THE religious contribution to the news was not something to be proud of this week. Both of the main conspiracy theories about the virus appear to have originated with men describing themselves as ministers of the gospel — indeed, it was a self-styled Archbishop who persuaded President Trump to suggest to his supporters that they try drinking bleach as a cure for infection.
The Guardian had the story: “The leader of the most prominent group in the US peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a ‘miracle cure’ for coronavirus wrote to Donald Trump at the White House this week.
“In his letter, Mark Grenon told Trump that chlorine dioxide — a powerful bleach used in industrial processes such as textile manufacturing that can have fatal side-effects when drunk — ‘can rid the body of Covid-19’.
“Grenon styles himself as ‘archbishop’ of Genesis II — a Florida-based outfit that claims to be a church but which in fact is the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach as a ‘miracle cure’ in the US. He brands the chemical as MMS, ‘miracle mineral solution’, and claims fraudulently that it can cure 99% of all illnesses including cancer, malaria, HIV/Aids as well as autism.”
In this country, meanwhile, the rumour that 5G masts are responsible for the disease has been promoted by a former Vodafone salesman, Jonathan James, who is also described (again, by The Guardian) as “an evangelical pastor from Luton”. He delivered a sermon, widely shared on YouTube, in which he said: “The coronavirus is not what’s killing people, it is clearly, categorically, unequivocally proven that the radio frequencies we are being exposed to are killing the people. . . God has blessed me with the ability to bring disparate pieces of information together that puts the puzzle together and makes sense of it.”
He claimed to have run one of the largest business units in Vodafone, but, alas, “Vodafone insiders told The Guardian that while James had worked for the company, he was hired for a sales position in 2014 at a time when 5G was not a priority for the company and was unlikely to be in his remit. They said he ultimately left Vodafone after less than a year.”
MORE amusing was the descent of Archbishop Viganò into conspiratorial madness. He is the Vatican diplomat who accused Pope Francis of covering up the sexual misconduct of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in Washington (News, 1 March 2019). His story then was the spearhead of a massive attack by American right-wingers against the Pope.
Now, he has given an interview to a Portuguese site which was picked up by the conservative website LifeSite News. The claim is that the Virgin Mary, in her appearance at Fatima in 1919, warned against Vatican II, but successive popes have concealed this secret.
The Archbishop said: “Those who read the Third Secret clearly said that its content concerns the apostasy of the Church, which began precisely in the early Sixties. . . This almost obsessive insistence on issues that the Church has always condemned, such as relativism and religious indifference, false ecumenism, Malthusian ecologism, homo-heresy and immigration . . . represents the concretization of Freemasonry’s plan and the preparation for the advent of the Antichrist.”
You won’t learn that from the mainstream media.
SO, BACK to The Guardian, which had two more stories this week of religious interest. The first was the discovery that the Nightingale Hospital in London, built and opened amid tremendous publicity to deal with the pandemic (News, 9 April), has treated only 40 people.
This figure should be read in the light of the fuss kicked up when the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, told 18 volunteer chaplains, on the advice of the NHS, that they could not go on to the wards (News, 9 April). Had they made it there, they would each have had slightly more than two unconscious and intubated patients to care for.
The other was a really tricky little moral conundrum. Part of the protective equipment that hospitals (and carers) need desperately, at the moment, are latex gloves. These are made mostly in Malaysia, and conditions in factories there are pretty dreadful. “There are around 3 to 4 million migrant workers in Malaysia, mostly low-wage workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Indonesia. The majority pay illegal recruitment fees to brokers — some as high as £4000 — to secure their jobs, leaving them deep in debt and effectively trapped.
“The migrant workers sleep in 24-person dorms, go to work on crowded company buses and stand shoulder to shoulder on 12-hour shifts for six days a week, making social distancing impossible. In return, some earn as little as £7 a day.”
In other words, the price of providing British doctors and care-home staff the equipment they need to save lives here is paid by workers far away who are virtually enslaved and themselves helpless against the depredations of the virus. No one in this story can reasonably be blamed — except, perhaps, the factory owners. It is an example of structural sin.