Canadian Jesuit Archbp. Prendergast comments on crazy German bishops’ scheme

There are two kinds of Jesuits, and Ottawa’s Archbp. Terrence Prendergast is one of them.

He recently said some things that make a lot of sense about the nonsensical German bishops and their deeply dopey move towards Communion for non-Catholics and about fellow Jesuit Pope Francis and his decision to let them figure it out on their own. Check out the site of Ottawa’s Catholic weekly HERE.

Even a consensus among German Catholic bishops allowing intercommunion with Protestants cannot change Catholic teaching, says a Canadian archbishop.  [A “consensus” doesn’t make something that’s wrong into something that’s right.]

“Even more important is the challenge to remain faithful to Catholic doctrine and not to propose practices that undermine the faith, and the need to foster loyalty and communion with the universal Church,” said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, of Ottawa in an interview. [In a way, the Germans would be splitting off from the rest of the Church.] “It is puzzling to learn that the Holy Father told the bishops that whatever they determine is acceptable as long as they all agree.”

A majority of German bishops would like to offer communion to Protestant spouses of Catholics under some circumstances. A minority disagrees. After a meeting May 3 at the Vatican of representatives of both sides of the debate, the prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith told them Pope Francis wanted the German bishops to find consensus on the matter.  [When We are Pope, We will immediately remove from office any bishop would would even whisper such a thing.]

Dutch Cardinal Willem Eijk, [May God bless him….] Archbishop of Utrecht, in an open letter May 5, urged the Pope to provide clarity, explaining both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law do not permit intercommunion with Protestants.

“Pope Francis is right when he says that not every theological debate needs to be settled by authoritative interventions of the papal magisterium,” Prendergast said. “And Cardinal Eijk is right when he says that the question of intercommunion is a doctrinal matter that cannot be settled by an isolated decision of a national conference of bishops.”

“This is, in fact, a classical situation of discerning between things that are changeable — or possible — and others that are not,” the Jesuit archbishop said. “It seems clear by now that many bishops and Catholics in the world consider ill-advised and doctrinally impossible what a number of bishops in Germany have proposed.”

The intercommunion debate reaches the limit on pastoral diversity, he said.

Receiving the Eucharist is intrinsically linked to the faith, my personal faith and the faith of the community to which I belong,” Prendergast said. “What the majority of bishops in Germany proposes means that a person who does not belong to the Catholic Church routinely, perhaps every Sunday, receives the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.

“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.”

[NB] The archbishop said he cannot ignore the German intercommunion debate because “the church is a close-knit network” and people of Ottawa are asking about it.  [It sounds as if the German bishops are causing scandal.]

“Catholics in Canada generally know that receiving communion requires belonging to the Church, among other things,” he said. “This discipline is well-known and widely appreciated in our parishes.”  [A 7 year-old should know this!]

The intercommunion debate offers an opportunity for Catholics in Canada to reconsider their own Eucharistic practices, he said, noting often Catholics who come to church after years of not attending receive communion “as a matter of course.”  [This is important.  I often write back to people who are really frustrated, especially to priests, that every time one of these controversies pop up – which is pretty often right now – we have an opportunity to stand in the pulpit with a copy of a good catechism and teach and explain the TRUTH.]

More needs to be taught concerning the benefits of attending Mass without receiving communion as well as what it means “to be properly disposed and in the state of grace,” the archbishop said. [YES YES YES!] “I feel we need to invest more in receiving the sacraments worthily and fruitfully. This is true for the Eucharist, but also for Baptism and Confirmation.”

“Formalism and cultural routine alone will not cut it,” he said. “Receiving communion has to make a difference in our lives, and be meaningful. Otherwise we are deceiving ourselves, and as pastors we are deceiving others.

“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.”

On a personal note, the Archbishop had some words for Pope Francis as a fellow Jesuit.

“I would say thanks for reminding us that accompanying people through their lives, especially in dark times, is essential for being a priest,” he said. “And thanks for resisting much media hysteria. We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits[Are most Jesuits Catholics?  That’s another question.] — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes. Our spirituality is not for everyone — perhaps hard to say, but so true.

“For me, becoming a bishop was a real change, for then I had to recognize the whole spectrum of theologies, spiritualties, ministries and charisms present in the diocese entrusted to me,” he said. “Through this I came to realize what a great gift doctrine is for the Church, enabling it to be one, holy, and catholic.”

Fr. Z kudos in the extreme.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z KUDOS, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. monstrance says:

    Thank you Fr Z for this post.
    A breath of fresh air.
    Sometimes I think our current Holy Father forgets he’s Pope.
    Maybe a liberal Jesuit just can’t help himself.

    [To be fair to the Pope, I suspect that most Popes have from time to time wanted to forget that they are Popes. I don’t think this is a liberal Jesuit (nearly a tautology) thing.]

  2. Kevin says:

    Without leadership from Rome we are becoming protestants…we are losing the Sacraments! Marriage, the Eucharist….why do I need to go to Confession if anyone and everyone can partake in the Eucharist! The Church is losing it’s universality. Each conference of Bishops will make their own rules…yes, we will soon be just like the protestants. Might need to look for an Eastern Rite…

  3. Ben Kenobi says:

    Wow. Prendergast is very good, has turned out for the March for Life in years past. You would think that I’d be hearing this statement from my own media here and not from an American priest. Thank you Father Z.

  4. tamranthor says:

    I have often wondered precisely what authority a national conference of bishops can lay claim to, in light of the dogma of the Holy Catholic Church. It seems a rather malleable thing, depending upon who wishes wield the authority. My understanding is that a conference of bishops is simply an administrative entity, not a source of doctrine or authority, but I could be very wrong here. Clarity?

  5. Blackfriar says:

    tamranthor, the answer to your question as far as doctrine is concerned is found in the motu proprio Apostolos suos of St Pope John Paul II from 1998:

    “In order that the doctrinal declarations of the conference of bishops referred to in no. 22 of the present letter may constitute authentic magisterium and be published in the name of the conference itself, they must be unanimously approved by the bishops who are members, or receive the recognitio of the Apostolic See if approved in plenary assembly by at least two-thirds of the bishops belonging to the conference and having a deliberative vote.”

    As regards legislative authority, conferences can only issue laws on matters on which they are given authority by the law itself, or by the Holy See, and then the recognitio of the Holy See is required for them to come into effect. The same is true of general executory decrees. The list of matters on which they are given such authority is fairly long, but includes (c 237) erection of an inter-diovesan seminary (c 276-3) the part of the Divine Office permanent Deacons are obliged to recite, (c 284) forms of clerical dress, (c 402) providing support for retired bishops, (c 441) to convoke and arrange a Plenary Council, (c 522) allow the appointment od pastors with a fixed term, (c 1067) norms for marriage preparation, (c 1246) holy days of obligation, (Magnum principium) approval of liturgical translations, and many more.

    All of this is in the general context of canon 753:
    Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops. (My emphasis)

    I hope this clarifies things.

  6. Pingback: THVRSDAY MORNING EDITION – Big Pulpit

  7. TonyO says:

    We Jesuits always have to remember that most Catholics are not Jesuits — a fact we tend to overlook sometimes. Our spirituality is not for everyone — perhaps hard to say, but so true.

    Oh, well said! Sometimes I think our present pope not only forgets that there are different charisms and different roles for different persons in the Church, but he positively rejects the notion. He seems to have the impression that parents and businessmen can operate as if they had taken vows of poverty. Or that we are ALL called to be missionaries to far countries. In his repetition of the meme “the Church is a field hospital” he ignores that it is much more than that, while serving as a field hospital as well: after all you have to FEED the healthy and holy soldiers on their way to smash the gates of Hell, as well as administer to those who have fallen in the battle. (Napoleon: “an army marches on its stomach”; Christ: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him” – after all, the Church includes the Church Militant, the foot-soldiers of Christ.) The Church is also like an Olympic gymnasium, training up super-athletes. (St. Paul: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.”) There are many gifts, but one Spirit. Some are called to be teachers, some not. Some called to be missionaries, some called to stay at home and pray (St. Therese of Lisieux, patron of missions, though she stayed at home and prayed). Franciscans are called especially to the love of poverty, but diocesan priests are called in other ways. We cannot all take vows of celibacy, nor can we all take vows of poverty.

    Pope Francis wanted the German bishops to find consensus on the matter.

    We should pray for the resisting German bishops, that they have the intestinal fortitude to stay the course and persist in the truth. They need our support, just as much as we need them to speak the truth. They must not concede under the pressure of claims that “the pope has demanded that you consent”, as if that’s what “consensus” really means.

  8. Kevin says:

    My issue with the various Bishop Conferences is we will have the Germans allowing Communion for protestant spouses…we have the Bishops from Malta allowing communion for irregular marriages. Each conference is allowing variations…we will soon have multiple Catholic denominations (like the protestants). The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is breaking up…prayers, fasting, and repentance is needed. We are in danger.

  9. Kevin says:

    And I just found an article by Archbishop Chaput on First Things.

  10. vetusta ecclesia says:

    The German church and its fellow travellers are in de facto schism. Let’s get it out in the open so that the orthodox Catholics can get on without worrying about these wreckers.

Comments are closed.