The Catholic Church has long been in the business of caring for the sick. This is a fact which you might not have picked up in school, as most history teachers, more interested in ideology than truth, don't often mention it. But the plain fact is the Church, which is ostensibly concerned with the good of the soul, has concurrently devoted tremendous amounts of energy and resources to the care of the body. The very word "hospital" comes from the Knights Hospitaller, who came into existence in 1070 to care for pilgrims to the Holy Land. For centuries the hospitals of Europe were run by religious orders, and the saints whose reputations were built on the care of the sick -- from John of God ministering to the mentally ill in 16th Century Spain to Damien De Veuster living among the lepers in 19th century Hawaii to Rose Hawthorne Lathrop serving terminal cancer patients in early 20th century New York -- are too numerous to list.
Just recently the generally anti-Catholic New York Times published an article about the nuns who staffed sick wards during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918:
They tended to stricken men, crammed 30 to a ward, with the dirt from their factory jobs still smeared on their faces and hands. Hallucinating patients tried to climb out of windows, tore at the bedsheets, threw glass tumblers at their nurses and begged God for mercy. In private homes, the sisters found parents dead in their beds while their hungry children cried in the next room. “The windows were closed tightly, and we felt we could taste the fever,” one nun recalled later.
They washed linens, served hot soup and mixed medicine. They brought water, ice, blankets and comfort. “The call ‘Sister’ could be heard every minute during the night,” one remembered of her hectic shifts. Another spoke about her initial trepidation on her first day: “I was struck, at first, with a fearful dread, for I never came in close contact with death but once in my life. But realizing what must be done, I quickly put on my gown and mask, and being assigned to the women’s ward, I began my duties.”
One would imagine that our present pandemic might be another opportunity for modern Catholic religious to display the heroism of their forebears. And perhaps we will eventually find out that that is the case, that they are out there helping the sick beat back this virus. Unfortunately we live in a time when people -- even priests -- are increasingly catechized in the religion of environmentalism. And the religion of environmentalism seems to be rooting for the virus.
Per example, on Monday the official news service of the Vatican published a short piece by a Jesuit priest named Benedict Mayaki entitled "Coronavirus: Earth's Unlikely Ally."
The article has since been taken down (though you can still read it in multiple languages here; scroll down for English) but if you've been following some of the nutty anti-human narrative the environmentalist movement has been doubling down on lately, you won't be surprised by what it says:
The reduction in human activity is having an unintended benefit: Earth is healing herself. It Italy, fish have returned to the canals in Venice. Less tourism and water transport have allowed the murky waters to settle... China, the world's largest carbon emitter, now has a significant decrease in the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in the air. NASA attributes this to the decline of economic and industrial activities during the coronavirus outbreak....
The global reduction in air, land and sea travel is yielding benefits for the planet as carbon emission sees a projected decline. Air travel alone contributes more than two percent of global carbon emissions.
Imagine an Italian-based website publishing an article like that at a time when Italy is being ravaged, when almost 100,000 Italians are infected and over 10,000 have died. And as far as China is concerned, while we don't have any idea what their numbers actually are. They do seem to be stockpiling urns, even as they claim that they've gotten the virus under control. Maybe Father Benedict should be a little more sensitive to the human cost of this crisis.
Strictly speaking, this is what the Church used to call paganism. Mother Gaia has been suffering from the human virus for too long, so she made us a bowl of bat soup and now she's "healing herself." Lots of hip publications are making a similar case. It's just a little disturbing to see the Vatican so "on trend." Then again, this is what Pope Francis had to say in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si: "Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years."