Cdl. Müller: Communion Still Closed to Protestants

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by Stephen Wynne  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 1, 2018   

Warns German plan to admit non-Catholic spouses transgresses canon law

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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican's former doctrine chief is denouncing the German bishops' latest novelty — a plan to open Holy Communion to Protestant spouses.

In an interview with Die Tagespost Wednesday, Cdl. Gerhard Müller condemned the action, warning it springs from a faulty interpretation of canon law.

The initiative was announced February 22, when Cdl. Reinhard Marx, head of the German Bishops' Conference, revealed that soon a pastoral document will be issued to allow Protestant spouses to receive the Eucharist. He characterized the move as a solution to a pastoral need; if couples aren't able to receive Communion together and face a "serious spiritual emergency," Marx asserted, this could undermine their marriage, erode their faith and hurt their children.


Germany's bishops argue their liberalization is justified by canon law, pointing to Canon 844, which allows non-Catholics to receive Communion under specific "grave circumstances."

But Cdl. Müller denies this assertion, pointing out the "grave circumstances" spoken of in Canon 844 refers to situations like danger of death. A mixed marriage, he said, falls short of this standard.

"This is not about the satisfaction of mental needs or the consideration of social constraints," the cardinal noted, adding:

If an evangelical Christian in an emergency involving his eternal salvation — in mortal danger — cannot reach his minister, and as an individual person, he can at that moment witness the Catholic faith in the Eucharist and the sacramental nature of the Catholic Church he may, for the sake of his salvation, receive the sacraments: first penance, then Communion. But marriage to a Catholic partner, kinship, or good acquaintance with non-Catholic Christians does not meet the requirements for this emergency, where eternal salvation is at stake.

The German guidelines transgress canon law, which establishes very definite limits on who can receive Communion and when, Müller observed. Danger of death or comparable "grave necessity" is clearly a singular occasion.

They have no authority to decide matters of faith in such a way that in practical consequence something comes out that is incompatible with belief.

The plan of the German bishops goes well beyond this, providing for some kind of stable arrangement — allowing Communion week after week — which violates the provisions of the Church.

If a Protestant spouse professes Catholic belief in the Eucharist — a component of the German plan — then he or she must become Catholic to lawfully receive it.

Germany's Protestants are praising the move. The Evangelical Church in Germany, for example, described it as "an important step on the path of ecumenism."

But suggestions of "ecumenical progress" are false, countered Müller. True ecumenical progress, he said, "would only be achieved if we approached the great goal of Christian unity in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of God."

He also hinted the bishops were in danger of straying beyond their appointed boundaries, pointing out episcopal conferences can "exceed their competencies."

"They have no authority to decide matters of faith in such a way that in practical consequence something comes out that is incompatible with belief," Müller warned.

Marx, meanwhile, insists Germany's bishops "don't want to change any doctrine." Observers note the claim comes three weeks after he suggested that in future, gay relationships could be blessed by the Church.

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