Catholic Initiative in Germany invites Protestants to Communion; lay witnesses call it “heresy”
Ecumenism has gone wrong one more time in Germany and has escalated into denial of the truth about the Eucharist: in the German Diocese, Stuttgart-Rottenburg, an initiative by a Catholic theologian has invited Protestants to receive Communion on a large scale.
“Here on sight, we begin with a hospitable Church by inviting each other openly and cordially to Communion and the Celebration of the Last Supper [Abendmahl]” reads the “Ravensburger Manifesto” signed on October 8.
A press communiqué of “Kirche lädt ein” [The Church invites] stated that “[Eucharistic] hospitality between different Christian confessions is already a practice in many liturgical services. But officially the Catholic Church denies Protestant Christians access to Communion.”
In response, theologian Theodor Pindl initiated an event to help foster “hospitality.”
“From Separation to Sharing – Communion [Abendmahl] for all” was the motto of the initiative “Together around the table” in Ravensburg held on October 8.
160 tables spanning over 400 meters were set up between the Catholic and the Protestant Church, and were attended by people celebrating and sharing bread and wine together. About 2000 Christians took part, among them Catholic religious sisters, theologians, and pastoral workers.
It was supposed to be a symbolic gesture. But the “symbol” did not end there: An invitation from Catholic priests to Protestants to take part in Holy Mass and receive the Eucharist was paraded as the main message to overcome the “separation” that had endured since the reformation. Father Hermann Riedle, Catholic priest and pastor of Ravensburg, supported this initative. The organizers explicitly make reference to the fact that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in 2005, had given Holy Communion at the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II to Roger Schütz, the Protestant founder of the Taizé Community.
This ecumenical initiative goes back a few years: The decision for this event was made in 2013 at the so-called ‘Council of Ravensburg’, a Catholic forum for dialogue and ecumenism. Since November 2015, every first Sunday of the month a chain of people has formed to hold up a rope connecting the Catholic and Protestant churches of the city.
What began as a seemingly infantile game turned into horrifying reality. Invitations for Protestants to receive Holy Communion followed.
Spokesman of the group “The Church invites” and Catholic theologian Theodor Pindl wrote in October 2016 about the initiative that “denominational walls must be opened.”
“Participants want to express that the Catholic Church needs to approach the Protestant church. It is still forbidden for Catholics – regardless if married to a Protestant or not – from official Church authorities to participate in the Protestant Last supper celebration, despite the fact that Protestants invite them. And Protestant Christians – also regardless if married to a Catholic or not – are not allowed to receive communion, and cannot be invited.”
Yet for Pindl there remains a chance: “The praxis in many parishes actually looks very different,” commenting on the fact that in many Catholic Churches in Germany, parish priests let Protestants receive the Holy Eucharist.
Pindl points out what in his mind is a considerable problem and explains that it is a “paradox, that the Catholic Church punishes specifically those families who connect denominations, who try to live their faith conscientiously together.”
He calls for “active invitation instead of passive toleration.” Since it was the “welcoming spirit of Christ” that led him to “exclude nobody” from his table.
“The Church is not a prohibited area, but a house of the father.” And despite the prohibition from Canon Law, Catholics have to act differently: “There is nothing in the Gospel which would indicate that we can reserve the table for ourselves alone and to exclude others. […] The key word for this is hospitality.”
An eyewitness known to OnePeterFive, a Catholic lady living in the diocese, took her own a look at the event.
“I followed the tables along the road, and wanted to talk to them. Catholics betray their faith, their Church and the un-negotiable truth of the real presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the consecrated host. They do not want to hear what I say. … They advise me not to be dogmatical, not too conservative, and not so knuckle-headed insistent on truth. … [T]hey turn their heads away from my suffering,” explains the witness in a written account that was shared with OnePeterFive.
“My horrifying realization turned into a feeling of anxiety: What happens when lies win, when you speak truth with a few others and everybody stares at you? … It is frightening because the ecclesiastical heresy has entered an unholy union with society and politics. It is frightening to face a collective group which is unified by irresponsible shepherds under a banner that seems to be the Lord, but is not him but rather an image put together by themselves.”
“I walked away from the people,” added the eyewitness, “and went into His house, where no one sat. While bells rang the angelus and outside a prayer ‘of peace’ was prayed, I prayed the angelus. While outside the band plays music around full tables, I sat next to the high altar with the Most Holy Lord and sang the Tantum ergo in the presence of my Lord” (emphasis in the original).
This initiative is promoted by Catholics of the diocese and no word of criticism has been spoken by Bishop Gebhard Fürst. OnePeterFive has reached out to Bishop Fürst asking him to comment on this scandalous event and on the fact that one of his own priests participates in it. We will update this article, should we receive a response.
UPDATE – 10/14/2017: In response to our inquiry, the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart has provided a statement:
“In principle, the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart welcomes ecumenical initiatives which strengthen the bond between the confessions and which sends a signal for the common social engagement.
When, however, when in the Ravensburg Declaration, there is to be found an “open and heartfelt” invitation “to Communion and to the Celebration of the Last Supper [Abendmahl]” to all without differentiation, then this is not compatible with the different laws of the Church. Also the Evangelical Church in Württemberg assumes in its regulation concerning participation in the Celebration of the Last Supper [Abendmahlsordnung] that, first of all, the invitation is extended to the members of their own church and to those other churches with which there exists an ecclesial communion; and when it accepts a decision of conscience of the members of other churches, it still refers back to the right of its own church. The open invitation to receive the Eucharist may, according to the Catholic understanding, only be extended to those who are in ecclesial communion with the Catholic Church; Protestant Christians (both male and female) may only receive the Eucharist when there exist certain preconditions and only in individual cases. A general invitation for all is not possible.
This ecclesial communion, however, is not being decided in Ravensburg; a single parish may not make such a declaration. It requires the persevering efforts from both sides, prayers, and the call upon the Holy Spirit. Such a decision may only be made on the level of the Universal Church.
The diocesan leadership therefore cannot identify itself with the initiative in Ravensburg.”
Original Statement in German:
“Grundsätzlich begrüßt die Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart ökumenische Aktionen, welche die Verbundenheit zwischen den Konfessionen stärken und ein Signal für das gemeinsame soziale Engagement aussenden.
Wenn in der Ravensburger Erklärung aber alle ohne Unterscheidung “offen und herzlich zu Kommunion und Abendmahl” eingeladen werden, dann ist das nicht mit den Kirchenordnungen kompatibel. Auch die Evangelische Landeskirche in Württemberg geht in ihrer Abendmahlsordnung davon aus, dass zunächst die eigenen Kirchenmitglieder und diejenigen der Kirchen, mit denen eine Kirchengemeinschaft besteht, zum Abendmahl eingeladen sind, und wenn sie eine Gewissensentscheidung der Mitglieder anderer Kirchen ermöglicht, so verweist sie diese doch auf das Recht ihre Kirche. Die offene Einladung zum Empfang der Eucharistie kann nach katholischem Verständnis nur an diejenigen ergehen, die in Kirchengemeinschaft mit der katholischen Kirche stehen; evangelische Christinnen und Christen können nur wenn bestimmte Voraussetzungen vorliegen und nur im Einzelfall die Eucharistie empfangen. Eine allgemeine Einladung an alle ist nicht möglich.
Diese Kirchengemeinschaft wird aber nicht in Ravensburg entschieden, eine einzelne Gemeinde kann eine solche Erklärung nicht abgeben. Sie erfordert das beständige Mühen von beiden Seiten, das Gebet und die Bitte um den Heiligen Geist. Eine solche Entscheidung kann nur auf weltkirchlicher Ebene getroffen werden.
Die Diözesanleitung kann sich deshalb mit der Aktion in Ravensburg nicht identifizieren.”
Dr. Jan Bentz, born in Germany, resides in Rome as philosophy professor and freelance journalist. He holds a doctorate in metaphysics and two masters in Ecumenism and Church art. He has been working for television broadcasting and other media outlets for six years, reporting on the Pope and the Vatican.