The Süddeutsche Zeitung (“South German Newspaper”), the center-left publication which is the largest German subscription daily, shows a lively interest in things ecclesial.
Today SDZ report on the efforts of Cardinal Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference and member of Pope Francis’s “C9” advisory council, to bring about in this Reformation anniversary year permission in special cases of mixed marriages for Lutherans to receive Communion at Catholic Mass. It was thought that Rome’s approval was already secured – in April Cardinal Walter Kasper said that he expected “concrete progress already in this year.” Kasper is considered to be one of Pope Francis’s favorite theologians.
But despite alleged positive signals from Rome, it seems that the plan will be blockaded in Germany, and by none other than Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Germany’s largest Catholic diocese in Cologne. “Torpedoed,” SDZ writes.
The 68 German Catholic bishops are meeting this evening for a conference meeting, and scheduled to begin their work tomorrow. Their work will take place against the backdrop of an article by Cardinal Woelki in the scholarly journal Herder-Korrespondenz which argues against the plan.
While Woelki is joyful at the mutual respect between Catholics and Lutherans, he argues that ecumenical problems should not be ignored. There is “increasing disagreement in questions of morality and social ethics,” he notes – in bioethics, “marriage for all, the judgment on abortion, euthanasia, or divorce.” One must “speak honestly about fundamental ethical differences between the two confessions,” he says.
It bothers Woelki that the Lutheran Church presents itself as the “church of freedom,” in contrast to a Catholic church that appears non-free and backward-looking. But Luther preached absolute obedience to God, “not the freedom of autonomous self-determination.” Woelki maintains that Martin Luther would have only invited Catholics to the Lord’s Supper when there was a common confession of faith.
SDZ reports that seven German diocesan bishops are said to oppose inviting Lutherans to Communion. Now that Woelki has made himself spokesman of this minority, and since the conference statues require a unanimous vote on questions of doctrine, the ecumenical initiative is seen to have no chance.
But perhaps it won’t matter that much at the parish level. Similar to other countries in the west, most German Catholic pastors do not hold to the Church’s prohibition on intercommunion, according to the SDZ.
See the SDZ report here: “Woelki Will Prevent the Confessions From Converge Too Closely.”