Consecration of the Bishop of Chur Creates Controversy

March 31, 2021
Interior of the Chur Cathedral, with the raised choir overhanging the crypt where the relics of St. Fidèle de Sigmaringen rest

The episcopal coronation of Msgr. Joseph Bonnemain, new bishop of Chur in Switzerland, arouses strong reactions among Catholics, especially in Helvetia, because communion was given to Protestants.

On March 19, 2021, Msgr. Bonnemain, appointed Bishop of Chur after two years of waiting, was consecrated bishop by Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch in the diocese’s cathedral.

By way of derogation from the number of 50 faithful, the ceremony welcomed around 100 assistants, including three Protestants: Rita Famos, president of the Protestant Reformed Church of Switzerland; Michel Müller, president of the board of the Church of Zurich; and Mario Fehr, member of the government of Zurich.

These Protestants received Communion from the hands of the new bishop. The case was exposed by the conservative site which interviewed Bishop Bonnemain.

The latter replied that he had complied with the norms regarding the reception of Communion by non-Catholics: “The application of these norms to specific individuals during a public celebration takes into account the existing circumstances and the 'personal attitude,'” he clarified. also interviewed Cardinal Koch, the main celebrant of the Mass. The latter said he did not learn of the granting of Communion to Protestants until the day after the celebration.

“I was not informed and saw nothing. I did not distribute Holy Communion during the celebration of the Bishop’s consecration, but took my place in my choir stall. At times like these, I tend to pray for myself and not look at who comes up for communion.”

This situation could not be more unfortunate for Cardinal Koch. For the record, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians disagrees with the perpetual “advances” or “breakthroughs” across the Rhine, on the question of Eucharistic hospitality—precisely that of giving communion to Protestants.

Since January 2020, his dicastery has opposed the German episcopate and the “German ecumenical working group” chaired by Bishop Georg Bätzing, current president of the German episcopal conference.

Last September, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith intervened - for the second time in two years - to warn against the declared will of the German bishops to authorize a wide Eucharistic hospitality on the occasion of the ecumenical meeting which is supposed to be held in Frankfurt next May.

In October, Cardinal Koch defended this text before Bishop Bätzing and other German bishops, without much success.

What will he be able to say, now that this hospitality has unfolded before his eyes, during a Mass he was celebrating? Has he not lost all credibility in the eyes of innovators?

And this, when the authority of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith is being abused because of its declaration on the impossibility of blessing same-sex couples?

The site undertook to defend Bishop Bonnemain by recalling that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had given Communion to Brother Roger Schutz, Protestant and superior of the Taizé community, during the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

But this reason is anything except a good reason. The mistake, or the fault of another, cannot excuse us for our own fault. And Bishop Bonnemain is not excused by the fault of Cardinal Ratzinger.

Wanting to advance ecumenism through this Eucharistic hospitality is a serious mistake. The excuse—which it is not—is that Communion is only given to those who manifest the Catholic faith in this sacrament.

But do we take the time to ask what those who are at the communion bench believe? And moreover, it suffices to deny a single dogma to be heretical and separated from the Church. Can the sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacrament of the union of Christ and His Church, be given to those who deny the Catholic faith? To ask the question is to answer it.