Six German Roman Catholic cardinals have held talks with other top Church officials at the Vatican about the possibility of allowing non-Catholic Christian spouses to receive communion. Any such move is likely to alarm conservative Catholics who believe Pope Francis is already veering too far from the traditional doctrine.
German cardinals and other prelates met Thursday to discuss possible access to the Eucharist for non-Catholic spouses. The issue is delicate, as conservative Catholics have grown increasingly displeased with the liberal attitudes and stances of Pope Francis during the past five years.
A group of German bishops requested the meeting after a vote in their country’s bishops’ conference last February overwhelmingly approved a proposal for non-Catholic Christians married to Catholics to be allowed to receive Holy Communion, under certain circumstances.
On the eve of the Vatican meeting, one German bishop said, “Enough is enough! The time has come to no longer put off a well-justified decision – even if some people still insist on contradicting it.” Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg said, “Missing a chance like this would be both shameful and macabre!”
In November 2015, at the Lutheran Church in Rome, Pope Francis said the question of Lutherans receiving communion was one for the individual’s conscience. He said non-Catholic Christians share “one baptism, one Lord, one faith.”
At the time, the pope said, “I ask myself: Don’t we have the same baptism? If we have the same baptism, then we must walk together.”
Not all German bishops agree on the way forward. Cardinal Gerhard Mueller has called the proposal a “rhetorical trick,” stressing that interdenominational marriage is “not an emergency situation” and “neither the pope nor the bishops can redefine the sacraments as a means of alleviating mental distress and satisfying spiritual needs.”