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Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Germany.Bistum Limburg / YouTube

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LIMBURG, Germany, April 28, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The president of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, has stated that the coronavirus pandemic is not God’s punishment, contradicting numerous Catholic leaders who have called COVID-19 a “chastisement.”

According to the website of the Diocese of Limburg, Germany, Bätzing said on April 23 that he cannot understand people who consider COVID-19 God’s punishment.

“My God has not known such thoughts since Jesus died for us. That is when God made his decision for life. God does not punish,” he said.

In his homily for the feast of St. George, Bätzing, who was elected last month to succeed Cardinal Reinhard Marx as head of the German bishops, warned against conspiracy theories as well as against overestimating or underestimating the virus.

“We can have hope of defeating the virus,” the bishop of Limburg said. “With the strength of science, with reasonable behavior that is in solidarity and protects me and you, and with the strength of our faith, which knows that the power of life is stronger than death and all threats. That is our Paschal faith.”

The president of the German bishops’ conference, during an Easter interview, called for changing the Church’s official teaching on “practiced homosexuality” by “jumping over trenches.” In addition, he voiced his support for married clergy as well as potentially ordaining women.

Bätzing’s assessment, according to which the coronavirus pandemic is not a chastisement, echoes remarks made by other Church leaders — for instance, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, Austria.

At the same time, many Catholics said the pandemic is certainly a punishment.

Most recently, popular theologian Scott Hahn told LifeSiteNews’s John-Henry Westen that the question of punishment is “complicated,” nevertheless giving a straightforward answer.

“You know, I would say, ‘Is God getting even with us? Is God getting back at us?’ No. God is trying to get us back to Himself. That’s the purpose of punishment. So is this a punishment? Well, yeah. And why? Because we have sinned.”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider was not afraid of explicitly calling the coronavirus pandemic “a divine intervention to chastise and purify the sinful world and also the Church.”

The auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan quoted from the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. “I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching … that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.”

“I am convinced,” Schneider commented, “that Christ would repeat the same words to Pope Francis and to the other bishops who allowed the idolatrous veneration of the Pachamama and who implicitly approved sexual relationships outside a valid marriage, by allowing the so-called ‘divorced and remarried’ who are sexually active to receive Holy Communion.”

The bishop, who grew up in the Soviet Union before coming to Germany in 1973, said the current situation “is so unique and serious that one can discover behind all of this a deeper meaning.”

Receiving Holy Communion in the hand, a practice disobediently adopted in some parts of the world and then officially permitted by Pope Paul VI roughly 50 years ago, “has led to an unintentional and intentional desecration [of] the Eucharistic Body of Christ on an unprecedented scale. For over fifty years, the Body of Christ had been (mostly unintentionally) trampled by the feet of clergy and laity in Catholic churches around the world. The stealing of sacred Hosts has also been increasing at an alarming rate.”

According to Schneider, taking the Eucharist “directly with one’s own hands and fingers resembles ever more the gesture of taking common food.”

For many people, he said, this practice led to a weakened faith in the Real Presence. “The Eucharistic presence of Christ has, over time, unconsciously become for these faithful a kind of holy bread or symbol.”

The current situation, where in many parts of the world no public Masses are said, and Holy Communion cannot be received by the faithful, “could be understood by the pope and bishops as a divine rebuke for the past fifty years of Eucharistic desecrations and trivializations and, at the same time, as a merciful appeal for an authentic Eucharistic conversion of the entire Church.”

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, in a March 29 interview, linked the coronavirus to a chastisement from God for sin while calling on Pope Francis to “convert” for having brought into the Church the “terrible sacrilege” of idolatry, using the Pachamama statues during the Amazon Synod.

“The pope, the hierarchy, and all bishops, priests and religious must immediately and absolutely convert,” he said.

“[These clerics] have even committed acts of unprecedented gravity, such as we saw with the adoration of the Pachamama idol in the Vatican itself,” Viganò pointed out.

“Indeed, I think Our Lord has rightly become indignant at the great multitude of scandals committed by those who ought to be setting a good example, because they are Shepherds, to the flocks to whom they have been entrusted.”

Other Catholic leaders — for instance, John Smeaton, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, the first and largest pro-life organization in the United Kingdom — have offered similar assessments. Smeaton called the coronavirus pandemic a “chastisement” for abortion and other sins.