Pope throws out proposal for intercommunion with Protestants

Pope Francis has rejected a proposal for intercommunion with Protestants. | Pixabay/lininha_bs

Pope Francis has recently rejected a proposal to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion in certain circumstances.

The German Bishops Conference announced back in February that it will start allowing Protestant spouses to receive the Eucharist in individual cases.

The proposal stated that a Protestant spouse may receive communion following a "serious examination" of conscience and the affirmation of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the bishops' conference, said at the time that the Protestant spouses will not be required to convert to Catholicism.

Several bishops have written a letter to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in March to ask for clarification on the issue.

On May 3, a meeting between Vatican and German delegates was called in Rome to discuss whether the issue of intercommunion for non-Catholic spouses can be decided by the Vatican or at the local level.

The pope had reportedly instructed the German bishops to come to a "unanimous" decision, but in late May, the Vatican appeared to have rejected the proposal.

In a May 25 letter addressed to Marx, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, S.J., prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reportedly asked the bishops to refrain from publishing the document that allowed intercommunion for non-Catholics.

Ladaria had explained that the document "raises a number of issues" and that the pope had concluded that it was "not ready to be published."

The archbishop cited three reasons for rejecting the proposal. "The question of admitting evangelical Christians in interfaith marriages to Communion is a topic which touches on the faith of the Church and has relevance for the universal Church," the first reason stated, according to Life Site News.

"The matter effects ecumenical relations with other Churches (e.g. the Orthodox) and ecclesial communities which should not be underestimated," the archbishop went on to say.

"The decision effects the interpretation of Church law, specifically canon 844, that allows Protestant Communion only in cases of 'grave necessity' [imminent death]," the final reason stated.

Canon 844 states that only Catholic ministers are allowed to administer the sacraments to Catholics. However, it also allows intercommunion in cases of "a great spiritual need."

To receive the Eucharist, non-Catholics are required to seek reception "on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed."

The letter, which was published on the blog of veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister on June 4, was also sent to members of the German delegation who were present during the May 3 meeting in Rome.