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Natural disasters are not punishment from God: papal preacher

April 25, 2011

“Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that hit guilty and innocent alike are never a punishment from God,” said the official preacher of the pontifical household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, in a homily on Good Friday. To say otherwise, he added, “means offending God and man.”

However, the papal preacher continue, natural disasters can be taken as a warning against complacency. In this case, he said, they can be seen as “an admonition not to delude ourselves that science and technology will be enough to save us.” In fact, Father Cantalamassa continued, the reliance on science and technology can become a problem in itself. “If we fail to impose limits, they themselves may become--as we are experiencing--the greatest threats of all.”

Senior analysts and commentators, in the three major Italian dailies--Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, and La Stampa—interpreted Father Cantalamessa’s remarks as a response to what the noted historian Roberto De Mattei had said on Radio Maria on March 16: that earthquakes depend on the will of God, and so if they do happen it is because in a way people deserve them. De Mattei’s statement sparked un uproar in the academic milieu and beyond, with over 14,000 people adding their signatures to a petition to have the historian removed from Italy’s National Research Council, saying that his words were incompatible with his office in Italy’s most important public scientific institution. Despite the negative public reaction, De Mattei repeated his controversial stand in another Radio Maria broadcast on April 20.

De Mattei is no stranger to controversy. He has already embarrassed the Vatican and the Pope himself by producing a book in which he argues that Vatican II, unlike Benedict’s thought, has to be seen as a break from the tradition of the Catholic Church—a stand directly at variance with Pope Benedict’s teaching that the Council must be read in light of constant Church tradition.


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  • Posted by: - Apr. 26, 2011 1:45 PM ET USA

    Nothing happens without God's having allowed it. Disasters are bad for some, good for others. Those who die in a state of grace, of course, have no worries. Others will have much to answer for. For survivors and watchers-on, there is time for repentance. Did God give up the habit of punishing by disaster, after the time of Christ? Did Christ not predict earthquakes as God's signs of the end nearing. Isn't the book of Revelation in part about God's justice through disaster?