The episode was first publicized by the Swiss bishops’ media outlet, kath.ch, 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.”
Following international reports critical of the bishop’s actions, kath.ch 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.