Yesterday word spread rapidly online that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had supposedly rejected the draft, approved by over three-fourths of the German Catholic bishops, which provided for reception of Communion in individual cases by the non-Catholic spouse in a mixed marriage. Seven German bishops, led by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, had sent an appeal to Rome to intervene and prevent the permission foreseen in the proposed guidelines. Yesterday’s story got headlines especially because Pope Francis was said to have approved the action by the CDF restricting the German bishops’ action.
Today the spokesman of the German bishops’ conference, Matthias Kopp, announced in Bonn:
Reports that the guidelines have been rejected in the Vatican by the Holy Father or dicaseries [of the Roman curia] are false.
Rather, Pope Francis has suggested a conversation with Cardinal Marx, president of the bishops’ conference, on the topic in Rome. According to sources in the Vatican, Cardinal Woelki would presumably also participation in the conversation. Cardinal Marx welcomes the pope’s invitation, Kopp emphasized.
Kopp explained that the members of the bishops’ conference had until Easter to propose revisions to the guidelines, the draft of which had been approved by over three-fourths of the bishops at their most recent meeting. Their suggestions have been worked into the document. The final version is to be determined by Cardinal Marx, Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer who is president of the doctrinal commission, and Bishop Gerhard Feige of Mageburg, who is president of the ecumenical commission.
Cardinal Marx is to report on the matter to the standing committee of the conference at the regular meeting this coming Monday. Marx did not send the document approved of by the conference to the Vatican, since it was not yet a finalized text.
At the present time there are about 20 guidelines of national bishops’ conferences around the world on the reception of Communion by non-Catholic partners. These have all been acknowledged in Rome in the last 20 years.
The discussion in German is of interest to the wider Church on several levels. It involves issues of ecumenism, Pope Francis’s views on church reform, and subsidiarity, according to which not all decisions are made at the highest level in the Church but are increasingly decided at local and regional levels.