Italian bishop links Coronavirus to society’s ‘immoral drifts’
March 19, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – In a remarkable reflection on the coronavirus emergency, Bishop Giampolo Crepaldi of Trieste, Italy, has started to draw lessons from the situation in Italy, blasting the globalist mentality that only seeks “scientific-technical” solutions while neglecting the moral issues at stake in a crisis like the one the world is facing.
Bishop Crepaldi’s thoughts were originally published this Thursday morning by Vaticanist Marco Tosatti on his blog, Stilum curiae: the Italian text is here.
LifeSite’s full English translation of Crepaldi’s text will allow our readers to see that one bishop, at least, near the epicenter of the Italian epidemic hub of “COVID 19,” is worried about the health and well-being of his flock, but even more so about its “salvation.”
Remarkably, Bishop Crepaldi linked his approach to the present emergency to the hype around “Mother Earth.” He showed that nature is not exempt from catastrophes and that she is not “only good,” slamming the “naturalistic” and “pantheistic” errors of those who consider man to be the planet’s main “polluter.”
“Nature must be governed by man, and the new pantheistic postmodern ideologies are inhuman,” he wrote: “It is not man who must naturalize himself, but nature which must be humanized.”
He also underscored the eternal perspectives of mankind, writing: “Revelation teaches us that creation is entrusted to man’s care and governance for the ultimate goal which is God.”
He said: “Will this experience with the coronavirus be taken to the point of deepening and broadening this notion of the common good? As we fight to save the lives of so many people, procured abortion procedures do not stop, the sale of abortion pills, euthanasia practices, the sacrifice of human embryos and many other practices against life and the family do not stop. Rediscovering the common good and the need for common and concerted participation on its behalf in the fight against the epidemic requires intellectual courage and the will to extend the concept as far as it naturally needs to go.”
Bishop Crepaldi also offers deep-going thoughts on national sovereignty which nations need to face crises such as the one we are going through, globalist rejection of the “principle of subsidiarity” which requires decisions to be taken at local level as much as possible, and the relation between State and Church at a time when so many churches over the world are being forced into closing masses to the faithful.
“Political authority weakens the fight against evil, as is also the case with the present epidemic, when it equates Holy Masses with recreational initiatives, thinking that they should be suspended,” he wrote.
Here below is LifeSite’s full translation of Bishop Crepaldi’s text, with kind permission from Marco Tosatti of Stilum curiae.
Full translation of Bishop Crepaldi’s text:
The epidemic linked to the spread of “COVID-19” has a strong impact on many aspects of human coexistence and for this reason it also requires analysis from the point of view of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Contagion is above all a sanitary situation and this is enough to link it directly to the goal of achieving the common good. Health is certainly a part of that. At the same time, it poses the problem of the relationship between man and nature and invites us to overcome the naturalism that is so widespread today; and I would like to recall that, even without government on the part of man, nature also produces catastrophes and that a nature that is only good and originally free from contamination does not exist.
Secondly, it raises the problem of participation in the common good and solidarity, inviting us to address, on the basis of the principle of subsidiarity, the various contributions that political and social actors can make to solving this serious problem and to rebuilding normalcy, once the epidemic will be behind us. It has become clear that these contributions must be interlinked, convergent and coordinated. The financing of health care, a problem that the coronavirus highlights very clearly, is a central moral issue in the pursuit of the common good. There is an urgent need to reflect both on the objectives of the health system and on its management and use of resources, as a review of the recent past shows a significant reduction in the funding of health care institutions. The epidemic is threatening the functionality of productive and economic sectors, and if it continues, it will lead to bankruptcy, unemployment, poverty, social difficulties and conflicts. The world of work will be subject to major upheavals, new forms of support and solidarity will be needed and drastic choices will have to be made.
The economic issue relates to the credit and monetary issues and, therefore, to Italy's relations with the European Union, on which the final decisions in these two areas depend in our country. This again raises the issue of national sovereignty and globalisation, highlighting the need to re-examine globalisation understood as a globalist systemic machine, which can also be very vulnerable precisely because of its rigid and artificial internal interrelationship, so that when a nerve centre is hit, it causes global systemic damage that is difficult to correct. When lower social levels are removed from sovereignty, all will be swept away. On the other hand, the coronavirus has also highlighted the “closures” of states, which are unable to cooperate effectively even if they are members of the supranational institutions to which they belong. Finally, the epidemic has raised the problem of the relationship of the common good with the Catholic religion and the relationship between the State and the Church. The suspension of Masses and the closure of churches are only some aspects of this problem.
This, then, seems to be the complex picture of the problems posed by the coronavirus epidemic. These are subjects that challenge the social doctrine of the Church, and this is why our Observatory feels called to propose a reflection, inviting further contributions in this direction. Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in Veritate, written in 2009 at a time of another crisis, states: “The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future In this way, the crisis becomes an opportunity for discernment and it enables us to develop new projects.” (n. 21).
The end of ideological naturalism
Societies were and still are traversed by various ideological forms of naturalism that the experience of this epidemic could correct. The exaltation of a pure and originally uncontaminated nature of which man was the polluter was untenable; it is even more so today. The idea of a Mother Earth originally endowed with its own harmonious equilibrium with whose spirit man would have to connect in order to find the right relationship with things and with himself is an absurdity that this experience could do away with. Nature must be governed by man, and the new pantheistic (and not only they) postmodern ideologies are inhuman. Nature, in the naturalistic sense of the word, also produces imbalances and illnesses and therefore it must be humanized. It is not man who must naturalize himself, but nature which must be humanized.
Revelation teaches us that creation is entrusted to man's care and governance for the ultimate goal which is God. Man has the right, because he has the duty, to manage the material creation, to govern it and to derive from it what is necessary and useful for the common good. Creation is entrusted by God to man, to his intervention according to reason and to his capacity for wise domination. Man is the regulator of creation, not the other way around.
The two meanings of the word “Salus”
The term “Salus” means health, in the sanitary sense of the word, and it also means salvation, in the ethical-spiritual and especially religious sense. The current experience with the coronavirus shows once again that the two meanings are linked. Threats to the health of the body induce changes in attitudes, in the way of thinking, in the values to be defended. They test the moral reference system of society as a whole. They demand ethically valid behavior, they call into question selfish, disengaged, indifferent, exploitative attitudes. They highlight forms of heroism in the common fight against contagion and, at the same time, forms of plundering of those who take advantage of the situation. The fight against contagion requires a moral rebuilding of society in terms of healthy and respectful behavior and solidarity, which is perhaps more important than the rebuilding of resources. The challenge of physical health is therefore linked to the challenge of moral health. We need profoundly to rethink the immoral drifts of our society, at all levels. Often, natural misfortunes are not entirely natural, but have behind them man's morally disordered attitudes. The origin of COVID-19 has not yet been definitively clarified; it may even turn out not to be of natural origin. But even if its purely natural origin is admitted, its social impact calls into question the community ethic. The answer is not and will not only be scientific-technical, but also moral. After the technical response, the serious coronavirus crisis should revive public morality on a new solid foundation.
Contribution to the common good
Ethical participation is necessary because the common good is at stake. The coronavirus epidemic contradicts all those who have argued that the common good as a moral end does not exist. If this were the case, what would all people inside and outside institutions be engaged in and fighting for? What commitment would citizens be called upon to make by restraining orders if not a moral commitment to the common good? On what basis is it said that a certain behavior is “mandatory” at this time? Those who have denied the existence of the common good or who have entrusted its implementation to techniques alone, but not to moral commitment for the good, are today contradicted by the facts. It is the common good that tells us that health is a good that we must all promote. It is the common good that tells us that the word Salus has two meanings.
Will this experience with the coronavirus be taken to the point of deepening and broadening this notion of the common good? As we fight to save the lives of so many people, procured abortion procedures do not stop, the sale of abortion pills, euthanasia practices, the sacrifice of human embryos and many other practices against life and the family do not stop. Rediscovering the common good and the need for common and concerted participation on its behalf in the fight against the epidemic requires intellectual courage and the will to extend the concept as far as it naturally needs to go.
Subsidiarity in the fight for health
The ongoing mobilization against the spread of the coronavirus has involved many levels of action, sometimes well coordinated, sometimes less so. There are different tasks that everyone has carried out according to their responsibilities. Once the storm has passed, it will be possible to take stock of what went wrong in the chain of subsidiarity, and to rediscover the important principle of subsidiarity in order to apply it better – and to apply it in all areas. One experience in particular must be valued: subsidiarity must be "for" and not a "prohibition of": it must be for the common good and, therefore, it must have an ethical basis and not just a political or functionalist basis; an ethical foundation based on the natural and finalized order of social life. This is a promising opportunity to move away from conventional visions of social values and goals.
An important point now highlighted by the coronavirus crisis is the subsidiary role of credit. The blockage of large sectors of the economy to ensure greater health security and reduce the spread of the virus is causing an economic crisis, particularly in terms of liquidity, for companies and households. If the crisis lasts for a long time, a crisis in the circularity of production and consumption is to be expected, with the specter of unemployment. In the face of these needs, the role of credit can be fundamental and the financial system could redeem itself from its many reprehensible deteriorations of the recent past.
Sovereignty and globalisation
The current experience with coronavirus also forces us to reconsider the two concepts of globalization and national sovereignty. There is a globalization that sees the entire planet as a “system” of rigid connections and articulations, an artificial construction governed by insiders, a series of seemingly unshakeable communicating vessels. However, such a concept has also been proved to be weak, because it suffices to strike the system at any given moment in order to create an avalanche domino effect. Epidemics can put the health system in crisis; quarantines put the productive system in crisis, causing the economic system to collapse, poverty and unemployment causing the credit system to run out of fuel, while the weakening of the population exposes it to new epidemics and so on in a series of vicious circles of global proportions. Until yesterday, globalization presented its splendors and glories of perfect technical-functional functioning, of unquestionable certainties about the obsolescence of States and nations, of the absolute value of the “open society”: one world, one religion, one universal morality, one globalist people, one world authority. But a virus may then be enough to bring down the system, since the non-global levels of response have been deactivated. Our experience warns us against an “open society” understood in this way, both because it is in the hands and power of a few and because a few other hands could bring it down like a house of cards. This is not to deny the importance of the international collaboration that pandemics require, but such collaboration has nothing to do with collective, mechanical, automatic and systemic global structures.
The European Union’s death by coronavirus
The experience of these days has shown once again a divided and ghost-like European Union. Selfish differences have arisen between Member States rather than cooperation. Italy has remained isolated, it has been left alone. The European Commission intervened late and the European Central Bank intervened badly. Faced with the epidemic, each State took steps to close down. The resources needed by Italy to deal with the emergency situation, which at other times would have been its own, for example with the devaluation of the currency, now depend on the decisions of the Union, to which it must bow down.
The coronavirus has definitively demonstrated the artificial nature of the European Union, which has revealed itself incapable of making the States , on which it has been superimposed by acquiring sovereignty, cooperate with each other. The lack of a moral cement has not been compensated for by an institutional and political cement. We must take note of this unglamorous end of the European Union by coronavirus, and realize that cooperation between European States in the fight for health is also possible outside the supranational political institutions.
State and Church
The word Salus means, as we have seen, also salvation, and not only health. Health is not salvation, as the martyrs taught us, but in a certain sense salvation also gives health. The proper functioning of social life, with its beneficial effects also on health, also needs the salvation promised by religion: "Man does not develop by his own strength alone" (Caritas in Veritate, 11).
The common good is of a moral nature and, as we have said above, this crisis should lead to the rediscovery of this dimension, but morality does not live by its own life, for it is incapable in the final analysis of being its own foundation. The problem arises here of the essential relationship that political life has with religion, the one that best guarantees the truth of political life. Political authority weakens the fight against evil, as is also the case with the present epidemic, when it equates Holy Masses with recreational initiatives, thinking that they should be suspended, perhaps even before suspending other forms of gathering which are certainly less important. Even the Church may be mistaken when she does not affirm, for the same authentic and complete common good, the public necessity of Holy Masses and the openness of churches. The Church contributes to the fight against the epidemic through the various forms of assistance, aid and solidarity which she knows how to implement, as she has always done in the past in similar cases. However, it is important to remain very attentive to the religious dimension of its contribution, so that it is not seen as a mere expression of civil society. This is why it is so important what Pope Francis said when he prayed to the Holy Spirit to give "pastors the pastoral capacity and discernment necessary to take measures that do not leave the faithful people of God alone. May the people of God feel accompanied by pastors and the comfort of the Word of God, the sacraments and prayer", naturally with the common sense and prudence that the situation demands.
This coronavirus emergency can be experienced by all “as if God did not exist” and in this case the next phase, when the emergency ends, will also apply such a vision of things as a logical continuation. In this way, however, the link between physical health and the moral and religious health that this painful emergency brought to light will have been forgotten. If, on the contrary, the need is felt to return to the recognition of God's place in the world, then the relationship between politics and the Catholic religion and between the State and the Church can also take the right path.
The urgency of the current epidemic profoundly challenges the Church's social doctrine. It is a heritage of faith and reason which, at the present time, can be of great help in the fight against the infection, a fight which must concern all levels of social and political life. Above all, it can help with regard to the post-coronavirus. We need an overarching view that does not exclude any really important perspective. Social life requires coherence and synthesis, especially when difficulties arise. That is why, in difficulties, people who know how to look in depth and upwards can find solutions and even opportunities to make things better than they were in the past.
Bishop Giancarlo Crepaldi
Bishop of Trieste, Italy