German bishops ask Vatican for clarity on Holy Communion

Can Protestant spouses receive the Eucharist?

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne. (Credit: Botulph via Wikipedia CC)

Seven German bishops have written to the Vatican, asking for clarification on the question of Protestant spouses of Catholics receiving Holy Communion.

The letter was sent to Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Archbishop Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The signatories, among them the Archbishop of Cologne and five Bavarian bishops, did not beforehand consult with the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

In a written statement provided to CNA Deutsch, the Archdiocese of Cologne stated that the letter, dated March 22, 2018, seeks clarification as to whether the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses in interdenominational marriages can be decided on the level of a national bishops’ conference, or if rather, “a decision of the Universal Church” is required in the matter.

“From the view of the signatories, the goal in a question of such centrality to the Faith and the unity of the Church must be to avoid separate national paths and arrive at a globally unified, workable solution by way of an ecumenical dialogue,” the April 4 statement explained.

The request for clarification from Rome follows a February announcement that the German bishops’ conference will publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics “in individual cases” and “under certain conditions” to receive Holy Communion, provided they “affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist.”

The announcement was made “after intensive debate” at the conclusion of the general assembly of the German bishops’ conference, held Feb. 19 – 22.

It would appear that the debate did not achieve clarity for the signatories, namely Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, as well as Bishops Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt, Stefan Oster of Passau and Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg – and Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz.

How the Vatican will answer to the letter is now the decisive question; sources in Rome have told CNA Deutsch that a response is being formulated.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.


  1. I suspect some, if not many, mixed marriage couples receive Communion in Catholic Churches without asking ‘permission’. Perhaps some couples both receive in a Protestant Church.
    I suspect the Vatican will tip-toe around this.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Verrrry Innteresting!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t believe the German bishops actually have Catholic faith. If they did, they wouldn’t be proposing as many dumb ideas that are contrary to the faith as they have over the past few years.

    If a non-Catholic spouse wants Communion, why not be received into full communion with the Church? Is that so hard? Why wouldn’t the German bishops propose genuine communion before reception of Communion?

    Because they think the Church is just a human structure with malleable principles. They don’t have Catholic faith. They don’t believe in the divine origin of the Church.

  4. Faithful and True says:

    And we pray the Vatican response is not vague!

  5. Lou Varini says:

    For the definitive answer, all that needs to be consulted are the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the worthiness and proper disposition for the legitimate and worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist, and the benefits of the Sanctifying Grace which comes with it.

    Any other manner would be desecrating the physocal presence of Jesus himself.

  6. Henrietta says:

    As a Catholic in a “mixed marriage” I can see pros and cons with respect to this issue. I suspect many Protestants would receive the Holy Eucharist in the Catholic Church and yet continue to hold to their Protestant beliefs about communion. However, their are some, like my husband – an Episcopalean, whose views on the Eucharist are identical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

    • Lou Varini says:

      Receiving the Eucharist in an unworthy manner, particularly by a person who is not capable is a desecration of the physical presence of Jesus. There is a way for non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist. It is called RCIA. Once completed, all of the Sacraments of the Universal Catholic Church are available.

  7. Linda Maria says:

    This is so hypocritical! A spouse interested to receive Holy Communion, should go see the priest, take private instruction, or join the RCIA program, and go through it– and properly join the Catholic Church! Is that so hard?? And they should join, only if they HONESTLY want to be Catholic! NOT because they want to socially do some religious devotions together, in a church, as a married couple! Reception of Holy Communion is a holy Sacrament, for which a sincere PRACTICING CATHOLIC must be well-prepared– the Sacrament of Penance is also essential, to the Sacrament of Holy Communion!!! WAKE UP, German prelates!!

  8. Under this Pope anything goes. Who are we to judge? We will just have to Keep the Faith in the perifery if we want to have it available for future generations to rebuild the Church. That is why everthing any of us little people can do to preserve the pre-Reformed Church teaching is so valuable. In these revolutionary times each one of us does make a difference. Make it count.

    • Lou Varini says:

      Maybe the German bishops who are asking for clarity skipped their classes on the Catechism and Canon Law when they wefe training for priestly formation in the seminary. Either that, or the Catholic seminaries in Germany do not require Catechics or Canon Law courses as a prerequisite for ordination.

  9. Over 60 years ago, no Catholic, especially a Bishop, would’ve thought to ask “Can Protestant spouses receive the Eucharist?” Such a question would reveal a profound lack of catechesis. Back then, everyone knew what Protestant meant — in protest – i.e., NOT IN COMMUNION WITH — Christ and His True Church. The question, back in more sane times, answered itself.

  10. The issue at hand isn’t the affirmation of transubstantiation but the communion of the person with the Catholic Church. I’ve never understood the view of some non-Catholics that they have a right to Holy Communion. This attitude is both disrespectful and arrogant.

    Catholicism allows Catholics under some conditions to receive Holy Communion in an Orthodox Church. But I would never avail myself of this if I knew that the Orthodox parish was against my receiving. I simply can’t fathom me holding the Orthodox in such contempt so as to disrespect them.

  11. Lou Varini says:

    Read this:

    It willl clarify the true foundations of author.

    • Anonymous says:

      Which author?

      • Lou Varini says:

        Go to the link and read it. It was the collective statement of all participants. The most noteworthy were Cardinals Burke and Brandmueller, as well as Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

        • Anonymous says:

          According to Church MIlitant, it is a declaration by the lay participants.
          And I don’t think No 1 is Catholic teaching.
          It is very poorly written.

  12. Why would any Protestant take Communion in any church with whom they seriously disagreed on church doctrine? Or a Catholic in a church not in communion with it? Taking Communion in any church just to please ones spouse or another person would be putting that person before God, which is just another form of idolatry.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 §4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844…

      • I agree. That is exactly what I meant, but If a Protestant does not believe in the real presence (transubstatiation), they should not be taking Communion in a Catholic church as that is dishonest. I never took Communion in the Catholic Church until I was thoroughly convinced of the Catholic teaching, and that it was the true church. Otherwise one is not in communion. I can understand the exceptional cases because those church truly believe in the real prensence and are only in schism, not heresy..

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