[Nonetheless, Cardinal Muller is “without portfolio”; i.e., does not have a diocese (other than his titular one) or Vatican position (other than his honorary cardinatial parish in Rome)! – AQ Tom]

German prelates publicly spar over intercommunion

VATICAN CITY (Church – The impasse over a German proposal to allow Protestants to receive the Eucharist continues.

At Pope Francis’ behest, opposing German factions met May 3 in Rome to resolve the conflict over the intercommunion plan.

On one side was Cdl. Reinhard Marx, head of the German Bishops’ Conference, and his supporters, who together are pushing for the intercommunion scheme. On the other, former Vatican doctrine chief Cdl. Gerhard Müller, who was joined by Cdl. Rainer Woelki of Cologne and Bp. Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg — two of the seven German prelates who in March complained to the Holy See that Marx’s plan is doctrinally flawed.

Both camps came to Rome hopeful that Pope Francis would rule decisively in their favor. Both were disappointed.

After the four-hour meeting, Abp. Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a statement saying the pope had declined to rule on the controversy; instead, Francis was leaving it to the bishops to decide.

The pontiff “appreciates the ecumenical commitment of the German bishops,” Ladaria said and has asked them “to find, in a spirit of ecclesial communion, a unanimous decision, if possible.”

Cdl. Reinhard Marx

Vatican watchers say the pope’s refusal to rule on the crisis reflects his vision of a “decentralized” Church, in which individual bishops and bishops conferences make decisions independent of Rome.

But neither German bloc is satisfied by the approach.

Expecting Francis to back Protestant intercommunion, Cdl. Marx and his backers were stung by the lack of papal pronouncement. According to church analyst Mathias von Gersdorff, “In a way, it amounts to a refusal.” Its message to Marx, he said, is, “You have created a huge problem. Look to yourself to try and get out of it.”

Meanwhile, Cdl. Müller and his supporters were equally dismayed.

Speaking to the National Catholic Register on May 4, Müller lamented the Vatican’s response as “very poor,” as it included “no answer to the central, essential question.”

A crisis is building, he insisted, and it demands a solution — a “clear expression of the Catholic faith.” The pope, he added, must “affirm the faith” concerning its “pillar … the Eucharist.”

“It has always been clear to every Catholic that to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist in a lawful and fruitful manner, one needs to be in full communion with the ecclesial body of Christ in the profession of the Creed, in the sacraments and in the hierarchical constitution of the visible Church,” Müller said in March. “In addition, believers must be in the state of sanctifying grace — that is, they need to have repented sincerely of any mortal sin and confessed it, firmly resolving not to sin again.”

“Anyone who questions this revealed truth in theory or overrides it in practice enters into open contrast with the Catholic faith,” he added.

Cardinal Müller and his allies view Marx’s intercommunion push as an “ecclesiological revolution.”

Catholic identity consists of both sacramental and ecclesial communion, he observes, noting that if this is destroyed, “then the Catholic Church is destroyed.”

“We must resist this,” he warned, adding:

I hope more bishops will raise their voices and do their duty. … Every cardinal has a duty to explain, defend, promote the Catholic faith, not according to personal feelings or the swings of public opinion but by reading the Gospel, the Bible, Holy Scripture, the Church Fathers and to know them. Also the Councils, to study the great theologians of the past and be able to explain and defend the Catholic faith, not with sophistic arguments to please all sides, to be everyone’s darling.

Müller maintains the German bishops are in danger of straying beyond their appointed boundaries, pointing out episcopal conferences can “exceed their competencies.”

“They have no authority to decide matters of faith in such a way that in practical consequence something comes out that is incompatible with belief,” he stresses.

Meanwhile, an inside source told the Register Friday he expects Cdl. Marx to whittle away at the opposition to his plan to secure the unanimous backing it needs to move forward.

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