself and the children will only free them from this husband contractually, not physically (unless there is a restraining order of some sort). Divorce does not negate parental privileges over the children. Even if the wife was granted full custody, it doesn't free her and her children from the psychological, spiritual, and emotional attachments to this husband. 

    Without any real benefits of a civil divorce, what are the negative effects? First and foremost, as I was trying to say earlier, we condone sin. We justify the sin of divorce based on ethical and circumstantial considerations. We forget that image of God we are ALL created in. We ignore the importance of the Church who cares for the spirituality, psychology, emotional and physical wellbeing of each person equally while we assume legal solutions will fix all our problems at once. We receive division from civil or ecclesial divorce, not absolution or grace. And finally we expect the Church to reform. 

    Every case is difficult and no one knows what the solution is. The scriptures say do not separate, do not divorce, do not sin. Of course, this requires repentance for the marriage to return to its divine state, as minasoliman said. If you suffer persecution as a spouse and you endured it for God, the kingdom of God is yours. The scriptures tell us "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake." No one should be subjected to evil, crime and sin because our God is the King of Peace, not the King of divisions and evil. His subjects must seek peace. Something needs to be done. All we know is that the solution IS NOT divorce. 
  • Thanks for your well wishes mabsoota.
    May God bless you.
  • Remnkemi,
    To clarify, the civil divorce separates her assets from his. It makes sure that the money she is earning to support herself and her children are not wasted on alcohol or drugs. It ensures that the debts he accumulates aren't her responsibility. 
    Regarding the fact that civil divorce doesn't negate parental privileges, in this instance, the father has been barred from seeing the children. The police and school have gotten involved on more than one occasion because of the bruises and injuries that the children have suffered.
    Yes the scripture tells us that "blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake" but is it fare for the mother to assume that persecution for her children. If she was assuming it for herself than I could see that as a heroic act but not when she is assuming it for herself and her children. What would Christ say to the father for the harm he is causing his children? Or to the mother for not protecting them? Can you imagine what harm is done to them that will effect them for the rest of their lives? Jesus said " if anyone causes one of these little ones - those who believe in me - to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the see" (Matt 18:6). While the father is not telling his children to not believe in Christ, what example is he setting? He goes to mass one day a week but then beats up his family the rest of the week.
    And to reiterate, the wife is not looking to enter into a new relationship nor is she closing the door to future reconciliation. She is looking to protect herself and her children.
  • @quinas,
    As long as the person in question is doing all this under obediance to a father of confession, communion is without a doubt permitted.
    If it was done without the obediance to a confessional father, then explaining the later will most certainly be understandable and will be permitted to partake of communion.
    Though this isn't the point of the conversation, the church (to my surprise) does not value the civil contract as something that binds the couple. The couple, are theoretically still married in the church to my understanding, as long as they have not been given formal approval of the divorce by those in charge of the marriage (church). Though, that's what I was told by the clergy, I have trouble believing it ;).
  • Divorce is not allowed except in the case of adultery, annulment due to bigamy, orother extreme circumstances; which must be reviewed by a special council of Bishops.
    The Coptic Orthodox Church does not have and does not mind any civil law of the land as long as it does not interfere with the Church's sacraments.

    The husband had a drinking and drug problem and was physically abusive, so I'm wondering if that is enough reason for a council of Bishops to review her case in which the Church can agree to a divorce?
  • The main question here was regarding having communion. If you haven't made a mistake, it is between you and God. Then do not let the evil one distance you from this blessing using your conscience.

    The problem is not about getting a divorce, the church doesn't care if you separate from your spouse...they only have a problem if you have a new partner. Separating is not a sin, it is sometimes absolutely necessary. People find it very difficult afterwards to obtain necessary documentation from the church to approve the separation / divorce and documents are only needed if you were the victim and trying to be issued permission to remarry.

    Everyone is sinning on so many levels yet everyone is fixated on sex and sexuality only. What about child abuse? Do people think it is okay to approach communion after beating the hell out of their helpless children? Yeah, all the time. Yet it is child abuse.

    I hope you find peace in your separation and cling on to God, not to people's words.
  • Additional edit:

    Clergy have to be very careful about what advice they can say. Even if a priest was involved in the issue from the very beginning, they will never come out and say "I advice that you separate / get a divorce". Church also has politics
  • I just found out that the priest had been involved in the beginning and the bishop even visited their home a few times. The husband has not changed or shown remorse.

    So my question is where does the responsibility of being a spouse begin and end versus the responsibility of being a parent?
    And would just moving out and not getting a divorce be any better?
      Quote quinas

       The question here is about the responsibilities of being a husband and father and whether separating or divorce is a better option?
     Firstly, the woman involved has being a very strong woman in the Lord and put up with a lot of abuse which included their children for nine of the ten years they have been married.
     Secondly, before we can receive communion we have to be reconciled with anyone (peaceful) who hold things against us or if we hold something against them. If not, we can't have communion.
      The key word here is not part of me but the part of God that draws us to Him. That is reconciliation. Both law and church seek this. From the message I get from the quote is that he has not changed or shown any remorse for his actions. So the question here is: Is he able to reconcile with his wife. I am not close enough to know and I would certainly leave it with a preist, but for nine years of abuse when is enough going to be enough?
      I remember in the bible a verse about if one spouse is sinful and the other righteous then the righteous one saves the sinful one in the eyes of the Lord. The how long can the woman hold out and be resilient and not succumb and be pulled into sin with him, as you were saying mnc_hnn that sin is at so many levels?

          From what I have rea, the man has ceased to use his conscience, even by the righteous words of God and that he needs our help to pray for him. Or that he can either go to drug and alcohol abuse clinics or anger management to sort himself out. If he can't then he needs to be in control and at such times he won't consider help as the devil has filled him with pride. I pray God shows him what is important in his life that he becomes humble, but showing no remorse means he doesn't care about consequences and therefore bishops or priests could decide consequences for him for the safety (spiritual as well) of his family.

       I pray God brings peace to this family.

  • Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon this man.
  • To look at this with a practical point of view, it might be a financial decision whether she opts for a divorce. With an uncooperative partner, obtaining a divorce can help the court demand that the partner pays child support etc. If they continue to be married, any joint bank accounts, mortgages etc etc can be taken away by the offending partner, especially where substance misuse is an issue.

    As the father seems to have also abused the children, if they are below a certain age, the father can be prevented from having unsupervised visitations with them.

    Of course when it comes to communion, it is about conscience. It is not about the politics of what your relationship status is on paper.
  • Everything you are all saying is correct. But I think we are missing the bigger picture here. A father who abuses his children, even if he has been prevented from having unsupervised visits, is still his father. Child services and child court cannot take away his fatherhood/parental status. They can limit or completely exclude any contact with the children. They can even acknowledge voluntary surrender of parental rights. They can even try to force surrender of parental rights but they cannot make the biological father a non-father. And even if civil courts could legally remove a person's family status (which no state, national or local sovereignty has even tried to the best of my knowledge), there is a natural law that can't be tampered with. That natural law says that no matter how evil a father is, he will always be a father. Some may argue that moral behavior triumphs over natural law (i.e., a good person who acts like a father is more of a father than an evil abusive biological father). There is some legitimacy to this argument. But moral behavior (and civil laws) cannot remove natural law. Ever. 

    The only way one can remove natural law is natural death. Look at Romans 7:2-3, "For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him.B)" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28094B" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;"> So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress.C)" data-cr="#cen-NIV-28095C" style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;"> But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man."

    The same is true for marriage. Once you are married, you enter a spiritual, legal AND natural covenant. Civil divorce may absolve you from all legal covenants (such as joint bank accounts, child custody, etc), but it will not absolve the spiritual and natural law. Divorce does not absolve you from sin because it is sin. The law cannot absolve you from sin. The law defined sin (Romans 6). Sin cannot absolve you from sin because that is not the nature of sin (On the Incarnation by St Athanasius). Only death can release a natural and spiritual covenant. And the only way you can die is through (1) natural death or (2) Christ's death and his sacraments. If #1 occurred to the abusive husband, then there is no longer any legal, spiritual or natural covenant. If the victimized spouse does #2, and this can only occur through reconciliation and forgiveness, then you don't need a civil or ecclesial divorce (and you prevent more sin).

    Quinas, I understand you are upset at the particular situation that you have first hand knowledge of. However much we want to justify divorce because of the abusive husband's behavior, it is not scripturally, ecclesiastically or spiritually supported. A civil divorce may be necessary for the safety of the children, but divorce is still a sin and a divorcee is still bound to the spouse spiritually and naturally.

    Suppose the abusive husband you spoke about repents and no longer abuses his children. Suppose he wants to reconcile (and you said the wife is amicable to reconciliation). Does the wife have to repent of anything?

    That is the crux of my argument.
  • Hi Remnkemi,
    In the verse you quoted Malachi 2:16    For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one's garment with violence,"Says the Lord of Hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously."   I like this chapter by the way. In this verse, God is rebuking the priests who are not acting in one accord with the people. God is saying that the priests are like a husband whom they are committing adultery with the people (the wife) and that God hates divorce, so, because the priests have a hard heart they are divorcing themselves and so breaking God's covenant.
      Jesus has the new covenant by which we are a bride and seek more to join the bride is different than the old covenant in which the Jews served, where they are already married and do not seek anyone else to be a Jew that is where we may disagree.

       Consider, Matthew 19:4-6   And He answered and said to them, " Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female," and said "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh"? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.
      Here we have God creating a covenant for the man and woman that has permanence. But just as in Malachi 2:16 the husband broke this covenant by their choice (which is worldly) and causing them to have a hard heart. Those priests were divorcing themselves by their hard hearts. Instead of obeying God they became worldly and what God joined together, they (man) separated.            

       The marriage convenant is one of trust and so the Jews, considering the law, were governed by rights. But when Jesus says "let no man separate." He is saying I have put a trust in you that you will not separate but be warned that by your own heart you will divorce Me.

        As I mentioned before,  Divorce is not allowed except in the case of adultery, annulment due to bigamy, or other extreme circumstances; which must be reviewed by a special council of Bishops.
      Would not this be an extreme circumstance where the man has divorced himself already by his hard heart in showing no remorse? The man has made the choice to go back to his former self (before he was married) in his heart.


       Having said that, I do not agree with divorce either and am glad that the woman holds hope in her husband and that he gets counselling, but stay away from the family, unless supervised, and that he returns to the former good self in God.

       "Do this in remembrance of Me." May God give remembrance of his former good self in reading the bible, for by his memory he can start again and find his love and this communion will once again be established. 
  • The Sacrament of Matrimony is unnecessary for eternal salvation and so there is more scope in which we can deal with problems.
  • May You my Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on our brother and husband of a faithful wife whom seeks help for him and keep her strong in hope.
    Forgive me also if I have spoken with undue hast without wisdom.
    Lord have mercy
    Lord have mercy
    Lord have mercy
    Lorder bless us Amen
    Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen
Sign In or Register to comment.