Catholic bishop defends giving Communion to Protestant representatives at installation Mass

Bishop Joseph Bonnemain of Chur, Switzerland. / Diocese of Chur.

CNA Staff, Mar 26, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).- A Catholic bishop in Switzerland has defended giving Holy Communion to two Protestant church representatives and a Protestant politician at his installation Mass.

Responding to CNA’s request for comment, Bishop Joseph Bonnemain’s office offered a short statement March 22, pointing to Canon 844 §4 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law.

“The implementation of these norms with respect to individual concrete persons during a public celebration takes into account the existing circumstances and the personal attitude of the individual. The media, given privacy considerations, is not the place to comment on such a matter,” the statement said.

The episode was first publicized by the Swiss bishops’ media outlet,, which reported that “in the presence of [Vatican Cardinal Kurt Koch], Joseph Bonnemain gave Holy Communion to three senior Reformed [Swiss Protestant] personalities: the president of the Swiss Protestant Reformed Church, Rita Famos; the president of the Zurich church council, Michel Müller; and Zurich government councilor Mario Fehr.”

Bonnemain, a 72-year-old Barcelona-born member of Opus Dei, is well versed in canon law. He previously served as judicial vicar and canon of the cathedral chapter of the diocese.

Fr. James Bradley, assistant professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that “canon 844 §4 concerns the licit administration of the sacraments of penance, the Most Holy Eucharist, and the anointing of the sick to baptized non-Catholics, other than the Orthodox and their equivalent”.

“Five conditions exist for this to be a licit act,” he said via email.

“The first is danger of death, or some grave necessity. The following four are all required in addition: the person seeking the sacrament must be unable to approach their own minister; the individual is to manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament requested; the person must request the sacrament on their own initiative; and the person must be properly disposed.”

After international reports critical of the bishop’s actions, defended Bonnemain, arguing that a predecessor had done the same and referring to the famous case of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger giving Communion to Brother Roger Schutz of Taizé at the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

As CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, has reported, the Diocese of Chur, which also comprises the town of Zurich, has a history of fierce internal battles. The new bishop said that his priority was to heal divisions.

Pope Francis announced that he had chosen Bonnemain to lead the diocese in February, ending a deadlock over the appointment in the historic eastern Swiss diocese that traditionally holds episcopal elections.

Cardinal Koch, who presided at Bonnemain’s episcopal ordination on March 19, is president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

He told CNA that, contrary to the Swiss media report, he had been “not aware” of the act, given that he was not involved in the distribution of Holy Communion and was “deeply in prayer” at the time.

The Swiss cardinal has recently expressed serious misgivings about a proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” between Catholics and Protestants in neighboring Germany.

Despite Koch’s objections and those of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Catholics and Protestants announced on March 16 that they would press ahead with intercommunion at an upcoming ecumenical event.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


  1. Another protestant masquerading as a Catholic. Bonnemain, as a self-admitted heretic, should be dismissed from the clerical state and excommunicated ferendae sententiae. Unfortunately his supervisor at the Holy See won’t lift a finger to correct, chastise, rebuke or discipline him. Repent Joseph while you still have time.

    Can. 1364 §1 An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication, without prejudice to the provision of Can. 194 §1, n. 2; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with the penalties mentioned in Can. 1336 §1, nn. 1, 2 and 3.

    Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith. Apostasy is the total repudiation of the christian faith. Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

    Can. 1041 The following persons are irregular for the reception of orders:

    2° one who has committed the offence of apostasy, heresy or schism;

    Can. 844 §1 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to catholic members of Christ’s faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from catholic ministers, except as provided in §§2, 3 and 4 of this canon and in can. 861 §2.

    §4 If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgement of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.

    • Guess what? Canons 1364 and 751, to be implemented, also require due process to DETERMINE this status. So unless he got envelopes at the local Protestant church or the church issued a condemnation of him as such, you have no argument!

  2. The Eucharist is where Christ and His Bride the Church share an intimate union in the same way that a husband and a wife do in Holy Matrimony. Both are based on relationships established by a covenant. When Christ instituted the Eucharist He talked about it being an integral part of His New Covenant. Open communion is tantamount to an open marriage.

    • “The Eucharist is where Christ and His Bride the Church share an intimate union in the same way that a husband and a wife do in Holy Matrimony.”

      Not in the same way. Analogical maybe.

  3. Meanwhile, faithful Catholica are made to jump through hoops to attend Mass during Covid, told they can’t receive on the tongue, nor kneeling, wear a mask, sign up online…lame, lame, lame.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. SATVRDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.