“There is nothing more pagan and anti-Christian than to consider COVID-19 a punishment from God”, a Spanish bishop has warned.
– “Why does God allow suffering?”: a pastoral letter
Bishop of Girona Francesc Pardo was addressing the faithful of the Catalan diocese in a pastoral letter on the occasion of Pentecost and the resumption of public Masses after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must acknowledge that COVID-19 has been an experience of evil and suffering”, the bishop admitted in his text, before launching a series of questions that have come to the minds of many Catholics, and others, throughout these long weeks of suffering.
“Why does God allow it? How can we understand in this situation that God loves us? Could not God, good-natured and omnipotent, have created a world without evil? How does our Christian faith help us to live this pandemic?”, Pardo asked.
The answer to all those questions, the bishop wrote, is to be found in the biblical sentiment expressed in passages such as Wisdom 1.13-14: “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist”.
“God is not the source of evil or the author of suffering”, Pardo went on, stressing that Christians “have the definitive answer to the problem of evil in the life, Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ”, since “Jesus takes on our ailments and pains – even death – precisely to offer us Life”.
And in contrast to the most “pagan and anti-Christian” attitude of blaming God for COVID-19 in particular, the bishop wrote, authentic Christian testimony is rather to be found in the healthcare professionals who have been tending to the sick over the past few months.
“There is nothing more Christian than putting one’s life at risk for the healing of the other”, Pardo stressed, also praising the priests who have given their all during the pandemic to provide the sick with company and the sacraments and the dead and their closest family members with the comfort of funerals.
We Christians “must live in the certainty that we were not created for death, nor are we destined for suffering, [since] God created us for life, love [and] happiness, and that is why Jesus takes on our own Passion”, the bishop wrote in his pastoral letter.
In our life and death, “Jesus repeats to us, ‘I am dying with you, I am suffering with you'”, he wrote.
The bishop concluded his reflection on theodicy in the time of COVID-19 with a quote from French poet Paul Claudel: “God has not come to take suffering away, He hasn’t even come to explain it; He has come to fill it with His presence”.
– More take-downs of retributivist theology
Bishop Pardo is just one of the senior Church figures who, for the duration of the pandemic, have come out insistently to challenge the idea that the coronavirus is a show of God’s wrath for sin.
Even cardinals from Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Italy and the Vatican have taken pains to refute the retributivist theology, with a number of those claiming that the theory is “ignorance, fanaticism or madness”, “fundamentalist” or even “blasphemy”.