The Catholic concept of the Common Good is the antidote to the ideological manipulation of the coronavirus pandemic
Brazil and almost all countries are going through the saddest Holy Week in their history due to the threat of a pandemic but above all for being deprived of the commemorations and graces related to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which the Church has held since 389.
We are living one of those moments that mark history and define the future of subsequent generations.
In addition to its public health implications, the Coronavirus pandemic could bring about the greatest changes that humanity has faced in the two thousand years of Christianity.
Transformations are occurring without almost no one analyzing them in-depth or presenting an overall view capable of alerting public opinion. These changes are also being absorbed with resignation in the face of a public calamity presented with apocalyptic proportions.
“Confiscation,” “income redistribution,” “new economic model,” “wealth tax,” “ordering production to face the pandemic,” etc., are increasingly common topics in the media. At the same time, the news is rife with the spirit of “class struggle,” comparing the self-quarantines in “mansions” and “slums.”
Saying that the world “will never be the same” has become a new slogan repeated in various social circles. It is supposed to become a more “egalitarian,” “ecological,” “post-industrial” world.
However, according to its prophets, this “new world” will not result from correcting past mistakes and operating a “Return to Order” [i] based on Natural Law and the principles of organic society. It will be the utopian world of radical ecologists and indigenists, or the one dreamed of by the advocates of world governance, first in the area of health, then ecology, and finally, political and even philosophical and religious spheres.
One of the editions of the book Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue, launched by the Instituto Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira (caption)
To overcome this danger, inspired by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s 1966 essay Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue, this Institute, honored to bear his name, presents to the Brazilian public this first analysis of the risks that we face at this critical time. We hope this cry of alert will awaken generous but unsuspecting minds, preserving them from a vast ideological manipulation.
We base this analysis on the principles of the social doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church, which must be remembered now more than ever thanks to the silence of so many bishops infected with the virus of liberation theology.
In this moment of confusion and relativism, the principles of traditional Catholic teaching will provide the necessary guidance to a humanity that placed all its trust in modern science and technology and suddenly finds itself immersed in insecurity and facing an uncertain and menacing future.
1. The True Concept of Common Good
In the name of the “common good,” concern for physical health has monopolized public discussion.
However, the common good is not restricted to the utilitarian and “secular,” a meaning that it has acquired in modern democracies. Its true concept has valid implications for the current crisis.
From the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: [ii]
“164 …According to its primary and broadly accepted sense, the common good indicates ‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.’ … Just as the moral actions of an individual are accomplished in doing what is good, so too the actions of a society attain their full stature when they bring about the common good. The common good, in fact, can be understood as the social and community dimension of the moral good.”
“170. The common good of society is not an end in itself; it has value only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation. God is the ultimate end of his creatures and for no reason may the common good be deprived of its transcendent dimension, which moves beyond the historical dimension while at the same time fulfilling it. This perspective reaches its fullness by virtue of faith in Jesus’ Passover, which sheds clear light on the attainment of humanity’s true common good. Our history — the personal and collective effort to elevate the human condition — begins and ends in Jesus: thanks to him, by means of him and in light of him every reality, including human society, can be brought to its Supreme Good, to its fulfillment. A purely historical and materialistic vision would end up transforming the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being, without any transcendental goal, that is, without its most intimate reason for existing.”
Just as separating concern with the economy from other aspects of human life would reduce man to his merely historical and materialistic dimension, so also concern with physical health, if not harmonized with other transcendent needs of man, and subordinated to moral good would end up denying “common good” itself.
2. The Common Good Is Above All Spiritual
Therefore, it is a serious inversion of values and a denial of the true “common good” to close churches at this time, denying the faithful access to the sacraments.
Religious ministry is obviously of public utility. Churches must remain open, public worship must continue, and one must continue to administer the sacraments just as long as prudential rules are respected to avoid contagion.
The right of priests to move about must be respected in all circumstances just as those of medical personnel so they can serve the faithful, and especially the dying, in hospitals and homes.
From a legal point of view, this being a lawful activity explicitly protected by the Constitution, the public authorities may prohibit it just as long as health regulations are respected. Above all, it is up to the Church – and not the State – to have the last word on this matter.
In this regard, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Papal Nuncio in Washington, stated in a recent interview: “Clearly I understand and share the basic worries about safety and protection which the authorities require for public health. However, just as they have the right to pass measures for things affecting our bodies, so the Church authorities have the right and the duty to worry about the health of our souls. They cannot deny the faithful the spiritual sustenance they receive from the Eucharist, not to mention the Sacrament of Confession, Mass, and Viaticum.”
Respect for religious practice becomes all the more necessary when we know that a person’s immune system, particularly that of the elderly and those with serious illnesses, is weakened by panic, depression, and exhaustion. Deprivation of spiritual, pastoral care cannot but have a harmful impact on public health. In fact, President Jair Bolsonaro recognized it in a recent decree, in which he considered Masses as an essential activity.
Pastors who not only submit to the violation of the natural and constitutional freedom to practice religion without protesting, but go along with authorities and apply health rules even more strictly than the latter indicated are betraying their sacred mission.
3. The Common Good Results from the Harmonization of Various Interests
While health is one of the main elements of collective life, it is not a supreme value or an absolute right that overrides moral good or could jeopardize a nation’s existence and future.
According to the Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine: [iii]
“169. To ensure the common good, the government of each country has the specific duty to harmonize the different sectoral interests with the requirements of justice. The proper reconciling of the particular goods of groups and those of individuals is, in fact, one of the most delicate tasks of public authority. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that in the democratic State, where decisions are usually made by the majority of representatives elected by the people, those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.”
It is not enough to follow the will of the minority or even the majority. One must take into account the common good of the country.
Therefore, one must seek a balance between demands to fight the epidemic and the requirements of collective life; these must not be seriously threatened, let alone in their most fundamental values, by decisions caused by panic.
Such decisions can lead not only to more deaths from the virus but also to hunger and death resulting from unpredictable social and economic disasters.
It is paradoxical to see international agencies, ideological currents, and the media ardently advocate for the sacrificing of innocent victims through abortion and euthanasia yet passionately defend the right to life as a unique value. This hypocrisy reveals that their real motivation is to promote an ideological agenda.
Some believe that this agenda seeks to pursue the utopia of a totalitarian New World Order. Others, on the contrary, see it as a quest to dismantle civilization and move toward the utopian tribal life advocated by Liberation Theology and radical ecology.
4. In the temporal sphere, it is up to the Executive Branch to harmonize conflicting interests in the name of the true common good
It is up to public authority alone – not to international organizations, health experts, the media, or ideological lobbies — to determine the appropriate measures to combat the epidemic, and at the same time, harmonize conflicting interests. This authority receives from God the supernatural power and graces to make decisions that must be obeyed unless they contradict the moral good, which is the foundation of Natural Law.
Fighting the Coronavirus, insofar as it has social, political, economic, and religious implications (such as the closing of churches) is not just a matter of public health. Its impact goes far beyond the physical and immediate health of citizens.
Accordingly, the common good requires, in modern democracies, which have separated branches of power, that the institutional order be respected and that the authorities of the Executive Power decide, at their respective levels, on the appropriate measures that must be taken.
It is up to these authorities to gauge the implications of such measures on each sector – and not only on public health -, to make decisions that suit society as a whole.
By arrogating the right to decide on such matters, the Legislative and Judiciary branches pose a serious threat to the common good, as has happened in Brazil and elsewhere, exceeding their proper functions by creating laws or overseeing the legality of measures.
By invading the sphere of the Executive Branch, the Judicial Branch not only goes beyond its functions but acts in a paradoxical fashion, as traditionally it has always been a defender of public liberties in the face of limitations imposed by other branches. This situation is now reversed, and we have judicial decisions denying even the right to free speech [iv] to those who oppose the “single thought” being imposed on the rest of society.
5. The Common Good requires that limitations on public freedoms and individual rights be temporary
One sees another paradox in the Brazilian left. Those who in rather recent past were defenders of public liberties and individual rights are now promoters of extreme measures of population control, and even more, favor applying such measures indefinitely.
Some go so far as to advocate the need for international control mechanisms capable of effectively combating situations such as the Coronavirus.
Not rarely, they mention the much-trumpeted (if suspect) success of the ‘Chinese model,’ which, they claim, has fought the spread of the virus without bothering with individual freedoms.
In many countries, compulsory isolation is no longer a distant hypothesis. Due to the pandemic, more than 40% of the world population is confined to their homes. [v]
In his masterpiece, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira says that a strong government needed to face a crisis such as the present one, must necessarily be transitory.
Expounding on the concept of “dictatorship,” he wrote:
“There are circumstances that demand, for the sake of the salus populi, a suspension of individual rights and a greater exercise of public power. A dictatorship, therefore, can be legitimate in certain cases.”
He goes on to cite some requirements for it to be legitimate, including:
1. “It must suspend rights to protect order, not to subvert it. By order we do not mean mere material tranquility, but the disposition of things according to their end and in accordance with the respective scale of values.”
2. “By definition, this suspension is temporary. It must prepare circumstances for a return to order and normality as soon as possible. A dictatorship, to the degree it is good, proceeds to put an end to its very reason for being. The intervention of public authority in the various sectors of the national life must be undertaken in such a way that, as soon as possible, each sector may live with the necessary autonomy.”
3. “In contrast, a revolutionary dictatorship aims to perpetuate itself. It violates authentic rights and penetrates all spheres of society to destroy them. It carries out this destruction by sundering family life, harming the genuine elites, subverting the social hierarchy, fomenting utopian ideas and disorderly ambitions in the multitudes, extinguishing the real life of the social groups, and subjecting everything to the State. In short, it favors the work of the Revolution. A typical example of such a dictatorship was Hitlerism. For this reason, a revolutionary dictatorship is fundamentally anti-Catholic.”
Therefore, in the current emergency, the principle that should apply is to minimize the extent and duration of restrictions on public freedoms and normal life, and not the other way around.
6. For the sake of the cCommon Good, the principle of subsidiarity must be respected even in emergencies
While public authorities represent the head of the social body and play an essential directive role, life in society results from the activity and energy developed by all cells of the social body.
Fighting the pandemic is not the exclusive domain of the State, but also needs the contribution of society. The government must not monopolize all related activities under the pretext of a national emergency.
Public authorities must respect private property and free enterprise, as well as the rights of parents and intermediary bodies to the fullest possible extent, and compensate them in a fairly and timely manner for any limitation or damage.
From the Compendium of Church Social Doctrine:
“185. Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church’s social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth. This is the realm of civil society, understood as the sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to “the creative subjectivity of the citizen”. This network of relationships strengthens the social fabric and constitutes the basis of a true community of persons, making possible the recognition of higher forms of social activity.”
During this quarantine, we cannot forget the medium and small businessmen, professionals, self-employed, and their families who still represent a remnant of organic life in the globalized societies in which we live. They will be hard hit by the economic crisis that is already showing its first symptoms.
The best Brazil has are her generous, hardworking, and innovative people.
These characteristics – arising from the moral and transcendental values with which Divine Providence has kindly nurtured us – have profoundly marked our country and are also at serious risk in the current crisis.
From a practical point of view, respect for subsidiarity is all the more necessary as it is clear that the private sector is much quicker to react and more flexible to apply remedies than the heavy and bureaucratic state apparatus. Therefore, its contribution is indispensable not only to face the epidemic but mainly for the national reconstruction efforts that will follow, as the country will have to face a worldwide depression that may be the biggest ever recorded.
7. The Common Good requires strengthening national sovereignty
The Coronavirus epidemic has revealed the fragility of a globalized and interconnected world based on the siren call of mercantilism that sacrifices a short suply chain of production and consumption to favor long supply chains susceptible to disruption by various contingencies of human life (disasters, geopolitical changes, etc.).
These circumstances have clearly shown how a considerable part of the world depends on the goodwill of the rulersof Communist China. Accordingly, this should lead to an effort to reindustrialize Brazil and establish commercial partnerships that make our economy less dependent on China and more oriented to satisfy our domestic needs.
For the same reason, we must ensure that the jewels of our industry, our agricultural lands, and our national wealth, devalued by the coming depression, do not fall into the hands of dubious foreign capital, especially that of large Chinese companies controlled by the Communist Party and State.
8. The Chinese model of social control
Coronavirus was born in China. Now, in a huge propaganda ploy, the Chinese are offering masks to protect us from the virus. The media are calling this action “Mask Diplomacy.” 
In this world where the false notion of common good overrides its true concept, many governments are willing to ignore Chinese Communism – including its systematic disregard for the individual rights of its people, reduced to slave labor – to receive help at this time of pandemics.
A massive breakdown of ideological barriers is occurring around the world and few people are noticing it.
In this context, it is not surprising that the Chinese president called President Trump to “offer help.” 
China has been presented not only as a model country in containing the virus but has also become known for its capacity for social control through new digital tracking techniques, facial recognition, etc.
Yet, there is no reliable data about China. Chinese rulers filter both written and social media and claim that the country has isolated the Coronavirus.
The Chinese Communist Party has widely publicized its ability to use state-of-the-art technology to identify and track people. 
Through facial recognition on smartphones – which indicates user location – the Chinese rulers can locate each individual and to define with whom he had contact.
At this moment, nothing would seem more useful and seductive, and at the same time more opposed to the authentic individual freedoms found in an organic society that respects the principle of subsidiarity.
Is not a new model of interconnected, globalized society socialized in a strong and increasingly egalitarian state?
Are they not preparing a new model of interconnected, globalized, and socialized society in a dictatorial and increasingly egalitarian state?
9. The danger of a ‘single thought’ dictatorship
Coronavirus is a real danger to public health and should not be underestimated. However, one cannot, in the name of a misunderstood common good, sacrifice values, break down ideological barriers vis-a-vis communism, accept a “paradigm shift” to usher in a new world that is an antithesis of Christianity.
Another dictatorship is also in the making: the “thought” dictatorship, which seeks to silence those who believe that a man is not just a body, that the economy is not just about money, and that the true common good does not dispense with moral values.
As ideological barriers begin to fall for fear of a virus, it is more important than ever to recall the principles of Catholic social doctrine.
10. Unperceived Ideological Transshipment
In November 1965, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira published in the magazine Catolicismo his study on Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue. 
In it, the illustrious Catholic thinker and leader describes the maneuver through which one can lead an entire population to change their way of seeing a reality without realizing it.
Dealing with the danger represented by international Communism at that time, while not ignoring the nuclear danger, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira drew attention to other, much more discreet and profound maneuvers.
That included ideological transshipment, a process at the end of which, the “patient” would have changed his position.
Is the current pressure exerted on public opinion, by presenting frightening numbers of dead and punishing any divergent opinion, not a way to change society under the guise of a public health issue?
Are we not witnessing a major maneuver of unperceived ideological transshipment of which we, too, are victims?
For now, let us consider for the moment what the renowned editorialist Renaud Girard, specialist in geopolitical issues, wrote on April 6 in the Paris daily Le Figaro under the descriptive title “Confinement: A Medicine Worse Than the Disease?”
“Over one hundred thousand people will be killed by Covid-19, causing the suffering of hundreds of thousands of families. While this is obviously very sad, common sense must prevail. Long before the appearance of Sars-CoV-2, classic obstructive pulmonary diseases were already killing large numbers. In 2016, according to WHO, they took three million lives. However, that year the economy of the planet did not stop.
“Last year, traffic accidents killed more than a million people worldwide. However, we do not prohibit circulation. Fortunately, the number of road deaths has been reduced through targeted actions (speed limits, penal measures against drunken driving, car airbags, road repairs, etc.). Targeted actions against Covid-19 should also be taken (mass screening, isolation, and care for infected people, hospital equipment with respirators, etc.), while waiting for the development of a vaccine.
“However, prolonged general confinement could greatly increase world mortality due to the disorganization it caused. The medicine can be worse than the disease. Economic recessions decrease life expectancy. …
“With Covid-19, overreaction by the immune system is usually what ends up killing the patient. Let us not reproduce this error of nature in geopolitics! Let us stay calm and refrain from radical political measures that are dangerous for the medium-term future of our entire planet!” 
11. The Role of Brazil
Innumerable demonstrations that have filled avenues, streets, and squares in our cities over the past seven years reverberated throughout the world and contributed to putting Brazil in its proper place, making it a point of reference.
Conservative governments have been elected in several countries, but none of them has seen such an influx of people taking to the streets against socialism, communism, and their many consequences.
The cries “I want my Brazil back” and “My flag will never be red” were indicative not only of the desire for a conservative government but also of a profound reaction from a nation tired of keeping silent and ignored by politicians.
This Brazil is now at risk. At the risk of a division among conservatives and at risk of an unperceived ideological transshipment, which is much more severe than the threat posed by Coronavirus.
At this historic moment, not only Brazilians are looking at their threatened homeland; so is a part of the world, which sees with hope the anti-Communist reaction that arose here so explicitly.
The way Brazil reacts in the face of the Coronavirus crisis will have a scope that is still difficult to measure, but it will certainly not be limited to our borders.
In the present emergency, we must raise our sights and consider events from a higher level and with a long-range perspective.
It would be absurd to imagine that God, almighty and all-knowing, would be unaware of this worldwide pandemic or concerned only with fortifying us spiritually to face danger and pain, unable to radically change the course of our events.
In his infinite wisdom, God has allowed secondary causes to trigger this pandemic. It is not unreasonable to ask if His mysterious intention was only a desire to prove our virtue or especially to correct our vices and sins like a good Father who wants to spare his children from eternal loss.
Throughout history, peoples considered plagues as divine warnings or punishments, and raised to the divine and sublime Majesty the poignant Lenten song: Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo quem redemisti, Christe, sanguine tuo ut non in aeternum irascaris nobis — “Forgive, Lord, your people, redeemed by the blood of Christ; do not be angry with us forever.”
Deprived of the sacraments and of Holy Week’s beautiful processions and ceremonies, we Brazilians would like to raise to God the piercing cry of Our Lord in His agony: “‘Eli, Eli, lamma sabactáni?” – “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46). Unlike the Divine Redeemer, in whose lips that complaint made perfect sense as He was the unstained Lamb who put on our sins, our national temperament prevents us from asking such question.
Over the last few decades, how many laws opposed to the Law of God have been approved! How many public blasphemies were supported by the Judiciary Branch and other authorities! How many innocent victims were sacrificed through abortion! How much moral decay has taken place by the acceptance of same-sex “marriage,” free love, and divorce! How many children have been corrupted by gender ideology! How much incitement to envy, theft, and class hatred! How much practical materialism and atheism! Above all, how immense has been the defection of Pastors, who did not properly guide their flock!
Like the inhabitants of Nineveh in the Old Testament, what God wants from us as a good Father is not death but repentance and conversion, not only as individuals but as a Nation so we can be once again, with all authenticity, the Land of the Holy Cross.
This conversion – of which some requirements we pointed out above – will require many sacrifices from everyone with a view to the common good. Yet we will be powerless to fulfill them without the omnipotence of divine grace and the most powerful intercession of Mary Most Holy, who remained standing at the Cross and was given us as Mother in that tragic hour of supreme fidelity.
Prudential measures of social isolation and hygiene are not enough to effectively curb the Coronavirus. Above all, it is necessary to ask God for help through Our Lady, with a sincere purpose of conversion. This request will gain strength and suitability if made by our authorities.
In so doing, Brazil will be able to go through its present passion without knowing death, and resurrect at Easter with the triumphant strength of the Risen Christ in humanity renewed according to the promise of Our Lady at Fatima: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!”
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute
10 April 2020
1. Title of the best seller by John Horvat, vice-president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, which has sold over 330,000 copies (cf. https://www.returntoorder.org/)
3. Idem Ibidem.
6. Em meio à pandemia, China faz diplomacia das máscaras: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/colunas/tatiana-prazeres/2020/03/em-meio-a-pandemia-china-faz-diplomacia-das-mascaras.shtml
7. Em ligação, Xi Jimping oferece ajuda a Trump: https://exame.abril.com.br/mundo/xi-jinping-promete-ajuda-aos-eua-em-conversa-com-trump-sobre-coronavirus/
Translated by the staff of Fatima Today.