A group of local priests from the German Archdiocese of Paderborn published a statement yesterday critiquing their archbishop’s recent decision to implement the controversial German bishops’ intercommunion guide that now permits Protestant spouses of Catholics, in individual cases, to receive Holy Communion on a regular basis. The priestly group, going under the name Communio veritatis, calls the decision by by Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker of Paderborn “unacceptable.”
As the Austrian Catholic news service Kath.net reports today, Communio veritatisnow quotes in its new document certain statements of doctrine and discipline, stemming from Church documents, and then comments on them. First, they state that “In order to be able to receive Holy Communion, one has to be a full member of the Catholic Church and one has to be in the state of Grace” (CCC 291). Additionally if one denies one or several aspects with regard to the Sacraments, one loses the disposition to receive them on a regular basis (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II, 46). The priestly group then comments on this matter with regard to Protestant Christians, as follows: “It is part of the essence of Protestantism not to share the full Catholic belief in the Holy Eucharist.”
With reference to the recent remarks made by Cardinal Walter Brandmüller concerning the matter of canon 844 §4 CIC, which speaks about moments of “grave necessity” where non-Catholic Christians may receive Holy Communion, the priests say that “no diocesan bishop may declare the situation in a mixed marriage to be a grave emergency situation, in order to make possible the intercommunion.” As Brandmüller explained, these emergency situations relate to “extreme situations, such as war, deportations, and natural catastrophes,” the priests add.
As one important aspect of this canon, the priests stress that it states a non-Catholic Christian may receive help from a Catholic priest under the condition that a minister of one’s own church “cannot be found.” (This finding is, of course, in Germany always the case, where there are many Protestant churches.)
Furthermore, the Paderborn priests point out that, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the receiver of Holy Communion has to be free of serious sin. Therefore, the priests say, “a Protestant in a true emergency situation would first have to be led to the Sacrament of Penance.”
As a last point, the priestly group insists that, “with regard to eternal salvation, there exists, in rather few exceptional cases, the possibility to admit individual non-Catholic Christians to the Sacrament of Penance, of Extreme Unction, and of the Holy Eucharist.” For this to occur, the priests explain, the above-mentioned conditions first have to be met. “It is the duty of each person loyally to observe them.” (see Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, 56)
In conclusion, the priestly group states: “The circle of priests Communio veritatis remains determined to serve Jesus Christ loyally in everything, also, accordingly, the continuous Magisterium of the Catholic Church – for the salvation of souls.”
Communio veritatis was first formed in February 2018 and it has placed itself under the patronage of Pope John Paul II. It wishes to be a network of priests of the region of Paderborn in order to give mutual support and seek the possibility for an exchange of thoughts in a difficult historical situation. At the beginning, Communio veritatis had ten priests as members, but other priests from the Diocese of Paderborn later have shown interest in joining them. Pastor Frank Unterhalt of Brilon is now the leader of this group.