When yesterday finally publishing their controversial intercommunion guidelines, the German bishops also published eight documents related to the discussion with Rome about this text. Among them is the first letter written by the Chief of Doctrine, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, which was sent early on in the conflict, on 10 April 2018, as a response to the letter of the seven opposing German bishops.
The existence of this 10 April letter sent by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had first been reported on 19 April by the Austrian Catholic website Kath.net. OnePeterFive subsequently also picked up on this story and the letter which indicated that Pope Francis wishes that the German bishops do not yet publish their contested pastoral handout allowing some Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive, in individual cases, Holy Communion on a regular basis. (This first letter was later followed by a second letter sent by the CDF, dated 25 May.)
At the time, the German Bishops’ Conference did not seem to be very happy about the leaked information concerning this temporarily restrictive letter from Rome. In an official press release dated 19 April, the German bishops claim that “Reports according to which the [intercommunion] handout has been rejected in the Vatican by the Holy Father or some dicasteries, are false.” [emphasis added]
How does this sentence go together with the content of that very letter that has now been published by the German bishops themselves, even though it is expressedly called “stricly confidential”? In that CDF letter, which is signed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria, it is stated that, upon receipt of the 22 March letter of the seven opposing German bishops asking Rome for help, several Roman dicasteries had come together in order to “discuss the delicate question” and in order to prepare proposals for a future procedure of how to deal with this conflict. “On 6 April, 2018, Pope Francis has been amply informed about the whole topic,” explains Ladaria. Here now comes the decisive paragraph:
During that audience [with the Pope], the Holy Father has made it clear that he does not consider it fitting that this above-mentioned document [the intercommunion handout] now be published. [emphasis added]
We leave it up to our readers as to whether the German bishops’ own press release and denial of that letter is in accord with the content of that letter as it has now been published. As Kath.net states today in its own report on this newly published letter: “At least one can diagnose a clear attempt, on the side of the German Bishops’ Conference, at limiting the damage.”
The 10 April letter continues, inviting several German bishops – among them Cardinal Reinhard Marx (Munich) and Cardinal Rainer Woelki (Cologne) – to come to Rome for a meeting at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That meeting then took place on 3 May.
It has been very hard – and effectively impossible for more than two months now – to obtain a copy of that 10 April letter. Thus, we are glad to finally know its content, which of course indicates that the Pope was, as it seems, not so much opposed to the pastoral handout as such, but, rather, to the timing and “maturity” of the publication date.
Now, at the end of June, it seems that Pope Francis approves of its publication after all, as can be seen in the notice that Cardinal Marx wrote on 12 June, after meeting the Pope on 11 June, during the gathering of the Council of Nine Cardinals in Rome, according to the Rome Correspondent Edward Pentin. That notice summed up the conversation of these two men and was signed by Cardinal Marx and then counter-signed (with an “F” and a date) and thereby approved by Pope Francis himself. (We reported about that 12 June note here.) That note clearly states that the Pope now gives approval of the publication of the German intercommunion handout, for he said: “Since the text of the German bishops’ conference shall be an orientation guide for individual bishops, it may also be made public for the use of the bishops.” The term “handout” thereby was replaced with “orientation guide.”
As the German bishops’ news website Katholisch.de writes today, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg), one of the members of the Permanent Council that decided to publish the German intercommunion guide, said that this decision was made unanimously, that is to say, with the approval of the originally seven opposing bishops. However, Voderholzer also insists that it is now up to Rome to clarify what really is meant with the words “grave emergency situation,” in which non-Catholic Christians may, under certain conditions, receive Holy Communion. He also sees “a great insecurity” over the question as to what are the required elements of the Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist as a precondition for the reception of the Holy Eucharist on the part of non-Catholic Christians.
As a first Protestant response to the publication of that pastoral guide, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has now made a statement in which it insists that this is “only half of the way,” pointing to the fact that “the Catholic brothers and sisters” can “not (yet) accept the invitation” to receive the Protestant last supper. It is, therefore, clear, that the Protestants now expect from the German bishops a more general move toward full intercommunion.
In light of these increasing equivocations and disloyalties toward the doctrine and the reality of the Holy Eucharist as now promoted by the German bishops, it might be worth considering what Cardinal Gerhard Müller has stated just one day before the publication of the German orientation guide. In an interview with Catholic World Report, the German prelate made some stringent and incisive comments about the situation in Germany. We shall now quote Cardinal Müller’s words here, at length, at the end of our report:
One group of German bishops, with their president [i.e., of the German Bishops’ Conference] in the lead, see themselves as trendsetters of the Catholic Church on the march into modernity. They consider the secularization and de-Christianization of Europe as an irreversible development. For this reason the New Evangelization—the program of John Paul II and Benedict XVI—is in their view a battle against the objective course of history, resembling Don Quixote’s battle against the windmills. They are seeking for the Church a niche where it can survive in peace. Therefore all the doctrines of the faith that are opposed to the “mainstream,” the societal consensus, must be reformed.
One consequence of this is the demand for Holy Communion even for people without the Catholic faith and also for those Catholics who are not in a state of sanctifying grace. Also on the agenda are: a blessing for homosexual couples, intercommunion with Protestants, relativizing the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, the introduction of viri probati and with it the abolition of priestly celibacy, approval for sexual relations before and outside of marriage. These are their goals, and to reach them they are willing to accept even the division of the bishops’ conference.
The faithful who take Catholic doctrine seriously are branded as conservative and pushed out of the Church, and exposed to the defamation campaign of the liberal and anti-Catholic media.
To many bishops, the truth of revelation and of the Catholic profession of faith is just one more variable in intra-ecclesial power politics. Some of them cite individual agreements with Pope Francis and think that his statements in interviews with journalists and public figures who are far from Catholic offer justification even for “watering down” defined, infallible truths of the faith (= dogmas). All told, we are dealing with a blatant process of Protestantizing.
Ecumenism, in contrast, has as its goal the full unity of all Christians, which is already sacramentally realized in the Catholic Church. The worldliness of the episcopate and clergy in the 16th century was the cause of the division of Christianity, which is diametrically opposed to the will of Christ, the founder of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The disease of that era is now supposedly the medicine with which the division is to be overcome. The ignorance of the Catholic faith at that time was catastrophic, especially among the bishops and popes, who devoted themselves more to politics and power than to witnessing to the truth of Christ.
Today, for many people, being accepted by the media is more important than the truth, for which we must also suffer. Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom for Christ in Rome, the center of power in their day. They were not celebrated by the rulers of this world as heroes, but rather mocked like Christ on the Cross. We must never forget the martyrological dimension of the Petrine ministry and of the episcopal office.