ROME – The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reportedly rejected a planned proposal by the German bishops’ conference to publish guidelines permitting non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some limited circumstances.
Austrian news site kath.net has reported that Vatican sources say the CDF, with papal approval, has suspended the German bishops’ proposal, and sources close to the congregation have confirmed this to CNA.
It is not clear 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.
In February, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the German bishops’ 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 was made “after intensive debate” at the conclusion of the general assembly of the German bishops’ conference, which was held Feb. 19 – 22 in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, and attended by 62 members of the bishops’ conference under the leadership of conference chairman Marx.
Last month, seven German bishops sent a letter to the CDF and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity asking for clarification on the matter. The signatories did not consult beforehand with Marx.
The seven bishops 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 signed by Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, 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.
“From the view of the signatories, the goal in a question of such centrality to the Faith and the unity of the Church must be to avoid separate national paths and arrive at a globally unified, workable solution by way of an ecumenical dialogue,” the Archdiocese of Cologne told CNA Deutsch April 4.
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 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.”