German bishops ok communion for mixed marriage couples

Some couples in mixed-denomination marriages may receive the Eucharist together, says Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

The dispensation would be decided according to individual cases and under special circumstances.

Marx, who is the German Bishops’ conference president, says after an “intensive debate” during which “serious concerns” had been expressed, a “large majority” of the bishops had voted in favour of the “Orientation Guidelines”

“We will publish the document, which is still open for alterations, in the coming weeks,” Marx says.

Marx says the decision wasn’t an easy one and underlined that the dispensation is not a case of generally allowing mixed-marriage couples to receive Catholic communion.

The new guideline is a “pastoral handout” only, he says.

“We do not want to change dogma” but “to follow a clear-cut (he used the German adjective “profiliert”) path”.

The handout’s purpose is to help priests clarify whether they were dealing with an exception to canon law.

Marx says it is to be understood as a tool for pastoral situations, “to consider the concrete situation and come to a responsible decision about the possibility of the non-Catholic partner to receive Communion.”

This will be decided where “in individual cases, the spiritual hunger for receiving Communion together in interdenominational marriages can be so strong that it could jeopardize the marriage and the faith of the spouse.”

These couples faced a “serious spiritual emergency”, he says.

Reinhard says this applies all the more to spouses who “already want to live out their marriage very consciously” as a Christian couple.

Canon law 844 says Catholic ministers licitly administer the sacraments to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone.

However, 844§4 says in cases of “grave necessity” they can administer the sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

These must be Christians “who cannot approach a minister of their own community”, provided they “manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments”.

Marx says in Germany the percentage of mixed marriages is very high.

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