Vatican officials announced they and leaders of the German church will discuss the possibility of allowing non-Catholic spouses to receive the Eucharist.
The discussions will be held on Thursday, the Holy See said Monday, according to The Associated Press. The discussions come on the heals of a months-long dispute between the Vatican and the German Bishops’ Conference over clarifying under which circumstances a non-Catholic who is married to a Catholic would be able to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.
The German Bishops’ Conference would publish guidelines for allowing non-Catholic spouses to receive communion “in individual cases” and “under certain conditions” so long as those individuals “affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx said on February 22, according to Crux Now. Seven German bishops went over Marx’s head and sent a letter without his approval to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, asking them to clarify whether the issue should be decided by the universal church instead of a national bishops’ conference. Cardinal Rainer Woelki, who is the Archbishop of Cologne, and Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg were among the seven signatories.
The CDF rejected the plan to publish the guidelines on April 19.
Marx, who is head of the German Bishops’ conference, will attend the May 3 discussion with Vatican officials along Woelki. The German bishops reportedly requested the meeting. The Vatican’s head guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy, Monsignor Luis Ladaria Ferrer, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, who oversees ecumenical issues, will be present as well. Ferrer, like Pope Francis, is a Jesuit.
Should Vatican officials grant “possible access to the Eucharist” for Christian non-Catholic spouses, the looming threat of a church-wide schism caused by the lack of clarification on Francis’ Amoris Laetitia may come to fruition. Theologically conservative Catholics interpreted the document’s teachings on marriage and access to the Eucharist to be a liberal departure from traditional church practice.
The vague nature of some of the statements within the Amoris Laetitia put some diocese at odds with one another, since bishops have interpreted Francis’ teaching in different ways. Some bishops began teaching that those who are divorced or remarried may receive Holy Communion without securing an annulment while others taught that such practice is forbidden — as it has been in the church for centuries. Francis has not addressed demands for clarification and subsequent accusations of heresy except to criticize those who levied the accusations.
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