"To insert a falsehood into the most solemn moment of one's encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist -- to say by one's actions,'I am in communion with this community' when one is demonstrably not in communion with that community -- is a lie, and thus a serious offense before God."
Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht was critical of the pope's request that the German bishops come to a consensus. Writing in the National Catholic Register May 5, Eijk said Pope Francis' response was "completely incomprehensible," as the doctrine of the Eucharist has not changed and cannot change, even with unanimity among a bishops' conference.
"The practice of the Catholic Church, based on her faith, is not determined and does not change statistically when a majority of an episcopal conference votes in favor of it, not even if unanimously," wrote Eijk.
Instead, Eijk says that he thinks Pope Francis should have been more direct to the German episcopal conference, and should have instead given them "clear directives, based on the clear doctrine and practice of the Church."
Eijk's comments were echoed by Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who said May 23 at the Catholic Register it was "puzzling" that Pope Francis instructed Germany's bishops to come to a unanimous decision on the issue.
"This kind of open communion is against Catholic teaching and from what I can see in non-Catholic congregations that follow a discipline of 'open communion,' it is also spiritually and pastorally unfruitful," said Prendergast.
He noted that people in his local Church have already been asking about the German proposal.
Prendergast believes there should be more teaching on the benefit of attending Mass without receiving the Eucharist, as well as what it means "to be properly disposed and in the state of grace."
"We need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation," Prendergast added.
"In Holy Communion we receive the Lord, and so, to receiving worthily, we need to be fully open to Him and connected to His Church, visibly and invisibly, institutionally and internally. That and nothing less is Catholic teaching."
As a fellow Jesuit, Archbishop Prendergast also spoke to Pope Francis, thanking him "for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest."
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"We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits - a fact we tend to overlook sometimes," he added. "Our spirituality is not for everyone … For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualities, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me. Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic."
The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if "some other grave necessity urges it," Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants "who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed."