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Reflections on the post-coronavirus era in the light of the Social Doctrine of the Church

on Friday, 01 May 2020. Posted in Vaccines

Most Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi, the Archbishop of Trieste, Italy since 2009, explained how Covid-19 is underlining the great mistakes of our time, including a rejection of the principle of subsidiarity in favour of supranational globalism. The bishop is a specialist in the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, having served as secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 2001 until 2009. In 2003, he founded (and remains) president of the Cardinal Van Thuan International Observatory on the Social Doctrine. Excerpts are included from an article written by him dated March 19, 2020, and adapted from a translation by Jeanne Smits, which was published on

by Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi

Nothing will be the same

The epidemic linked to the spread of COVID-19 has an impact on many aspects of human coexistence and for this reason it requires analysis from the point of view of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Contagion is above all a matter of public health and this is enough to link it directly to the goal of achieving the common good.

The financing of health care, a problem that the coronavirus clearly highlights is a central moral issue in the pursuit of the common good. There is an urgent need to reflect both on the objectives of the health system, and on its management and use of resources.

[Additionally] the epidemic is threatening the functionality of productive and economic sectors, and if it continues will lead to bankruptcy, unemployment, poverty, social difficulties and conflicts. The world of work will be subject to major upheavals. New forms of support and solidarity will be needed and drastic choices will have to be made. The economic fallout relates to credit and monetary matters, and therefore, to Italy’s relations with the European Union, on which the final decisions in these two areas [public health and the economy] depend.

This again raises the issue of national sovereignty and globalization, highlighting the need to re-examine globalization... When a nerve centre is hit it causes systemic damage. On a global level that is difficult to correct. When lower social forms are removed all will be swept away under globalization.

On the other hand, the coronavirus has highlighted an inability for effective cooperation among member states of the supranational system, in this case, Italy and the European Union. Finally, the epidemic has raised concerns regarding the relationship of the common good and the Catholic Church and the relationship between the state and the Church generally. The suspension of Masses and the closure of churches are some features of this problem.

This, then, seems to be the complex picture posed by the coronavirus epidemic. These are subjects that challenge the Social Doctrine of the Church, and this is why our Observatory feels called to this reflection.

The end of ideological naturalism

Societies continue to be driven by ideological forms of naturalism that the epidemic can correct. Even more so during this experience, the exaltation of a pure and originally uncontaminated nature with humankind as the polluter is untenable.

The idea of a Mother Earth endowed with a harmonious equilibrium with whose spirit man would have to connect in order to find the right relationship with things and with himself is absurd. Nature must be governed by man. Pantheistic, postmodern ideologies are misaligned. Nature has imbalances and therefore must become subject to human being’s control, ‘humanized’ as it were. It is not man who must be in accord with nature but nature which must be subdued.

Revelation teaches us that creation is entrusted to man’s care and governance and for the ultimate goal which is God. Man has the right, because he has the duty, to manage the material creation, to govern it and to derive from it what is necessary and useful for the common good. Creation is entrusted by God to man, to his intervention according to reason and to his capacity for wise dominion. Man is the regulator of creation, not the other way around.

The two meanings of the word salus

The term salus means both health and salvation in the ethical-spiritual and especially religious sense. The current experience with the coronavirus demonstrates that the two meanings are linked. Threats to the health of the body cause changes in attitudes and ways of thinking and require a defense of certain values. The moral reference system of society as a whole is tested. Ethically valid behavior is demanded and selfish, disengaged, indifferent and exploitative modes of thinking are called into disrepute.

There is heroism in the common fight against contagion and, at the same time there is plundering by those who would take advantage of the situation. The fight against contagion requires a moral rebuilding of society in terms of healthy and respectful behavior and solidarity, which is perhaps more important than the rebuilding of resources.

The challenge of physical health is therefore linked to the challenge of moral health. We need to profoundly rethink the immoral drifts of our society, at all levels. Often, misfortunes are not entirely natural, but have behind them man’s morally disordered attitudes. The origin of COVID-19 has not yet been definitively determined. Even if a natural origin is found the social impact calls into question the community ethic. The answer is not and will not only be scientific-technical, but also moral. After the technical response, the serious coronavirus crisis should revive public morality on a new solid foundation.

Contribution to the common good

Ethical participation is necessary because the common good is at stake. The coronavirus epidemic contradicts all those who have argued that the common good as a moral end does not exist. If this were the case, what would all people inside and outside institutions be engaged in and fighting for? What commitment would citizens be called upon to make if not a moral commitment to the common good? On what basis is it said that a certain behavior is “mandatory” at this time? Those who have denied the existence of the common good or who have entrusted its implementation to techniques alone, but not to a moral commitment for the good, are today contradicted by the facts. It is the common good that tells us that health is a good that we must all promote. It is the common good that tells us that the word salus has two meanings.

Will this experience with the coronavirus deepen and broaden this notion of the common good? As we fight to save the lives of many people, abortions have not stopped, the sale of abortificatients has not ended, euthanasia continues, the sacrifice of human embryos proceeds and many other practices against life and the family continue.

An important point now highlighted by the coronavirus crisis is the subsidiary role of credit. Blocking large sectors of the economy to ensure greater health security and reduce the spread of the virus is causing an economic crisis, particularly in terms of liquidity, for companies and households. If shutdowns last for a long time, a crisis in the cycles of production and consumption can be expected, with the specter of great unemployment. In the face of these needs, the role of credit can be fundamental and the financial system could redeem itself from its many reprehensible practices of the recent past.

Sovereignty and globalization

The current experience with the coronavirus also forces us to reconsider globalization and national sovereignty. Globalization views the planet as a system of rigid connections and articulations, an artificial construction governed by insiders with seemingly unshakeable communication systems. However, such a concept is weak, because a strike to the system creates an avalanche or domino effect.

Epidemics can put the health system in crisis while quarantines put the productive system in crisis, causing the collapse of the economy, unemployment and poverty. The credit system runs out of fuel, as it were, while the weakening of the population exposes it to new epidemics and so on in a series of vicious circles of global proportions.

Until ‘yesterday’, globalization presented the splendors and heights of perfect technical functioning and confirmation of the obsolescence of states and nations. It presented the absolute value of the “open society”: one planet, one religion, one universal morality, one globalist people and one world authority.

A virus may be enough to bring down the system, since any non-global levels of response would have been unavailable in a globalist system. Our experience warns us against an “open society” understood in this way, both because it is in the hands and power of a few and because a few other hands could bring it down like a house of cards. This is not to deny the importance of the international collaboration that a pandemic requires but such collaboration has nothing to do with collective, mechanical, automatic and systemic global structures.

The European Union’s death by coronavirus

This experience has demonstrated a divided and ghost-like European Union. Selfish differences have arisen between member states rather than cooperation. Italy has remained isolated; it has been left alone. The European Commission intervened late and the European Central Bank intervened badly. Faced with the epidemic, each state took separate steps to close down. The resources needed by Italy to deal with the emergency situation, which at other times would have been its own, because of the devaluation of the currency, now depend on the decisions of the Union, to which the country must now bow down.

The virus has demonstrated the artificial nature of the European Union, which has revealed itself incapable of making the member states cooperate with each other. The lack of a moral cement has not been compensated for by an institutional and political cement. We must take note of this unglamorous end of the European Union by coronavirus, and realize that cooperation is also possible outside the supranational political institutions.

State and Church

The word Salus means not only health but also salvation. The problem arises from the relationship of political life and religion. Religion best guarantees the truth of political life. Political authority weakens the fight against evil, as it does with the present epidemic in which the sacrifice of the Holy Mass is made equivalent with recreational pursuits. Churches have closed, sometimes before the suspension of other types of gatherings which are certainly less important. Even the Church is complicit when she does not affirm, for the same authentic and complete common good, the public necessity of Holy Mass and access to churches.

The Church contributes to the fight against the epidemic through the various forms of assistance, aid and solidarity which she contributes as in the past during difficult times. However, it is important to retain the religious component so that it is not seen as an institution of civic society. This is why it is so important what Pope Francis said when he prayed to the Holy Spirit to give “pastors the pastoral capacity and discernment necessary to take measures that do not leave the faithful people of God alone. May the people of God feel accompanied by pastors and the comfort of the Word of God, the sacraments and prayer”.

This coronavirus emergency can feel as “if God did not exist”. When the emergency ends it is possible that such a vision will persist. It could be that the linkages between physical health and the moral and religious health will have been forgotten. If, on the contrary, the recognition of God’s place in the world is not forgotten, then the relationship between politics and Catholicism and between the church and the state can also be restored on the right path.

The urgency of the current epidemic profoundly challenges the Church’s Social Doctrine. The heritage of faith and reason can help in the fight against the infection as it is a struggle concerning every level of social and political life. Above all, it can help with the world post-coronavirus. We need an overarching view that does not exclude any valuable perspective. Social life requires coherence and synthesis, especially during difficult times. That is why, in difficulties, people who know how to look in depth and upwards can find solutions and even opportunities to make things better than they were in the past. (Editor’s note: Louis Even and Douglas Social Credit would indeed “make things better!”) v

† Giampaolo Crepaldi

Archbishop of Trieste


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