Mel Gibson's Faith: How It Affects His New Life

06/01/2009 at 06:45 PM EDT

Mel Gibson's Faith: How It Affects His New Life
Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva
Albert L. Ortega/WireImage; Richard Young/Startraks
Mel Gibson has asked his fellow parishioners at the Holy Family Chapel in Agoura Hills, Calif., not to gossip about him, and recently hasn't been taking Communion.

Recent headlines about the end of his marriage to Robyn Moore, 53, the mother of his seven children, and Gibson's relationship with 39-year-old Russian musician Oksana Grigorieva – who is pregnant with his child – have inevitably raised questions about how the devout star's faith will mesh with his private life. For answers, PEOPLE turned to experts in traditionalist Catholicism, the breakaway group from mainstream Roman Catholicism to which Gibson, 53, has long adhered:

Can Gibson take Communion?
A traditionalist Catholic who is married to one woman but is conducting a romance with another is considered an adulterer, and in violation of one of the Ten Commandments. Until he turns away from that violation by ending the offending activity, and confessing his sin, he would remain ineligible for Communion.

"It would be heartbreaking for Gibson," says a traditionalist Catholic priest who has celebrated Mass at Gibson's chapel but prefers not to be named. "We have sympathy for a person in that situation."

Can Gibson annul his marriage?The Catholic Church grants many annulments. Previously, an annulment was allowed when a marriage was not consummated, when it was forced on one of the parties or when the vows were judged illegitimate for reasons such as mental illness. Today, church tribunals are more lenient and help find ways to keep divorced Catholics hoping to remarry in the fold. But Gibson, who was married in the mainstream Catholic church, has another problem to contend with. He would have to apply to an authority, the Vatican, that doesn't recognize his own congregation. That would make for an awkward request, experts say, but the official church might still decide to consider it.

Can Gibson re-marry in a non-Catholic church?Perhaps, but his own congregation would not likely recognize it as legitimate

Can Gibson marry a non-Catholic? Yes. Before he married, he would need a dispensation from a Catholic bishop to marry someone outside his church. These are often granted.

Can the child of an unmarried couple be baptized in the traditionalist Catholic Church?A child is not considered at fault for the circumstances of his or her birth. The child could be baptized and brought up in the church.


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