How can the Catholic Church better prepare for the next pandemic?

Pope Francis greets medical workers administering the vaccine against COVID-19 April 2, 2021. Pope Francis greets medical workers administering the vaccine against COVID-19 April 2, 2021. | Credit: Holy See Press Office

“Everything possible must be done to keep the churches open and operational,” said Dr. José María Simón Castellví, president emeritus of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) in a recent essay for that organization titled “Preparing the Church for the Next Pandemic.”

Castellví began his article explaining that “when I say Church, I mean the Church that is still a pilgrim on this earth” and that by pandemic he means “any event transmissible by air or orally; or an attack with a radioactive component.”

“Until now the preparation of our churches for cases of health catastrophes has been poor,” lamented the veteran health care professional, although he recognized that “that Catholic doctors in some countries, such as those in the United States, develop very detailed contingency plans.”

For the Spanish physician, the Catholic hierarchy “should do more to ensure that the word of God, the sacraments, and our charity reaches the faithful and even evangelize those who do not yet know the good news.”

“The preparation for a good and holy death — the reunion with the Almighty — requires our hard work. Divine providence also counts on it,” he added.

The Catholic doctor then referred to the defunct Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care) — of which he himself was a member — which was later integrated into the current Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

“Unfortunately very little has been done for health or health care in this department. The [Pontifical] Council for Health Care Workers has not even been established, as was required according to the statutes signed by Pope Francis. This void, on such an important issue, also spreads to episcopal conferences and other ecclesiastical organizations,” the doctor noted.

In a new pandemic ‘we cannot be caught off guard’

Castellví pointed out that “when another global event happens that forces us to take drastic preventive measures,” as was the case with the COVID-19 pandemic, “we cannot be caught off guard. “Everything must be done to keep the churches open and operational.”

The Catholic doctor conceded that “hesitation during the first days” is understandable “but then you must be clear about the protection measures and you must act in science and in conscience, formed, informed, and refined by grace.”

“COVID has taught us that we can keep churches open if we use good masks, ventilation, distance between people, hand hygiene, and so on. Holy Communion, the use of holy water, or the anointing of the sick can be safely distributed by taking a few steps,” he said.

The health care professional encouraged the hierarchy “to consult organized Catholic doctors and other organizations such as the Royal Academies. National and international civil authorities must be respected. However, they have their own agendas and are generally not particularly concerned with pastoral care.”

Deficiency of information during COVID-19 ‘not acceptable’

After stating that the COVID-19 pandemic “really existed and caused the death of millions of fragile people,” the renowned Catholic doctor warned that this scenario “has served states to carry out a great ‘in vivo’ experiment for social control.”

“There are still many open questions about the disease (origin, vaccine prevention, treatments) in this post-pandemic period. In many countries there has been an excess of mortality that cannot be explained only by the lack of control of certain other pathologies during pandemic confinements,” the president emeritus of FIAMC noted.

Castellví said “the limited amount of information provided to the population was not acceptable while they were vaccinated with new drugs, bought en masse with secret contracts, without the informed consent that is required for almost any action, without applying the precautionary principle in pregnant women or children (the disease affects them very slightly, unlike what happened with the Spanish Flu) and falsely implying that vaccination prevented the transmission of the disease.”

“Good medicine is what is always needed. And the Church must prepare in time for our next vital challenges,” the doctor concluded.

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This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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