In Translation: Cardinal Marx’s Response to the Seven Bishops

As Pray Tell reported, seven Catholic bishops in Germany appealed to the Vatican to intervene against the decision of over two-thirds of the bishops in the German bishops’ conference to move forward with a proposal to allow intercommunion in individual cases of mixed marriages. Cardinal Marx wrote the following letter to the seven bishops and sent a copy to all 65 bishops who are members of the conference.

Letter of Response from Cardinal Reinhard Marx on the Topic “Decision of the Full Assembly on the Pastoral Guidelines for Varied-Confession Marriages and Common Participation in the Eucharist”

Your Honorable Excellencies, Dear Brothers,

On March 28, 2018, the letter of the Archbishop of Cologne of March 23, 2018 reached me, in which he informed me – personally/confidentially – of a letter to the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of March 22, 2018.

Despite the thorough and indeed controversial discussion in the full assembly and the decision approved by the overwhelming majority of the members of the bishops conference, there is great doubt among you whether the proposed draft solution in the pastoral guidelines on varied-confession marriages and common participation in the Eucharist is compatible with the faith and unity of the Church, such that you ask the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity “for assistance.” In this your starting point is the draft text which, according to the decision of the full assembly, is still in discussion stage.

On the background points presented in the letter I wish merely to observe:

  1. Contrary to what is described in the letter, it is not that gravis spiritualis necessitasis is presumed in the varied confessions of the marriage, but rather it is explained that, in varied-confession marriages, a serious spiritual need can come about, from the common married life, in individual cases.
  2. It was repeatedly and clearly stated that it indubitably is possible for a national bishops’ conference (and according to CIC canon 844.4, even for a diocesan bishop) to formulate criteria which enable administration of Communion to Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, and also to refer to regulations already existing in other parts of the church.

The full assembly made its decision on the basis of relevant theological and ecumenical texts and regulative possibilities in canon law, and therefore it views the bond with the universal church as clearly in place, especially after the encouragement of Pope Francis to further steps in ecumenism, including in pastoral care. The guidelines carefully implements this wish with the intention of bringing about greater clarity for married people.

Because the letter concerns the decision of the full assembly and was given not only to me, but also to Archbishop Ladaria, Bishop Arrieta, and the Apostolic Nuncio, I consider it advisable to inform all members of the bishops’ conference abut this.

Oremus pro invicem.
With cordial greetings,
Reinhard Cardinal Marx



  1. It seems to me that there is a very large “loose end” in all or most of the discussions of ‘granting/giving the Holy Eucharist to Protestants or Reformed Church members — on occasion or even regularly. No one ever seems to mention the question of ‘true reciprocity’ — the possibility theologically of the Catholic ‘receiving Communion/Eucharist’ in equivalent circumstances in the Lutheran/Protestant or Reformed Church. In the circumstance of ‘Mixed Marriages’ this is a real question — but unmentioned — that comes often forward as a problem, if not cause of simmering dispute.

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