I have received some very helpful feedback on the subject of my previous post.
I would refer readers to the latest post by Jimmy Akin, a correspondent with the National Catholic Register, on his blog. Among other things he writes:
As a Catholic News Service story suggests, the German bishops have tried to frame the issue without reference to money and instead frame it in terms of Catholic identity:Akin also addresses the issue of manifest grave sin:
"There must be consequences for people who distance themselves from the church by a public act," said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, conference president, in defending the Sept. 20 decree.
"Clearly, someone withdrawing from the church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member," he said at a Sept. 24 news conference as the bishops began a four-day meeting in Fulda. "We are grateful Rome has given completely clear approval to our stance."
The archbishop said each departure was "painful for the church," adding that bishops feared many Catholics were unaware of the consequences and would be "open to other solutions."
"The Catholic church is committed to seeking out every lost person," said Archbishop Zollitsch, whose remarks were reported by Germany's Die Welt daily.
"At issue, however, is the credibility of the church's sacramental nature. One cannot be half a member or only partly a member. Either one belongs and commits, or one renounces this," Archbishop Zollitsch said.
Since denying your faith before the state is a mortal sin, it is thus potential matter for canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, which providesI think this makes very good sense.
"Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion."
If they have denied their faith before the state, it's a grave sin. Because they filed paperwork with the state, it's a manifest sin. And if their pastor has talked to them about it and they haven't turned back then they are obstinately persevering in it.
So I see a possible basis for denying them holy Communion on such grounds. I don't want to go further into canonical waters, however, until I've seen the actual documents involved and seen competent commentary from others.
My point is that the German bishops may have reasonable grounds for their decree, canonically, either because it merely applies existing provisions of the Church's universal law or because it further specifies that law as particular legislation for Germany.
The Catholic News Service article reports:
"Conscious dissociation from the church by public act is a grave offense against the church community," the (bishops') decree said.Akin also quotes several verses of Scripture, including:
"Whoever declares their withdrawal for whatever reason before the responsible civil authority always violates their duty to preserve a link with the church, as well as their duty to make a financial contribution so the church can fulfill its tasks."
Jesus said: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32-33).I must say I think he has analysed the case extremely well with his skill as a journalist, and it seems that the German bishops have acted appropriately. As so often, it is the narrative that is the problem but I guess the bishops could not have won this anyway. The media would always spin it as being a case of no tax, no sacraments.
See also Ars Vivendi for an explanation from one who lives in Germany.