A letter issued in late May by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith raises concerns about proposals by the German Bishops’ Conference to allow communion for Protestants married to Catholics.
According to Vatican News, Pope Francis wants the German bishops to wait until a plan can be formulated for the entire Church.
Pope Francis on May 3, 2018, met with the German Bishops and asked them to find a “unanimous” solution to the question of Communion of non-Catholic spouses in Catholic-Protestant mixed marriages. In a press release, published on the evening of May 3, 2018, the Holy See reported on a meeting organized in the Vatican, following the controversy sparked by the plan adopted by the Episcopal Conference last February, envisaging access to Communion in certain cases.
In the course of the May 3 discussion, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, pointed out that Pope Francis appreciates the ecumenical engagement of the German Bishops and their question to find, if possible, a unanimous solution in a spirit of ecclesial communion. Different points of view were discussed, for instance, the relation between the question and the faith as well as pastoral care, its importance for the universal Church and its juridical dimension.
In the Congregation’s letter, dated May 25, 2018, and signed by Archbishop Ladaria, three primary reasons are given for taking more time to study the situation:
- The topic of inter-communion marriages is a broad one with relevance for the universal Church.
- The issue has implications for ecumenical relations with other Churches and communities.
- The issue concerns the law of the Church, particularly the interpretation of canon 844 of the Code of Canon Law. (844 discusses administration of sacraments to those not in full communion with the Church during extraordinary circumstances.)
Until enactment of a broader solution, the letter notes that bishops have the authority to consider allowing communion on a case-to-case basis.