The German bishops conference has dismissed a warning by high-ranking Church figures that the Chinese coronavirus crisis has furnished a pretext for government overreach and the squelching of liberties.
As Breitbart News reported, a group of prominent Catholic prelates and lay leaders issued a declaration this week denouncing unjustified government suppression of the basic rights of citizens under the “pretext” of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The group, which includes three cardinals and nine bishops, warned that public health “must not and cannot become an alibi for infringing on the rights of millions of people around the world,” especially as “growing doubts emerge from several quarters about the actual contagiousness, danger and resistance of the virus.”
The prelates claimed that “there are powers interested in creating panic among the world’s population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements.”
The German bishops, who have been favorable to the lockdown and the government’s suspension of public worship, have criticized the letter as indulging in unfounded conspiracy theories.
“The German Bishops’ Conference’s assessment of the coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally different than the appeal published yesterday,” said conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing Saturday evening.
For his part, the vicar general of the city of Essen, Klaus Pfeffer, commented on Facebook that he was “simply stunned at what was being published in the name of the Church and Christianity: crude conspiracy theories without facts or evidence, allied with aggressive right-wing populist rhetoric meant to cause alarm.”
Among the signatories of the letter is Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the former chief of the Vatican’s doctrinal office and Germany’s highest-ranking prelate, as well as Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former Vatican nuncio to the United States.
In their letter, the prelates side with a growing number of observers that the negative effects of lockdowns on public health and well-being will far outweigh the destruction wrought by the virus itself.
The text also warns against the dangers of new forms of surveillance being adopted to monitor the movements of citizens under the guise of better ensuring public health.
“Forms of control over people, whether through tracking systems or any other form of location-finding” must be “rigorously avoided,” the letter reads, and the fight against the coronavirus “must not be the pretext for supporting the hidden intentions of supranational bodies that have very strong commercial and political interests in this plan.”