A Catholic priest in Santa Fe, New Mexico reportedly feels “no remorse” for calling COVID-19 the “China virus” in a notice recently posted on the front doors of his church.
In his announcement, Rev. Larry Brito, who holds masses at St. Anne Parish — located at the corner of Hickox and Alicia streets — canceled confessions after meeting a couple who tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Confession will be canceled today. I was in contact with a couple that was test positive for the China/Corna virus,” Brito wrote. “I took pro-cautions (as I always do) when I is visited them, but was unaware (as they were) that they had been exposed to the virus.”
Brito, who eventually tested positive, is currently in quarantine.
While the priest’s condition has saddened some, others reportedly took offense in his use of “China virus,” a controversial term critics have linked to the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the pandemic.
However, Brito doesn’t believe the term is racist. “That’s one of the terms that’s used that I’ve seen being used,” he told the Santa Fe New Mexican.
The priest suspects that had the virus originated in the U.S., it would probably be called the “American flu” or the “American virus.”
“Did you know we had a flu in the United States that’s called the ‘Spanish flu’ that killed a whole bunch of people? It was called that, and no one took offense to that,” he added.
A study published in September found that the rampant use of the term — among similar others — has a profound impact on perceptions toward Asian Americans.
For one, the study shows a 650% increase in retweets using the terms immediately after Republican officials coined them in early March. Apparently, the trend went on and has since prompted legislative efforts to protect the Asian American community.
This, according to researchers, is a reversal of the declining belief that European Americans are “more American” than Asian Americans.
“Progress against bias is generally stable,” co-author Eli Michaels told NBC News. “But this particular rhetoric, which associates a racial group with a global pandemic, has particularly pernicious effects.”
Hate crimes against the Asian community in the country have only gone up amid the pandemic.
Brito says the notice had been removed after the information was conveyed — not because some were offended about “China virus.”
Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of San Francisco’s Chinese for Affirmative Action, criticized the priest’s actions.
“It is extremely disappointing to see someone in his position — someone who has parishioners who look to him for guidance and see him as someone who is a leader in the community, in their church community — spouting a racist term. He is right in the sense that others use this term, such as the president of the United States, and other elected officials, but we also condemn them for using racist terminology,” Choi told the Santa Fe New Mexican.