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German bishops’ guidelines allow Communion for Protestant spouses in ‘certain circumstances’

Cardinal Reinhard Marx (AP)

German bishops say they have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of a guide that tells Protestant spouses they may receive Communion under certain conditions.

The bishops agreed that a Protestant spouse of a Catholic may receive Holy Communion after making a “serious examination of conscience” with a priest or other person with pastoral responsibilities. They must also “affirm the faith of the Catholic Church”, and wish to end “serious spiritual distress” and a “longing to satisfy hunger for the Eucharist”.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx said there had been an “intense debate” on the subject, during which “serious concerns” had been raised. However, he added that the bishops had not given general approval, and that the guide referred to specific situations. “We don’t want to change any doctrine,” he said.

According to Canon Law:

If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.” (Canon 844 §4)

Cardinal Marx also said the document did not specifically call for the Protestant receiving Communion to convert to Catholicism, adding that much is left to the local bishop’s discretion.