Dhe dispute between the Vatican and the churches in Germany over ecumenical hospitality at the Lord’s Supper continues. The FAZ has received a new paper from the “Ecumenical Working Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians” (ÖAK), in which the committee insists that the faithful may in future participate in the Lord’s Supper of the other denominations on the basis of a decision of conscience. The Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Cardinal Ladaria, warned the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) urgently against such a step in September. The DBK chairman, Bishop Georg Bätzing from Limburg, is the board of the ÖAK.
Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen based in Hanover.
“Doctrinal comments” were attached to the letter from Cardinal Ladaria, which essentially accuse the ÖAK of representing a Protestant concept of theology and church and of dissolving the unity of the Eucharist, church and ministry. The ÖAK certifies these “doctrinal remarks” from Rome on 26 pages for their part as serious theological deficits. The letter states that the Vatican’s criticism is “not easy to recognize in substance and thrust because of the tortuous train of thought, the many assumptions (‘actually’) and dazzling comparatives (‘rather’). The theologians of the ÖAK are particularly critical of Rome’s assertion that there was a uniform form of the Eucharist in early Christianity and that “unity” with regard to church, ministry and Lord’s Supper was “the criterion of origins”.
The ÖAK considers it historically and exegetically indisputable that such a normative basic form never existed. In addition, with such an assertion, the church’s magisterium was confronted with new problems. “The not infrequently uncritical idea of continuous development confronts Roman Catholic hermeneutics in particular with immense intellectual challenges,” says the paper. The ÖAK considers the criticism from Rome to be inaccurate and methodologically questionable in many other places.
How to proceed in the debate about the Lord’s Supper is currently being discussed. The faith commission of the DBK meets from Friday to this Saturday. The bishops have proposed to continue the clarification process within the Roman Catholic Church and to stay in close contact with the Vatican. Specifically, an internal expert conference with representatives of Protestant and Orthodox churches as well as an international conference in Rome are planned.
There is also a need for clarification on the Protestant side
The Protestant Church should be informed about the progress of the inner-Catholic consultations and it should be pointed out that there is also a considerable need for clarification on the Protestant side. Particular attention is paid to divergent views in the Lutheran, Uniate and Reformed churches on the ordination of the pastors who lead the sacrament celebrations.
The sharp intervention of the Vatican last September was also due to the fact that mutual hospitality at the Last Supper was to be practiced in a public manner during the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt in 2021. The first ÖAK paper was also formulated in response to this campaign. In the meantime, however, the Ecumenical Church Congress has been switched to a purely digital and greatly reduced program due to the pandemic. This means that the Catholic Church in particular is no longer under pressure to have to position itself quickly on this matter.