CHUR, Switzerland (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Swiss prelate is being censured for criticizing the way bishops are responding to the coronavirus pandemic and for his remarks on the supernatural reality of the Eucharist.
Bishop Marian Eleganti, auxiliary of Chur, Switzerland, charged that "parts of Church leadership" were following "only the logic of the state" and administering only a "secular" response to the faithful in this time of crisis.
Bishop Eleganti was censured by apostolic administrator of the diocese Bp. Pierre Bürcher. In a public e-mail dated March 18, Bürcher decreed that the auxiliary may only speak to the media when his comments are "in agreement" with his and those of the episcopal commissioner for media and communication. Apostolic administrators are appointed by the pope to serve as the ordinary for a specific area.
Bürcher claimed "confusion among the faithful and in public about the attitude of the diocese of Chur has arisen," as a result of Bp. Eleganti's public expression of his beliefs.
The auxiliary bishop had explained in an interview March 15 on Kath.net that secular views discount "supernatural realities," including belief in the miracles of Jesus and His Resurrection."
"There is no supernatural reality for naturalists," he said, adding that even the Catholic belief that "something changes" when holy water has been blessed is seen as "irrational" and "at best psychology."
This is especially true, he said, "in the changing nature of Sacred Host into the Body of Christ."
"The only thing that can be expected from their so-called reason is a symbolic understanding of the sacred change of the consecrated Host," he noted.
As to the possibility of sacred Hosts being contaminated by the coronavirus, Bp. Eleganti said, "The Eucharist was not used by Christ to bring illness and death to me. From my believing point of view, this remains an absolute NO GO for God!"
"Apart from that, we are always in the hands of God," adding, "Any other security is basically a pseudo-security, that is, a very questionable and fragile one. I have no better confidence than God Himself, Who is present in the consecrated Host."
Precautionary measures taken [by the state] are "not absolutely effective," Bp. Eleganti said. "There are gateways for the virus everywhere." He ceded "the areas in which the state legitimately has the say," but the Church "has always believed in a God who can intervene. The gospels are full of testimonies."
The bishop has been criticized for his remarks which some say come too close to saying that the consecrated Host absolutely could not be contaminated or a carrier of a virus.
The Swiss Bishops' Conference distanced itself from him through their spokeswoman, who said: "Auxiliary Bp. Marian Eleganti's statements are of a purely personal nature and therefore obligate only him."
Raphael Rauch, editor-in-chief of the Swiss Catholic news service Kath.ch, called Eleganti a "horror clown," adding, "he's exploiting a crisis for his ecclesio-political agenda."
Some critics have pointed to what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica to refute Eleganti: "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" (Summa Th. III EN Qu.83 a.6).
But one priest-observer told Church Militant that Bp. Eleganti's remarks about a consecrated Host not being able to be the carrier of a virus are taken out of context and need to be evaluated through the lens of fear — even hysteria — that permeates discussions of the coronavirus.
Of course, according to the observer, if a priest is infected and he distributes Holy Eucharist to the faithful or if the faithful are afflicted with the virus at the time of reception, the best medical advice applies and the Host should not be distributed.
But stripping the faithful of their belief of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist — or silencing faithful priests — runs counter to the teachings of the traditional Church, said the priest.
Eleganti said the harsh reactions to his views are "neither surprising nor unexpected for me."
"What else can I expect from [my critics]?" he asked. "May they blaspheme, smile at me or insult me for my faith! I do not hold it against them."
Bishop Eleganti is also noted for calling Pope Francis' defense of the pagan Pachamama ritual that took place inside the Vatican gardens last October a "scandal." The Swiss bishop said he wished that Our Lady of Guadalupe would have been on display instead, since she represents the Blessed Virgin with some "indigenous traits and symbols."