Munich, Germany, Apr 19, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The German bishops’ conference has denied reports that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has rejected its planned proposal to publish guidelines permitting non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some limited circumstances.
“Reports that the Vatican, whether the Holy Father or dicasteries, has rejected the handout are false,” conference spokesman Matthias Kopp said April 19.
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 concerned a draft version of the guidelines, which were adopted “after intenstive debate” during a Feb. 19-22 general assembly of the German bishops’ conference under the leadership of Cardinal Marx, who is the conference chairman.
In his statement on Thursday, Kopp Cardinal Marx will inform his fellow bishops on the matter of the guidelines at an April 23 meeting.
The Archbishop of Munich and Freising has been invited to Rome by Pope Francis to discuss the problem. Several sources claim that Cardinal Rainier Woelki of Cologne, who has asked for clarification on the draft guidelines from the Vatican, has been invited as well.
It was reported yesterday 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.
“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.”