Is this an Occasion of Divine Punishment?

Cardinal Bassetti

It’s certainly a fair question; plagues as a means of God’s judgement are well attested in scripture. When asked, however, many of our leaders in the Church have categorically denied that the pandemic is a punishment. How do they know? Apparently, it’s because God no longer punishes. Some examples:

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Bishops Conference (who was later infected with the virus):

If we thought of this situation as a punishment from God, we would betray the very essence of the gospel.

German Archbishop Ludwig Schick:

To call coronavirus as god’s punishment is cynical and incompatible with Jesus’ message.

Cardinal Ravasi:

I believe that this situation will lead to a change in convictions. Let us also hope that the fundamentalists will leave their theory that the pandemic is due to punishment from God or revenge.

Cardinal Angelo Scola:

Divine punishment does not exist.

Cardinal dos Santos Marto

The most remarkable comment came from the bishop of Fatima, Cardinal Antonio dos Santos Marto. Though the apparition of Mary in Fatima was primarily a warning of divine punishment, when asked about the pandemic he responded,

This is not Christian. Only those who do not have in their minds or hearts the true image of the God of Love and Mercy revealed in Christ, through ignorance, sectarian fanaticism or madness. 

Church historian Roberto de Mattei has commented on these denials, and regards them as proof of divine punishment:

In reality, thinking that God does not send scourges makes someone not a pagan but an atheist. The fact that this is exactly what many bishops throughout the world think means that the Catholic episcopate throughout the world is immersed in atheism. And this is a sign of a divine chastisement that is already under way.

Scripture reminds that God has providence over all things; it doesn’t provide a quick answer but can at least help us to understand the question:

Good and evil, life and death, poverty and riches—all are from the LORD (Sirach 11:4).

…I am God, there is none like me. At the beginning I declare the outcome; from of old, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every desire (Isaiah 46:5;9-10).

Perhaps we should use the word “discipline” rather than “punishment”. As Christians, when we endure hardships we can remain hopeful:

Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7).

Msgr. Charles Pope believed that the Church was experiencing a chastisement months before the outbreak of the pandemic, writing in Sept. 2019,

One thing is clear to me: we are under a period of pruning and punishment for our sins. Ten years ago, I had no idea the rot was so deep. It is so much worse than I ever thought then, and I am convinced we are going to see a lot more exposed in the next few years.

God has a greater purpose in having allowed the virus from Wuhan, China to spread internationally, perhaps to impel the beginning of a spiritual revival. Msgr. Pope poignantly concluded,

…Here in this chapel, in the Eucharistic Presence of the Groom, I await the renewal He will surely bring. I am aware that more purification may be needed first, and so I wait, I sigh, and I accept my share in the purifications.

…rjt

Why Did Jesus Choose the Title ‘Son of Man’?

“Son of Man” was a common expression in the Old Testament for “man” or “mankind”, rendered either ben-enosh [“son of man”] or ben-adam [“son of Adam”]. It was the phrase with which God addressed the prophet Ezekiel over 90 times:

Continue reading “Why Did Jesus Choose the Title ‘Son of Man’?”

4 Consequences of the Pandemic that Will Impact the Church

Atrophy

In a recent survey, 20% of Catholics ages 18-34 responded that their faith had decreased as a result of the pandemic, for ages 35-54 it was 10% (link). The poll was conducted in August, long before the current “surge” in cases. When it’s all over will Catholics return to Mass on a regular basis? One priest, Father Illo of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, thinks that number will be less than half:

Continue reading “4 Consequences of the Pandemic that Will Impact the Church”

Light in a World of Darkness

Jesus taught His followers that they should be prepared to experience one of two things: oppression or empathy. He explains this to the Pharisee Nicodemus, who came to Jesus under the cover of night to question Him. The reference here to the light is a reference to Jesus Himself:

Continue reading “Light in a World of Darkness”

Should We Pray for the Gift of Prophecy?

It depends on whether St. Paul’s exhortation is still valid:

Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1).

He was responding to reports that members of the Church in Corinth had elevated the spiritual charism of speaking in tongues at the expense of prophecy. He goes on to explain that speaking in tongues edifies the individual but prophecy is more important because it edifies the body of Christ:

Continue reading “Should We Pray for the Gift of Prophecy?”

The Dialectical Thorn in St. Paul’s Side

The Apostle Paul, Rembrandt

A dialectic is a philosophical method in which a thesis, when conjoined with an antithesis, produces a synthesis; two contradictory concepts can instruct each other and together form a new concept. There appears to be two of these in the fascinating story of St. Paul’s thorn in his side, a God-given ailment meant to humble the apostle.

St. Paul shares with the Corinthian church the story of having been “caught up to the third heaven” fourteen years earlier, where he “heard ineffable things which no one may utter” (2 Cor. 12:1-4). He admits that he deserves to feel proud of this privilege, but was given a painful thorn as a result in order to prevent him from the sin of pride.

Continue reading “The Dialectical Thorn in St. Paul’s Side”

5 Scriptural Guides for Attaining Wisdom

Wisdom comes in handy when you have kids or grandkids who pepper you with tough questions about life. In more serious situations, wise judgements would have dramatic consequences in a families life. King Solomon had asked God for wisdom above everything else:

Continue reading “5 Scriptural Guides for Attaining Wisdom”

Meditating on God’s Providence in Unsettling Times

Through His prophets, God would often remind Israel that He not only has foreknowledge of all things but determines them:

To whom would you liken me as an equal, compare me, as though we were alike? ...I am God, there is none like me. At the beginning I declare the outcome; from of old, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every desire (Is. 46:5;9-10).

Continue reading “Meditating on God’s Providence in Unsettling Times”

Being ‘Fruitful and Multiplying’?

God commanded Adam that he multiply and demographically “subdue the earth” (Gen. 1:28; He repeated the order to Noah after the flood, Gen. 9:7). It’s certainly happening today, but not by Catholics. The following is amazing to watch. It’s only a few minutes long. It starts in 1946 when Catholics ruled the roost. Keep your eye on ‘Islam Sunni’ and notice the trend that began in the late 1980s. Then see what happens after 2000:

Continue reading “Being ‘Fruitful and Multiplying’?”

An Era of Confrontations and Strife

Joe Biden plans to unite the country and heal the nation. But under one condition, as long as the 70 million plus who voted for Trump prostrate themselves to the radical left, whose accumulation of power in the democratic party suggests that during the Biden administration the divide will only deepen. A look at recent history reveals that this is inevitable.

Continue reading “An Era of Confrontations and Strife”