Coronavirus and other disasters, said His Holiness, are nature’s way of punishing us for global warming: “I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.”
If Greta Thunberg hadn’t spoken through the Pope, she might as well have done. One can only wish that the pontiff stuck to his own remit and relied on some other source of inspiration.
Had he wished to portray the pandemic as a punishment, he could have picked a different transgression and a different judge. Far be it from me to pontificate (as it were) on such matters, but a parallel with God punishing Old Testament Hebrews for reverting to idolatry was begging to be drawn.
How much more apposite it would have been for His Holiness to say that God punishes those who turn away from him, sinking into paganism and godlessness. People might have agreed or disagreed, but no one would have doubted that the message was appropriate, coming as it did from the Vicar of Christ.
Compare Francis’s Gretinism with the dignified, inspiring address the Queen delivered on the pandemic: “Many people of all faiths and of none are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, to pause and reflect in prayer or meditation.”
In the reign of the other Elizabeth, John Donne also had to respond to an epidemic. He did so with profoundly Christian words – without ever mentioning either Christ or God:
“No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
Did the Pope really think that Christians could have been roused out of their torpor by drivel out of Greta’s copybook? God only knows what he thought.
P.S. Rail union boss Steve Headley: “If BoJo pops his clogs I’ll throw a party”. Brushing aside his friends’ criticism, he enlarged on the thought: “I hope the whole cabinet of Tory bastards get it too.”
It’s good to see how some people get into the spirit of Holy Week. I also wonder if Steve has read John Donne.