Absurd anti-Catholic claim in China merits Tertullian's satirical response

The website of the Society of St Pius X has a useful news service which often picks up stories that do not feature elsewhere. Today this story caught my eye: "China: Catholics Accused of Spreading the Coronavirus".

The WeChat and Weibo messaging services have a novel conspiracy theory, that the new wave of Covid-19 is the fault of the Catholic faithful being gathered together by "foreign priests" in the Hebei province.

The SSPX article quotes AsiaNews, a widely respected source from The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, originally in Italian, which has had an English and Chinese edition since 2003. Their article "Hebei, Christians labelled ‘spreaders’. The return of Nero" has more detail. The reference to Nero recalls how he set fire to Rome and then blamed the Christians.

Perhaps even more relevant is the exasperated satire of Tertullian in his Apologeticum (c.40). It fits quite well.

For those who read Latin, it would be wrong to neglect a sample of Tertullian's famously terse "Tacitean" prose.

Si Tiberis ascendit in moenia, si Nilus non ascendit in arva, si caelum stetit, si terra movit, si fames, si lues, statim Christianos ad leonem! adclamatur. Tantos ad unum?

and here is my translation:

If the Tiber rises to the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky stands still, if the earth moves, if there is famine, if there is a plague, then immediately the cry is, "The Christians to the lion!" So many to one lion?

Pray for the Catholics of China, and pray for their beautiful country. Its people are suffering under what is nowadays euphemistically called an "authoritarian government". In truth, the yoke of atheistic communism is as cruel as it ever was. Just as in ancient Rome, the official persecution of Christians gave rise to wild rumours, good Chinese people may also be misled by this fake news. Pray also for the poor Uyghur people who are suffering ghastly persecution as well.

Our Lady of China, pray for us. Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions, pray for us.

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