When the story of Covid is one day told, historians will speculate as to the cause of both the virus itself and the worldwide reaction to it. The hubris of playing with nature in our labs will surely be mentioned. Many historians will likely emphasize the sociological implications of fear on a massive scale. And of course one cannot ignore the growing authoritarianism that found a spark to light its fuse.
However, what I believe is the root cause will most likely remain hidden: Pachamama.
You read that correctly: I believe that the Covid pandemic and the horrific response to it were directly caused by the veneration of this pagan idol in the Vatican by prelates, priests, and lay people. In October 2019 a false idol was set up in the heart of the Catholic Church, and soon after all hell broke loose on earth.
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Bishops worldwide locked the doors of our churches. The dying were denied Last Rites. Catholics could not find priests to hear Confessions. Governments forced citizens into lockdowns. Children were forcibly masked for hours each day. The unvaccinated were treated like lepers. Small business owners lost their life’s work with the stroke of a governor’s pen.
Would this have happened if Pachamama had been kept out of Rome? I do not think so.
The justifications for the Pachamama incident are weak. We were told it was actually the Blessed Virgin Mary, the supposed “Our Lady of the Amazon.” Then we were told it actually was Pachamama, but that it wasn’t venerated as an idol. It was just an act of inculturation. That might have fooled a few naive Catholics, but God is not mocked.
Now, to modern sophisticated folks I know blaming Covid on Pachamama sounds like nonsense. After all, people with Master’s degrees in theology aren’t supposed to think like this. We are supposed to understand that God is a loving God and the world doesn’t work in such simplistic ways. We have a scientific understanding of the world now, and we know a few people gathering around a small wooden object can’t impact the rest of the world, right?
The ancient Jews would have scoffed at our skepticism. Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament shows that the ancient Israelites (or at least the sacred authors) saw a direct connection between unfaithfulness (particularly idolatry) and worldly problems. And conversely, when the Israelites were faithful, earthly prosperity followed.
This is not a proto-Prosperity Gospel. If you pray a lot you’re not going to miraculously make a million dollars, and if you tell a lie at work you’re not suddenly going to be stricken with cancer. But the Israelites believed that if God’s people reject Him in the dramatic and clear manner that is idolatry, He might very well withhold His protection from them.
Lest we channel our inner Marcion and think that such beliefs were to be discarded with the coming of Christ, St. Paul tells the Romans that to those who “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles,” God “gave them up” to their impurity and sin. More specifically, St. Paul says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men” (cf. Romans 1:18-32). The wrath of God did not disappear after the Resurrection.
Many Catholics today resist associating sin with terrible events unless they are directly connected, such as a man murdering his wife. After all, Christ made it clear that someone born with a physical defect, such as blindness, was not due to his sins or the sins of one of his parents: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (John 9:2-3). In other words, God did not punish the man with blindness because he or his parents did something wrong.
However, people often misinterpret Christ’s words to mean that our sins cannot cause unrelated bad things to happen. This is not what Our Lord’s words mean. He is making clear that although natural defects are part of this fallen world, our specific sins are not the cause of specific natural defects such as blindness or deafness. But that does not mean major bad events are unrelated to our corporate sins.
Today many of us perceive God as an overindulgent father, one who looks the other way at our sins. This is not the God of the Bible, however. Yes, the true God is always willing to forgive our transgressions—when we come to Him—but He does not prevent negative consequences for our actions. The father of the prodigal son allowed his son to wallow with the pigs so that he could recognize his sins.
So what is the connection between our corporate sins and evil occurring in the world? As St. Paul alluded to, God can, and often does, withhold His protection when we reject Him. And one thing that the Sacred Scriptures make clear is that idolatry is the worst way to reject Him. The First Commandment to have no other gods before God is first for a reason, because it’s the most important. Idolatry is the ultimate rejection of God, and as I’ve already noted, God is not mocked.
Perhaps God would not have allowed the Covid virus to escape from a Wuhan lab. Perhaps He would have allowed government leaders to recognize and promote early treatments for Covid that were instead suppressed. Perhaps God would have let Church leaders better understand the spiritual devastation that would be caused by a fearful response and given them courage. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
God withholds His protection not out of spiteful anger, but out of a sense of mercy. When we become so arrogant and unruly that we’ll play with idolatry in our most sacred places, we need to be humbled. We need to see what the world is like when we follow false gods rather than the true God. And this is what it’s like: pain, desperation, suffering, and spiritual desolation. Religious leaders who abandon us and political leaders who hate us. That’s the natural consequence of idolatry.
Placing the evil done in the name of Covid over the past two years at the feet of Pachamama does not excuse those who executed that evil. People are still responsible for their sins, and they have free will to choose good over evil. But the graces needed to prevent evil on a massive scale might well have been withheld so that we might be humbled and recognize our desperate need for God.
So what can we do? How can we get out of this mess that we’ve created? Reparation. Catholics must do reparation for the sins of idolatry, particularly the Pachamama veneration. Individual lay Catholics and clergy must do it. But most of all, our bishops—and our pope—must do this reparation. Beg for forgiveness for mocking God. Ask Him for mercy. Prayer, penance, sackcloth and ashes: this is the way forward for a sinful, idolatrous people.
Then maybe, just maybe, God will allow the Covid madness to end, fully and completely.
[Photo Credit: Giulio Origlia/Getty Images]