April 8, 2020
Jean-Claude Larchet, you are one of the first to have developed a theological reflection on disease, suffering, medicine. Your book “The Theology of Illness” published in 1991 has been translated into many languages, and in connection with the COVID-19 epidemic, it will soon be published in Japanese translation. You have also published a reflection on suffering: “God does not want human suffering,” which has also appeared in various translations.
First of all, what is your general opinion on the epidemic we are currently experiencing?
I am not surprised: for millennia there have been about two major epidemics per century, and several other smaller epidemics. Their frequency is, however, increasing, and the population concentration in our urban civilization, the traffic favoured by globalization, and the multiplicity and speed of modern means of transport easily turn them into pandemics. The present epidemic was therefore predictable, and was predicted by many epidemiologists who had no doubt that it would come; the only thing they did not know was the precise moment when it would occur and the form it would take. What is surprising, though, is the lack of preparedness of some states, which, instead of providing the medical staff with the hospital structures and equipment needed to deal with the scourge, have allowed hospitals to deteriorate and the production of medicines, masks, and respirators, which are now sorely lacking, to be outsourced (to China, like everything else).
Diseases are omnipresent in the history of mankind, and nobody lives a life completely unscathed by them. Epidemics are simply diseases that are particularly contagious and spread rapidly until they reach a large part of the population. The characteristic of the COVID-19 virus is that it seriously affects the respiratory system of the elderly or people weakened by other pathologies, and has a high degree of contagiousness that rapidly saturates intensive care systems with the large number of people affected simultaneously in a short period of time.
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