The spread of Zika warns of cataclysm to come. Rising temperatures have increased the range of the Aedes mosquito that carries the pathogen, initially concentrated in Brazil and now “spreading explosively” through the Americas. Zika leads to, among other things, severe birth defects; in Brazil, a “million people have been infected and nearly 4,000 children have been born with microcephaly, a rare condition in which babies have unusually small heads.”
In El Salvador, the Zika crisis has flummoxed the Catholic Church. The small, desperate country—water stressed, impoverished, terrorized by gangs, bullied by corporate capital, and harangued by the Obama administration—has advised that women hold off getting pregnant for two years, until 2018. The church’s stance on family planning is already immoral, backing Salvadoran laws that punitively criminalize abortion and imprison women for having miscarriages. Rather than confront the consequences of this medievalism, church leaders, in the face of Zika, have kept quiet. The New York Times writes that the church was “unprepared” to respond to the government’s call to not have babies. The archbishop was to say something last Sunday, but he fell sick and kept silent. An auxiliary bishop said there would be a meeting of church hierarchs “that might yield some answers. ‘Certainly this is a new theme, and it has to be looked at calmly,’ he said in an interview. ‘I think that the church is going to take this very seriously. I would just wait a little.’” Salvadorans are still waiting.