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Pope Francis rejects German bishops’ plan to give Holy Communion to Protestants: report

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Matthew Cullinan Hoffman Follow Matthew

April 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis confirmed a decision by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith rejecting a plan by the German bishops to give Holy Communion to the Protestant spouses of Catholics, according to the Austrian Catholic news service, Kath.net.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Congregation, according to information available to kath.net, has rejected the pastoral assistance of the German Bishops' Conference with express papal approval,” the news agency reported. “Kath.net has learned this from well-informed Vatican sources.”

The “pastoral assistance” offered by the German Episcopal Conference was a guide for priests to use in discerning whether they should allow the Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion. The guide claimed that Protestants could be given communion to end a state of “serious spiritual distress” and to fulfill a “yearning for the Eucharist” after a “deep discernment in a spiritual conversation with the priest or another pastoral worker.”

The guide was approved in February by a majority vote by German bishops but was condemned nationally and internationally as a threat to the Catholic Church’s doctrine regarding the Eucharist.  

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called the reasoning contained in the guide a “rhetorical trick” that undermines the unity of the faith. “Christ did not institute the Magisterium in order to initiate processes which lead into confusion,” said Müller.

In response, seven German bishops asked the Holy See to intervene and to rule on the case, in a letter that was published by the German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Edward Pentin, the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register, tweeted Wednesday that he received confirmation that a response has been sent to the German bishops by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but did not confirm that the bishops’ guide had been struck down.

If the Kath.com report is correct, Pope Francis may finally have decided to give clarity to the question of Protestants receiving communion in Catholic Churches, an issue that has arisen repeatedly during his pontificate and about which he appears to have been ambivalent.

In 2015, a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic asked Pope Francis in a public audience about the possibility of receiving Holy Communion with her husband. The pope gave an uncertain answer, advising her to “Always refer back to your baptism: ‘One faith, one baptism, one Lord.’ This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and go forward.”

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