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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is weighing in on one of the most troubling theological questions of all time: Does God bring about natural disasters and other trials to punish humans for their sins? His answer is "No."
But Mother Nature does.
In a Skype interview aired on Spanish television, Francis suggested the global pandemic is nature's response to man's ecological sins: "God always forgives. We forgive from time to time. Nature never forgives. Fires, earthquakes ... nature is kicking in so that we take care of nature."
Some analysts note that embedded within the pontiff's remarks are important teachings — and not all of them helpful. For example, despite the Pope's claim, it is not clear that God forgives as part of sinners' confession of — or at least contrite repentance for — past sins, coupled with a firm purpose to avoid these sins in the future.
Without these well-known Catholic parameters, the pope's claim, while comforting at first blush, ultimately fails. The claim would then be twin brother to Bp. Robert Barron's belief that all men have a reasonable hope of salvation.
Furthermore, Catholic theologian Dr. Gavin Ashenden — a convert from Anglicanism — told Church Militant recently that position risks "turning God into a 21st-century, non-judgmental therapist by claiming that he never chastises us."
Pointing to Romans chapter one, where divine punishment comes about as a result of apostasy from God due to idolatry and to inverted and perverted sexual behaviors, Ashendon says we are "making God into a therapeutic figure rather than a Father known in awe and received in mercy" and that "the former deepens our innate tendency to narcissism, a looking inwards, while the latter directs our gaze more properly beyond ourselves in a more authentic worship and a deepened penitence."
We also hear from Pope Francis that an entity called "Nature," controls the physical universe. This entity, which cares nothing for humanity, does have the capacity for anger and other negative emotions that it unleashes when it feels threatened by human actions. The belief in such superior powers has led humans to seek appeasement from these false powers and to worship them.
Some of the pope's own bishops disagree with him.
Bishop Ramón Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, Mexico says the coronavirus is God's way of stopping man from trying to be God. In his March 22 homily, Bp. Castro warned, "God is not talking, he is shouting."
As reported by Gloria.tv, the bishop pointed out:
The bishop stressed mankind's need to be humble before God, adding, "Hey, you are fragile, you are vulnerable. Neither your success, nor your money, nor your power are going to help you. Realize who you are. Do not play God."
Bishop Castro is not alone in his beliefs about the Chinese virus. Church Militant reported that Cdl. Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, "has conceded that the ... pandemic may be interpreted as a chastisement we have brought upon ourselves by our evil and rebellion against God."
Bassetti quoted the first part of a verse from the prophet Jeremiah in an interview with leftwing Italian newspaper La Repubblica: "Your wickedness will chasten you, and your apostasy will reprove you" (2:19 RSV).