Dear Dr. Dana,
A friend of mine and his girlfriend decided to civilly wed. I often saw them attend mass and receive Holy Communion. I was kind of bothered because we know that Catholics believe that people not married in the church are considered not yet married in the eyes of God. Thus, technically, my friend and his wife are living in sin and thus, do not deserve to receive Holy Communion, am I right?
I’d like to talk to my friend about this matter. But I don’t want to appear judgmental or too righteous. Please advise me on the right way to do this.
The teaching of the Church is quite simple on this situation. The Church regards marriage as a serious commitment, so serious in fact, that we call it a sacrament. Only with the blessing of this sacrament are a man and woman to live together as husband and wife, in particular, to partake of the act of sexual intercourse.
If your two friends are refraining from having sexual intercourse until they get their marriage blessed by the Church, then it is permissible to continue receiving Holy Communion. It is a little difficult for me to say too much more without knowing more about the situation. It is important not to judge a situation unless you are in command of all the facts. Sometimes, these facts can be difficult to find and if so, the prudent thing can be not to speak if there is danger of hurting someone by doing so.
On the other hand, it is our responsibility to speak the truth if our conscience is leading us to do so. That is something only you can decide. Depending on the level of friendship you have with this guy, you might be able to have a conversation that will bring you around to the topic you wish to discuss in a non-threatening way. Try also to show your friend that you are raising the question out of love and concern for them. I suggest that you move slowly and carefully so as not to destroy your friendship.
True friendship shows itself in these sorts of difficult situations. I will pray for you that the Holy Spirit will lead you to do the right thing and He will give the words for you to speak if that is what you choose to do.
Very truly yours,
Dr. Dana R. Sesante