Seven German bishops, led by Cardinal Rainer Woelki, have asked the Vatican to rule on proposals to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion.
According to draft guidelines approved by the German Bishops’ Conference in February, Protestant spouses may receive Communion after making a “serious examination of conscience”, and must also “affirm the faith of the Catholic Church”, and wish to end “serious spiritual distress” and a “longing to satisfy hunger for the Eucharist”.
Despite assurances from conference president Cardinal Reinhard Marx that there is no attempt to alter Church doctrine, the proposal has deeply divided the German hierarchy.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, denounced the move as a “rhetorical trick” and said the conditions mentioned in the draft document could never be met while staying faithful to Church teaching.
Now seven bishops have asked his successor, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, to intervene. In a three-page letter published in Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger they say the German Bishops’ Conference is in danger of exceeding its competence and ask the Vatican’s help. The letter is also addressed to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Vatican’s ecumenical council.
In addition to Cardinal Woelki, the letter is also signed by Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, and bishops Konrad Zdarsa (Augsburg), Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Wolfgang Ipolt (Görlitz), Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg) and Stefan Oster (Passau).
Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger says Cardinal Marx issued a reply rejecting the bishops’ concerns and saying that the proposal is only a draft and no doctrine would change.