Image: Copyright EWTN / Paul Badde
Yesterday, 3 May, there took place in Rome the much-anticipated meeting between some six German bishops (and their secretary) and four representatives of the Vatican in order to discuss the 20 February German decision to admit, in individual cases, Protestant spouses of Catholics to Holy Communion. The meeting lasted for three-and-a-half hours, and it took place in the building of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), with its prefect, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, as well as Cardinal Kurt Koch being present (next to two other priests). The outcome, however – as it seems – was nothing.
Among the German participants were, on the one side, Cardinal Reinhard Marx (of Munich), the President of the German Bishops’ Conference and, on the other side, Cardinal Rainer Woelki (of Cologne), one of the seven German bishops who had written to the Vatican a letter with four dubia with regard to the recent new German pastoral guidelines as approved by a two-thirds majority of the German bishops.
These are the crucial four new dubia as presented in March to both the CDF, as well as to Cardinal Koch (head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) and to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts:
1. Is the document presented here a “pastoral handout” — as asserted by some German bishops — and thus merely a pastoral question, or is the faith and unity of the Church fundamentally called for, rather than the determinations made here?
2. Does Article 58 of the document not relativize the faith of the Church, according to which the Church of Jesus Christ is realized in the Catholic Church (subsists) and it is therefore necessary that an Evangelical Christian who shares the Catholic faith with regard to the Eucharist should in which case also become Catholic?
3. According to nos. 283 to 293, it is not primarily the longing for Eucharistic grace that becomes the criterion for [serious spiritual] distress, but rather the common reception of Communion of spouses belonging to different confessions. In our opinion, this distress is none other than which belongs ecumenism as a whole, that is, of every Christian who seriously strives for unity. In our view, therefore, it is not an exceptional criterion.
4. Is it at all possible for a single national episcopal conference, in one particular linguistic region, to make an isolated decision concerning such a question about the faith and practice of the whole Church, without reference and integration into the universal Church?
As can be seen, these four dubia pose very fundamental questions which touch upon deep doctrinal matters – such as ecclesiology and the Church’s sacramental order – and which have still needed a clear doctrinal answer for the sake of the preservation of the Catholic Faith and its discipline.
As we ourselves had raised, the admittance of Protestant spouses to Holy Communion without their conversion also puts in question the Church’s teaching on the need to be in the state of sanctifying grace in order to receive Holy Communion which, when lost, can then be gained back by sincerely going to the Sacrament of Penance.
What did Pope Francis now do with regard to this German dispute? He said, essentially, but not verbatim: “See for yourself.” “I shall not answer, in a doctrinal and decisive manner, these dubia.” Thus he handles this matter in the same manner as he did with regard to Amoris Laetitia and the five dubia of the four Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Joachim Meisner, Carlo Caffarra, and Raymond Burke.
In the conversation which was held in German, Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer explained that Pope Francis affirmed the ecumenical commitment of the German bishops and asked them to find a possibly unanimous agreement in the spirit of ecclesial communion. Various aspects of the discussion were addressed: the rapport between the question of faith and pastoral care, its relevance in the ecclesiastical world, and its juridical dimension. Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer will inform the Holy Father on the content of the conversation. The meeting took place in a warm and fraternal manner. [emphasis added]
When will this papal equivocation and evasion stop?