The German Bishops’ president has warned against COVID-19 conspiracy theorists and retributivists, insisting that, with regards to the pandemic, “God does not punish”.

– Hope of defeating the virus “with the strength of science, reasonable behaviour and faith”

Bishop Georg Bätzing of the Limburg diocese was speaking last April 23 in a homily for the Mass of St. George’s Day, the diocesan patronal feast.

According to a summary of his sermon posted on the diocesan website, Bätzing compared St. George’s duel with the dragon to society’s battle against COVID-19, and said “Saint George is a fighter for life, the good, the truth – he is a good example for our way as a Church at this time”.

“We can have hope of defeating the virus”, Bätzing encouraged people.

“With the strength of science, with reasonable behaviour 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 bishop continued.

– “We’re realising that the virus is manageable”

In science, responsibility and faith, Catholics have the tools to defeat COVID-19, for which reason they have no need to resort to conspiracy theories around a virus which they should likewise neither over nor underestimate, Bätzing said.

“We’re realising that the virus is manageable”, the bishop continued, lamenting that he could not understand those who see the coronavirus as God’s chastisement.

“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”, Bätzing insisted.

– Cardinals, bishops, priests all insist pandemic not God’s wrath

The question of whether or not COVID-19 is God’s punishment has been a talking point in the Church ever since the onset of the pandemic.

Like Bätzing, numerous other cardinals, bishops and priests have claimed over and over again that the retributivism propounded by conservative Church figures is inconsistent with the idea of the Christian God.

Just days after the arrival of COVID-19 in Europe in February – and in the face of early whispers suggested the virus was God’s wrath on the world – Italian cardinal Angelo Scola affirmed that “divine punishment does not exist. It is an incorrect view of Christianity”.

In March, too, Cardinal Cristóbal López of Rabat, Morocco, warned Catholics against the retributivist view, cautioning that “one shouldn’t think that coronavirus is a punishment from God: it would be blasphemy”.

Earlier this month German and Austrian bishops insisted that understanding COVID-19 as God’s punishment not only is “terrible and completely un-Christian” but also “leads to a very difficult and negative image of God”, even if they also explained that it could be that “God wants to tell us something” through the plague.

Perhaps the strongest warning against the retributivist view, however, came from Cardinal António Marto of the Portuguese diocese of Leiria-Fátima, who denounced April 14 that the view that God is punishing humanity through COVID-19 is due to “ignorance, sectarian fanaticism or madness”.

For another view on why COVID-19 is not God’s punishment, see this article on the website of our partner, Where Peter Is: “Is this a divine punishment?”

More on Novena on the theology of COVID-19:

Vatican official: COVID-19 “not God’s punishment, but our own self-punishment”

Portuguese cardinal calls “ignorance, fanaticism or madness” belief COVID-19 is God’s punishment

Spanish cardinal: “No way” is COVID-19 punishment from God

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

German, Austrian bishops insist COVID-19 “not God’s punishment” but “invitation to think”

Cardinal calls “blasphemy” belief COVID-19 is punishment from God

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


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.