Celibacy and Viruses in China

Grind for January 21st
“People don’t like to talk about victory and defeat anymore.”
– John Bolton

Get Off My Cloud

The Headline

Retired Pope Benedict XVI urges Pope Francis not to back down from celibacy rules

The Grind

In his soon-to-be-published book, former Pope Benedict XVI urges Pope Francis to ignore the “wrong-headed pleas,” “theatrical productions,” “diabolical lies,” and “fashionable errors” that “try to put down priestly celibacy.”

The book, which breaks the vow of silence Benedict took in 2013 as well as his promise of “unconditional reverence and obedience” to Francis, is a direct response to Francis’s consideration to ease celibacy rules in areas of South America that do not have enough priests to serve the population.

The Details

In countries like Brazil, the shortage of priests forces Catholics to wait months to attend Mass. In October, senior members of the Church in South America voted to recommend that older, married men be ordained to fill the gaps.

In his book, Benedict argues that it is not possible to devote oneself to family and to god, hence the celibacy requirement.

“The priesthood of Jesus Christ causes us to enter into a life that consists of becoming one with him and renouncing all that belongs only to us,” writes Benedict. “For priests, this is the foundation of the necessity of celibacy but also of liturgical prayer, meditation on the Word of God, and the renunciation of material goods.”

Many consider Benedict’s book a serious breach of protocol.

“It interferes with a synodal process that is still unfolding after the Amazon synod,” writes historian/theologian Massimo Faggioli, “and threatens to limit the freedom of the one pope.”

Problem Solved

The Headline

China identifies mystery virus

The Grind

Earlier this month I wrote about a strange outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province. Many worried the virus was related to SARS, a contagious respiratory disease that killed more than 700 people in 2002 and 2003 after originating in China.

China’s poor handling of the SARS outbreak attracted international criticism and the firing of then-Health Minister Zhang Wenkang.

The Details

The first SARS death occurred in November 2002, but it wasn’t until February 2003 that Chinese authorities reported the infection to the World Health Organization. In the meantime, thousands of people were infected and the disease spread to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

“The biggest challenge in 2003 was the initial reluctance of China to explain what was going on,” says virologist Jim DeLuc. “That allowed the outbreak to get a good head of steam before anyone realized how severe it was.”

This time around, Chinese authorities identified and publicized the illness less than one month after the first case was reported.

As announced Thursday, the culprit behind the outbreak is a member of the coronavirus family (the same family that causes SARS), but does not seem to spread easily from one person to another.

So far, there has been just one reported death from the new disease.

The Takeaway

After considerable urging from the global public health community, Chinese scientists published a draft genome of the virus to allow researchers throughout the world to study, analyze, and offer recommendations to doctors and hospitals.

China’s behavior this time around “really reflects favorably on China’s commitment to public health, transparency, and making sure they’re doing absolutely cutting edge science,” says DeLuc.

Symptoms of the new virus include fever, difficulty breathing, and lung lesions. Most of the 40-some confirmed cases are connected to a local seafood market rumored to sell snakes and other exotic animals.

SARS was determined to have originated with the palm civet, a small species of wildcat that is hunted for meat in some parts of China.

Did you know… The Kangaroo Rat can last longer without water than a camel