VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican's former doctrine chief is reaffirming the Vatican and Pope Francis' rejection of intercommunion between Catholic and Protestant spouses.
In a First Things article Friday, Cdl. Gerhard Müller slammed the German bishops' proposal to allow non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist.
The past head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Müller restated Church teaching that "only those baptized can receive sacramental Communion who are in full ecclesial communion" with "the Catholic Church and is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, said in the handout that Protestant spouses can receive Holy Communion according to canon 844 in canon law, which allows a non-Catholic to receive Holy Communion in cases of danger of death or "some other grave necessity."
The handout would allow Protestant partners to receive the Eucharist after a "serious examination" of conscience with a priest, an "affirm[ation] of the Catholic [faith]," a desire to end "serious spiritual distress" and a spiritual "longing to satisfy a hunger for the Eucharist."
Müller noted that the trend today is to subordinate theology to "ideology and ecclesiastical politics" within the Church. He discussed that every appointed bishop is labeled either conservative or liberal following his first press conference, usually in reference to "whether he expresses himself 'for or against' the ordination of women, 'for or against' the blessing of homosexual couples, 'for or against' priestly celibacy and 'for or against' Holy Communion for the 'divorced and [civilly] remarried.'"
He next noted how the sacraments are "no longer regarded as the visible signs instituted by Christ and celebrated in the Church, effecting invisible grace in those who are well disposed." But rather they are misconstrued as "psychological and social means of support to facilitate our inner mystical experiences with a 'Christ' that is shaped in our consciousness according to our own image and likeness."
But he reiterated the perennial teaching of the Church regarding reception of Holy Communion:
It has always been clear to every Catholic that to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist in a lawful and fruitful manner, one needs to be in full communion with the ecclesial body of Christ in the profession of the Creed, in the sacraments and in the hierarchical constitution of the visible Church. In addition, believers must be in the state of sanctifying grace — that is, they need to have repented sincerely of any mortal sin and confessed it, firmly resolving not to sin again.
His Eminence clarified that when popes and councils excommunicated heretics and schismatics, they were barred from receiving the Eucharist "until the day they converted and were reconciled with God and the Church."
Müller verified that non-Catholics can "in situations of grave need that bear on their eternal salvation — situations that must not be confused with social or psychological predicaments — ask a Catholic priest for the sacramental forgiveness of their sins and for Holy Communion as a viaticum, that is, as a nourishment for their final journey."
But he distinguished "grave and pressing need" from "de facto sacramental union of the Catholic Church with ecclesial communities that are not in full communion with her." He was clear and adamant that a marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic did not constitute a "grave and pressing need, requiring the administration of the Catholic Church's sacraments to the non-Catholic party for the salvation of his or her soul."
If Protestant Christians have an "inner conviction that in their conscience they affirm the whole Catholic faith and its ecclesial form," then they seek full reconciliation with the Church, according to Cdl. Müller.
Besides Müller, six other German bishops also broke rank with the German bishops' conference this month, asking the Vatican to step in and stop the proposal. The prelates wrote a letter to Müller's successor, Abp. Luis Ladaria, claiming that the conference has overstepped its bounds while pleading for the Vatican's assistance.
But Marx has denied their concerns, saying the bishops "don't want to change any doctrine" while denying the handout is suggesting Protestants can only receive the Eucharist after converting to Catholicism, referred to as "ecumenism of return or conversion."
Cardinal Müller ended his article arguing that the authority of the bishops' conference rests not with "interven[ing] in the substance of the sacraments or tacitly to initiate processes that establish errors and confusion in sacramental practice, thus endangering the salvation of souls."