Swiss bishop censored by apostolic administrator for criticizing Church’s response to coronavirus

Bishop Marian Eleganti stated his belief that God would not allow a consecrated host to be the carrier of a virus.

CHUR, Switzerland, March 18, 2020, LifeSiteNews:

An outspoken Swiss auxiliary bishop has been censored by his brother bishop who is an apostolic administrator after criticizing the Church’s response to the coronavirus epidemic and stating his belief that God would not allow the consecrated host to be the carrier of a virus.

Bishop Marian Eleganti, auxiliary bishop in the Swiss Diocese of Chur, was ordered by Bishop Pierre Bürcher, the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Chur, Switzerland, that he may only speak to the media when his comments are “in agreement” with those of the apostolic administrator and the diocesan press office.

Bishop Bürcher stated that Bishop Eleganti’s comments on the coronavirus pandemic were not previously discussed with him or with the Episcopal Commissioner for Media and Communication.

“Accordingly, confusion has arisen among the faithful and in the public about the attitude of the diocese of Chur in this regard. For this reason I have instructed auxiliary bishop Marian that in the future he will only voice his opinion to the media in agreement with me and the diocesan press officer,” Bishop Bürcher said.

In an interview with Catholic news website kath.net, Eleganti had accused parts of Church leadership of following “only the logic of the state, the secular one.” Government directives are “implemented obediently, but no longer that wisdom by faith and prayer, which is folly and scandal to the world, but which in our context could be expected from the Church.”

He also stated his belief that Christ, who is truly present in the Eucharist, would not allow the host to be a carrier of something harmful to those who receive.

“How faith in the real presence of Christ in the Host … can exist together with the fear of a deadly contamination from which the God present in the Host will not save me is a mystery to me.”

The auxiliary bishop was criticized  for his view.

Raphael Rauch, editor in chief of the Swiss Catholic news service Kath.ch, calledEleganti a “horror clown,” adding that “he’s exploiting a crisis for his ecclesio-political agenda.”

Franziska Driessen-Reding, an influential person among Catholics in Zurich, characterized Eleganti’s remarks as “cynical.”

“In view of the many victims that the Corona pandemic has already claimed, his talk of ‘God’s punishment’ is simply cynical,” she said. The assumption that Holy Water cannot transmit diseases is “irresponsible and dangerous superstition.”

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference distanced itself from Eleganti: “Auxiliary Bishop Marian Eleganti’s statements are of a purely personal nature and therefore obligate only him,” a spokeswoman said.

Eleganti was not surprised by the negative reactions to his video. However, he called criticism by fellow Catholics “astonishing.”

He told LifeSiteNews in comments earlier this week that the Eucharist is a “supernatural reality” that cannot be understood from a simply natural perspective.

“For the naturalists among us, there is no supernatural reality. Even the Catholic belief that a blessing will change something about the water is irrational for them, and at best it is psychology. Not to speak of the Catholic belief in the transubstantiation of the Holy Host into the Body of Christ at Holy Mass. What can at most be expected of their so-called reason is a symbolic understanding of transubstantiation and the consecrated host,” he said.

“I would like to ask them: In which claim is there more faith in miracles or more faith in supernatural reality? When I claim that in Holy Mass, through the priest’s words of consecration, the bread is transformed into the Body of Christ, which we believe, or when I claim that the Body of Christ, which I receive in Holy Communion, will not harm us in the current context, which they obviously cannot believe (hence the precautions, the effectiveness of which I doubt for my part)? May they themselves answer my question in their own conscience. I, for my part, remain faithful to my belief in the salvific effect and power of the Holy Eucharist, because for me it is the present God, the Body of Christ,” he added.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in addressing a similar difficulty in the Summa Theologica, indicated that while Transubstantiation changes the substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus, the accidental properties remain and could, therefore, harm the individual if contaminated by poison, for instance.

He wrote in IIIa Q83 a.6, ad3 of the Summa: “If it be discovered that the wine has been poisoned, the priest should neither receive it nor administer it to others on any account, lest the life-giving chalice become one of death.”

In a similar vein, priests generally make sure that Consecrated Hosts are consumed within a certain period of time to avoid the danger of them going rancid or decaying.

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4 Responses to Swiss bishop censored by apostolic administrator for criticizing Church’s response to coronavirus

  1. I do feel this requires comment. Firstly the reactions to Bishop Eleganti’s comments were over the top. I can’t believe they called him a ‘horror clown’ and superstitious! And saying that HE is exploiting belief for his own ecclesiology-political agenda is clearly gas-lighting. Secondly his belief on the true Presence is clear; in the others not so much. It IS overreaction to treat every consecrated host as if it were a carrier of what is, in most cases, not even a deadly disease. It is an overreaction to prevent the faithful from receiving Jesus in this form! We are still allowed to receive food and produce from others, are we not- including in hospitals where there’s a much greater chance of infection. Freedom: let each man decide for himself whether he risks receiving communion from the hands of one man. Let the priest decide if he will risk his life for the sake of his parishioners. If I had a weak immune system or a respiratory disease, maybe I would choose simply to make a spiritual communion. However, I am a grown and educated adult who understands the risks. And knowing even more grave risks, I would choose to receive My Lord. I think we need to be cautious in our general procedures but not to the point of closing churches or denying people Communion- on the tongue. Apply sensible strategies and keep the Churches open! Keep the Sacraments available; even if, especially if, at risk of dying (indirectly). To compare Coronavirus to poison is simply hyperbole. Read Archbishop Anthony Fischer’s mostly sensible and legally compliant strategies for Australia’s current (non-) situation here: https://www.sydneycatholic.org/coronavirus-updates/

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  2. kathleen says:

    I agree with everything you say here so insightfully, RemnantchildofMary.
    This good bishop has proven his strong supernatural Faith, something sorely lacking in his boss, Bishop Bürcher, and his other critics. (And the criticism of Bishop Eleganti was really horrid amd very uncharitable.)

    Do these people even know the Gospels? Our Lord sternly corrected his disciples when they displayed the same weak faith and worldly views in times of difficulties…. and yet He praised the faith of those who put their full trust in Him. Bishop Eleganti is in good company.

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  3. Yes I fear some people have too much regard for their mortal coil! Over and above their Faith and their soul. These are times when God tests our Faith and teaches us patience. We should be adapting and willing to suffer our Lenten cross; bravely facing the worldly opinions with supernatural Grace and peace! Thank you for your comment Kathleen.

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  4. Margaret Galland says:

    Thank you for the timely quote of St. Thomas Aquinas. Spot-on. Bishop Eleganti’s faith will save him from eternal fire; not the corona virus fever.

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