A Portuguese cardinal has called “ignorance, sectarian fanaticism or madness” the belief that the coronavirus is God’s punishment.

– Belief COVID-19 God’s wrath “not Christian”

With respect to COVID-19 being a divine vengeance, “fortunately we have not heard this expression here among us, in Portugal, or at least not publicly”, Cardinal António Marto said in an April 14 interview.

“This is not Christian”, the Bishop of Leiria-Fátima stressed in regard to the theology that sees the coronavirus as God’s wrath.

“They can say it only those who do not have in their minds or hearts the true image of God as Love and Mercy revealed in Christ, through ignorance, sectarian fanaticism or madness”.

– “Priests must respect confinement”

On another talking point in the Church during the pandemic – that of the responsibilities of bishops and priests, whether to respect the lockdowns and shelter in place or go out and attend to the faithful – Cardinal Marto was clear.

“Priests must respect confinement as responsible citizens, so as not to infect others or to get infected themselves”, he said.

“However, this situation has given rise in many priests to a new desire for evangelisation, concern and pastoral closeness through social networks and digital communication”, the bishop continued, praising priests for their “great creativity” and for seeking new ways of “being close to people on this journey through the desert”.

– Confession by Skype?

As part of that “creativity” the Church is being called to today, the cardinal even opened the door – ever so slightly – to changes in sacramental practice.

“In emergencies I have no objection to confession by video. The Holy Spirit also acts in this way”, he said, thereby touching a tender spot for a Church that insists on physical presence for the sacrament of reconciliation.

“But, to tell the truth, I find unnecessary”, Marto continued.

The Pope has already mentioned that the Catechism of the Catholic Church foresees situations in which it is possible to ‘confess”‘directly to God with repentance and a request for forgiveness and with the purpose of celebrating sacramental confession when possible. We should not easily dispense with the personalised relationship in the sacraments”, the cardinal warned.

– The ‘day after’ COVID-19, an opportunity to “rethink the financial and economic system”

With respect to the aftermath of the coronavirus, Cardinal Marto lamented that “I believe that the effects of the pandemic will be very difficult and painful due to the harsh social and economic consequences”.

The Portuguese bishop said that dealing with the ‘day after’ COVID-19 will require “rethinking the financial and economic system to achieve more justice and eliminate the flagrant inequality between the world’s rich minority and the majority of the poor and discarded”.

That’s alongside “more care for our Common Home through an integral ecology, more fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples [and] more responsible citizenship”, the cardinal insisted.

After the pandemic has passed, “I hope that a culture of encounter and dialogue is created that grows in the face of the ‘throwaway culture’ and the culture of indifference”, Marto said.

“But I’m afraid that human memory is short and the world’s powerful and the culture of exaggerated consumerism will want to return to the time before the outbreak”, he lamented.

More on Novena on the theology of the coronavirus:

Spanish cardinal: “No way” is coronavirus punishment from God

Coronavirus: Vatican cardinal urges “fundamentalists” to give up on “theory” pandemic God’s “revenge”

Pope blesses world, says coronavirus “not God’s judgment” but our “time to choose”

German, Austrian bishops insist coronavirus “not God’s punishment” but “invitation to think”

Cardinal calls “blasphemy” belief coronavirus is punishment from God

Italian cardinal dismisses conspiracy theory that coronavirus is “divine punishment”

Moscow Catholic archbishop: Coronavirus “not a curse or a punishment from God”

Ultraconservative Swiss bishop gets served after claiming coronavirus “God’s punishment”

“Horror clown”, “cynical” Swiss bishop muzzled for “irresponsible and dangerous” coronavirus “superstition”

Cardinal, theologian blame coronavirus on “rich countries’ aimless experiments”, “retaliation of Gaia”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.