Q Can a Catholic who was not married in the Church, receive Holy Communion? If not, why? (please provide citations)
A. Catholics who were not married in the Church may not receive Communion.
First in order for a Catholic to be in a valid sacramental marriage there are four requirements:
“Just as individual states have certain requirements for civil marriage (e.g., a marriage license, blood tests), the Catholic Church also has requirements before Catholics can be considered validly married in the eyes of the Church. A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority. (Source: United States Catholic Bishops Conference)
Further the Church requires that the marriage take place in a Catholic Church. This is because the Sacrament of Marriage is a communal celebration. Permission can be given, in certain circumstances for the marriage to be Celebrated in another suitable place with the permission of the Ordinary. Cannon Law States:
Can. 1118 §1. A marriage between Catholics or between a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party is to be celebrated in a parish church. It can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor.
In other words if one of the spouses is a baptized Catholic, a marriage celebrated outside of the Catholic Church is not valid unless permission from the local bishop was received.
There is a remedy. Marriages can be validated by the Church. The process entails marriage preparation (as set by the diocese) and the celebration of the Rite of Marriage witnessed by a priest or deacon.
Until the marriage is validated, the marriage is not recognized by the Church.
Second to be eligible to receive Holy Communion, one must be in a state of grace. That is one must not have committed a mortal sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” 218 Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.
Can. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.
A mortal or grave sin severs our relationship with God. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of communion, of unity. When we commit a mortal sin we are no longer in union with God or the Body of Christ, the Church. Mortal sin or grave matter is defined by the Ten Commandments. (CCC # 1858: http://www.kofc.org/un/catechism/search.action ).
Sex outside of the Sacrament of Marriage is a grave sin against the sixth commandment: “you shall not commit adultery.” It is a serious offense against chastity. The Church calls sex outside of marriage fornication. The Catechism states:
2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.
Therefore if one is in a marriage that is not recognized in the Catholic Church, reception of Holy Communion is prohibited until the marriage is validated.