NEW BOOK: Punishment or Mercy? The divine hand in the age of the coronavirus
14 May 2021
Whilst there appears to be a never-ending stream of analyses of the implications of the coronavirus, one aspect of the current crisis that has received considerably less attention is the role of Divine Providence without whose loving guidance or permission nothing happens in world history.
This is the theme of Punishment or mercy – The divine hand at the time of the coronavirus, a collection of essays by Roberto de Mattei, published by Calx Mariae, an imprint of Voice of the Family. In a series of talks and articles published throughout 2020, the professor of history assesses the pandemic in the light of divine judgment. Referring to saints, popes, accounts of divine interventions recorded throughout salvation history, and recalling Our Lady’s prophetic words to the children in Fatima, de Mattei demonstrates how God punishes the collective sins of men and nations through natural disasters. This is because nations, unlike individuals, do not have an eternal life and therefore receive their reward or punishment on earth.
Punishment as well as true mercy are unpopular concepts for modern men, including many modern Catholic men, because both refer to sin and the need for repentance; furthermore, both confirm the reality of heaven and hell. De Mattei reflects on how it is precisely in the times in history when man has grown insensitive to his offences against God, that He intervenes.
Throughout this collection of articles, written as the crisis unfolded, de Mattei causes us to reflect on the fact that despite the contradictions and confusion that accompany the changing narrative of the coronavirus, they should not derail us from considering the hand of God, who is present in every moment and every place of the world. “The only certainty that we have today,” he writes, “either in the case of coronavirus being a natural scourge, or a planned pandemic, is that nothing happens in history that is not willed by Divine Providence, and that God uses mass disasters to punish the sins of mankind.” And he goes on to ask: “How can we rule out that the instrument of this chastisement might actually be Communist China? Is it not true that in Fatima in 1917, Our Lady foretold a terrible chastisement of humanity if it did not convert?”
On the eve of the Communist Revolution, Our Lady predicted in Fatima that the errors of Russia would spread throughout the world, causing great suffering, unless Russia was consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart. And we may indeed wonder whether the coronavirus, which spread from Communist China and changed our globalised world beyond recognition, might not in fact be a divine reminder that the call to penance has not been taken seriously.
Our Lady showed the three children hell, where the souls of poor sinners go and she told little Jacinta that more sinners go to hell because of sins of impurity than for any other reason.
Today many of these sins are state policy of the most powerful nations. Abortion and so-called same-sex marriage – two of the four sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance – are enshrined in national constitutions of formerly Christian nations. More children have died worldwide through legal abortion than people killed in all the wars of recorded human history. And throughout the world, countless children are being corrupted by school sex education, often with the endorsement of Catholic bishops.
And, we might wonder, before they came to an abrupt halt due to the pandemic, how many of the sacrilegious and irreverent Masses which Catholics today accept with indifference, including countless desecrations of the body of Christ through the universal practice of Communion in the hand, are really an affront to God that surpasses even the atrocities just mentioned?
De Mattei is clear in his analysis that Church leaders bear the chief responsibility in the failure of so many to resist the errors of Communism, a creed diametrically opposed to Catholic truth. “The third part of the [Fatima] secret,” de Mattei writes, “extends to the Church. The sin of the men of the Church, who have the mission of guiding the faithful to eternal life, is not only their moral decadence but … their apostasy from the faith.”
However, throughout his reflections, de Mattei urges “tranquil courage”. We should be dominated neither by fear of the virus on the one hand nor by suspected powerful secret forces controlling political reaction to Covid-19. Instead we must fear God who “leads us to recognise the divine hand in the tragic events of our time” in order to unite us with Himself.
De Mattei also reminds us that the message of Fatima allows us to consider current events as a source of hope: “God is infinitely just, but His last word is always that of mercy…Our Lady herself invites us to take refuge in her arms, with these words of mercy and hope which dispel every fear: ‘In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’”
John Smeaton, the CEO of the Society of the Protection of Unborn Children, noted that “2020, the year of the coronavirus, will be researched by scholars, churchmen and the man in the street far into the future – and reading Punishment or Mercy – The divine hand in the age of the coronavirus, is an excellent place to start”.
Publisher: Calx Mariae Publishing 2021
Paperback: 138 pages
Price: UK £9.00/ EU €10.50/ USA $12.50