German Bishops to Discuss Communion-for-Protestant-Spouses Proposal in Rome
Six German bishops and one priest will meet with Vatican officials, including the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 3.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican confirmed Monday that a delegation of six German bishops and one priest will meet with Vatican officials, including the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith later this week to discuss the issue of the reception of the Eucharist by non-Catholic spouses of Catholics.
The meeting will take place May 3 with Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father Hermann Geissler, head of the department’s doctrinal section.
The German delegation, which includes Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, will also meet with Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Father Markus Graulich, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
The meeting takes place following reports, later denied by the German bishops’ conference, that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had rejected a planned proposal by the conference to publish guidelines permitting non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some limited circumstances.
In February, Cardinal Marx announced that the conference would publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics “in individual cases” and “under certain conditions” to receive Holy Communion, provided they “affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist.”
The announcement concerned a draft version of the guidelines, which were adopted “after intensive debate” during a Feb. 19-22 general assembly of the German bishops’ conference under the leadership of Cardinal Marx, who is the conference chairman.
The German delegation will also include Bishop Felix Genn of Munster, as well as both the president and vice president of the conference’s doctrinal commission, Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer, and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg.
Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg, president of the commission for ecumenism of the German bishops’ conference, and Father Hans Langendorfer, general secretary of the conference, will also take part.
It was reported April 18 by CNA and other media that the CDF had raised objections about the German bishops’ proposal; sources close to the congregation had confirmed this to CNA.
It is unclear whether the Vatican has asked the bishops’ conference to modify the contents of the draft guidelines, whether they have suspended the development of a draft while the matter is considered further, or whether it has been entirely rejected.
Last month, seven German bishops, led by Cardinal Woelki, sent a letter to the CDF and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, asking for clarification on the matter, appending a copy of the drafted guidelines. The signatories did not consult beforehand with Cardinal Marx.
The seven bishops reportedly asked whether the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses in interdenominational marriages can be decided on the level of a national bishops’ conference, or, if rather, “a decision of the Universal Church” is required in the matter.
The letter was also signed by Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstätt, Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz.
The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist and the anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”