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Vatican blocks German bishops’ proposal for intercommunion

June 04, 2018

With the approval of Pope Francis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has instructed the German bishops’ conference not to publish a policy that would have allowed Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion on a regular basis.

Archbishop Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the CDF, wrote on May 25 to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German bishops’ conference, saying that it would be inappropriate for the German bishops to promulgate their proposed policy. The Austrian Catholic web site obtained a copy of the archbishop’s letter.

A majority of the German bishops had endorsed the proposal, which would have allowed Protestant spouses to receive the Eucharist more routinely. (Current Church discipline allows for intercommunion only under unusual circumstances on in cases of “impending grave necessity.”) But a substantial minority had protested and appealed to the Vatican for clarification. After inviting the German bishops to Rome to discuss the issue in May, Pope Francis had urged them to find their own consensus on the question.

In his May 25 latter Archbishop Ladaria (who will be elevated to the college of cardinals later this month) explained that the German bishops should not adopt their own policy because the issue of intercommunion “touches upon the faith of the Church and is relevant for the universal Church.” He observed that the question also has important implications for ecumenical relations. Finally, he reminded the German bishops that the question of intercommunion is addressed in the Code of Canon Law.

Archbishop Ladaria acknowledged that there are differences of opinion on the interpretation of existing canon law, regarding the circumstances when intercommunion may be justified. He said that the Vatican is now studying the question, and a “timely clarification” can be expected. For now, he wrote, it “appears opportune to leave to the diocesan bishop the judgment on the existence of a ‘grave and urgent necessity’” that would allow for a Protestant to receive Communion.

Archbishop Ladaria closed his letter by stressing the desire of Pope Francis that the German bishops would maintain “the spirit of episcopal collegiality.”


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Jun. 05, 2018 5:42 PM ET USA

    Anyone who believes Francis is giving up might be interested in buying that bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 04, 2018 5:17 PM ET USA

    First it was the incompatibility of the homosexual orientation with the ministerial priesthood, then the lack of authority from Christ to ordain women to the ministerial priesthood, and now this. As best I can tell, this new approach to Church discipline and the reconsideration of the implications of certain "concrete" inactions on the part of the Magisterium began on 18 May after the announcement of the resignation of all the active Chilean bishops. Hopefully that date was a watershed moment.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 04, 2018 12:45 PM ET USA

    Archbishop Chaput recently published a bulletproof rebuttal of the German bishops' proposal. I wonder whether he was the one who inspired the Vatican to make the decision? "Archbishop Chaput: German intercommunion proposal threatens Church unity"