Q. A divorced Catholic who has remarried outside the Church cannot receive Holy Communion without an annulment of the first marriage. Can he or she receive other sacraments – such as the anointing of the sick or a Mass of Christian burial? 

A. A Catholic who is divorced and remarried without an annulment is surely still a member of the Church. In Familiaris Consortio, an apostolic exhortation that he wrote in 1981, St. John Paul II highlighted this truth. He said:

“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. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer ... to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and the practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace” (No. 84).

Specific to your question, the person you ask about may receive the anointing of the sick in danger of death and may have a Catholic funeral Mass and be buried in a Catholic cemetery.

Q. I am the grandmother of two. My son, the father of these grandchildren, no longer practices his faith and is married to a non-Catholic. When I approached our priest and asked him to Baptize our grandchildren, he declined to do so – because my son no longer attends Church and was not married in the Catholic Church. When I told the priest that I have the children two days each week and am willing to instruct them in the faith, he said that was not my responsibility, but their parents’. I cannot believe that God would ever turn a child away from our faith, nor deny them the graces from the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism, especially when there is an adult in their lives who is willing to raise them in the faith. Can you help me understand the Church’s position on this issue? 

A. You are to be commended for your concern for the children’s development in the faith. One thing you haven’t told me, though, is this: Does your son want his children to be Baptized? (Or does he even know that you have asked a priest to do so?)

The Church’s Code of Canon Law provides that for an infant to be Baptized licitly “the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent” (Canon 868).

Now supposing that you are able to get your son to agree, there is still a further issue. That same canon goes on to say that “there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion.” Granted that you have the care of the children two days a week, but where are they on weekends and is your son willing, as the children grow, to take them to Mass?

I suggest that you have a quiet conversation with your son. Tell him of your deep desire that the children be baptized and raised as Catholics and of your willingness to assist with that. If he does not agree, then I think you are best off entrusting the children, with prayer, to the Lord. God, after all, created them out of love and cares about their spiritual welfare as much as you do and even more.

And by the way, the fact that your son was not married in the Church does not restrict his right to have his children Baptized.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at [email protected] and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.