Two U.S. bishops are also alleged signatories: Bishop Rene Gracida, emeritus bishop of Corpus Christi, and Bishop Joseph Strickland, the Bishop of Tyler, Texas.
Strickland told CNA by email May 7 that he "did sign off on this letter."
Along with several other bishops, the well-known auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, is listed as a signer of the letter.
Another reported signatory is Fr. Curzio Nitoglia, a priest of the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist group in "irregular communion" with the Church. Nitoglia is the author of "The Magisterium of Vatican II," a 1994 article that claims that "the church of Vatican II is therefore not the Apostolic and Roman Catholic Church instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ."
The May 7 letter argued that the coronavirus pandemic has been sensationalized and exploited, to impede civil rights and exact government control over individuals and families.
The letter said that "the facts have shown that, under the pretext of the Covid-19 epidemic, the inalienable rights of citizens have in many cases been violated and their fundamental freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of worship, expression and movement, have been disproportionately and unjustifiably restricted."
"Many authoritative voices in the world of science and medicine confirm that the media's alarmism about Covid-19 appears to be absolutely unjustified."
Nearly 4 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 270,000 have died. In some countries, death rates in the months of the coronavirus pandemic have far exceeded death rates over the same months in previous years, suggesting to some demographers and epidemiologists that coronavirus deaths have been dramatically undercounted.
The pandemic, and the social distancing and stay-at-home orders issued to slow its spread, have become a source of considerable controversy in recent weeks. In the U.S., protests in several state capitals have gathered demonstrators in close proximity to one another, a move public health experts say could lead to new outbreaks of the disease.
The letter said that the economic crisis occasioned by the global pandemic "encourages interference by foreign powers and has serious social and political repercussions. Those with governmental responsibility must stop these forms of social engineering, by taking measures to protect their citizens whom they represent, and in whose interests they have a serious obligation to act."
"The criminalization of personal and social relationships must likewise be judged as an unacceptable part of the plan of those who advocate isolating individuals in order to better manipulate and control them," the authors added.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
No cure or therapeutic treatment has yet been identified for the virus. In early weeks of the pandemic, President Donald Trump hypothesized that hydroxychloroquine, an inexpensive anti-malarial medication, could help treat the disease. U.S. researchers have largely moved away from the medication, especially after a study by the Veterans' Administration found that administering the drug leads to higher death rates among patients receiving it.
Some, including television hosts Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity have alleged that the study is inaccurate. Some protestors have suggested the VA study was intended to discredit Trump or profit vaccine manufacturers.
In an apparent reference to the hydroxychloroquine controversy, the letter said that: "Every effort must be made to ensure that shady business interests do not influence the choices made by government leaders and international bodies. It is unreasonable to penalize those remedies that have proved to be effective, and are often inexpensive, just because one wishes to give priority to treatments or vaccines that are not as good, but which guarantee pharmaceutical companies far greater profits, and exacerbate public health expenditures."
"Let us also remember, as Pastors, that for Catholics it is morally unacceptable to develop or use vaccines derived from material from aborted fetuses," the letter added.
The U.S. bishops conference has also said vaccine development should avoid unethical links to abortion.
The letter argues that governments do not have the right to ban or restrict public worship or other kinds of ministry, and asks that any such restrictions be rescinded.