Caveats, Conscience, but in All Things, Charity

Before a reflection from long-time contributor Terry McDermott, a health-care worker, a few words from your friendly neighbourhood editor:

The Covid vaccine is, to put it mildly, a controversial topic, on which both society and the Church seem divided. Opinions are firmly held, even amongst health-care workers, and emotions follow. The Church has clarified that the vaccine is not ‘intrinsically evil’, but that does not mean it may not be wrong to get it, if we don’t need to, according to the principle of double effect. Furthermore, all the ones on the market are still morally compromised and problematical in many ways. We should at least be cautious, and not feel coerced into this – regardless of what certain Church leaders may say, along with any number of secular authorities. The Church has also, in her official teaching, made it quite clear that we have the freedom to choose – and refuse. (See here for a summary)

We should especially take into account the perspective of the younger and healthy, to whom this vaccine seems to pose some degree of significant risk (as it does for all). The side effects – what we are permitted to know of them – are already piling up. I don’t think we have ever vaccinated an entire healthy population for the sake of a very few (especially the elderly) who might be at some risk, and who could be protected in other ways. The vaccine has not been fully tested, is being rushed into service, is of dubious origin, is tainted with various degrees of connection to abortion and fetal stem cells. And it works in a way no other vaccine has worked (by some level of genetic modification), whose short-and-long-term effects are unknown and perhaps unknowable. Besides all this is, it is funded by population control zealots (Bill Gates, et al.), who are quite open about their desire to control and limit human population growth (and even human behaviour, such as travel), along with other nefarious aims.

That all said, we all must make our decision in this, and the following is an exhortation to peace and unity. Whatever our own views and decisions – strongly held! – I hope this helps us maintain charity for others and a respect for their conscience (Editor)

Anon, to Mrs. McDermott:

An interesting but disturbing trend has begun to appear on social media since the roll-out of vaccines. Vaccinations have divided Catholics into two very distinct camps: vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. Not a day goes by when my inbox doesn’t receive multiple videos, articles, blog posts about the jab generated by scientists, doctors, religious leaders, Catholic news outlets, bloggers. Some of the content comes from a well-deliberated position; others are heavy on emotion while lacking in facts. Then there are the memes and various personal opinions posted on social media vehicles such as Facebook.

Whether for or against vaccination, we all have an opinion. The problem arises when our opinion criticizes, ostracizes, silences and causes division, pitting us against each other, censoring some while emboldening others.

Throughout the past year of pandemic, many people  including Catholics  have shared with me their fears and anxiety. I know people who have died from the virus or have become seriously ill, experiencing many lingering effects of a body ravaged by covid. Other people have barely had symptoms while still others, although exposed to the virus, didn’t get sick. My colleagues in various areas of healthcare all have their own covid-related stories. On the other hand, I’ve been told that there is no pandemic and that we are unwilling victims of a great global hoax. Undeniably, it has been a hard year for everyone.

If I told you I have received the vaccine would you consider me less Catholic because of the use of aborted fetal cell lines in testing? Would I be seen as a person lacking in faith, drowning in fear, siding with the anti-Christ, a person who doesn’t get it – whatever “it” is? Or would I be someone who cares so deeply about other people’s safety that I would protect them by rolling up my sleeve and getting jabbed?

If I don’t get the vaccine, would I be seen as morally exemplary because I know better than the Vatican’s statement on the remote connection to sin related to aborted fetal cell lines? Would I be a faithful Catholic, someone who is so steeped in faith that medical intervention isn’t needed? Or would I be selfish, foolish, cowardly, not caring about the health and welfare of those around me?

Over the last few months, these are the points of view that I have heard expressed. The last thing we need at this time is to reprove our brothers and sisters in Christ who have thought carefully about vaccinations but do not agree with our position. There is no charity in this. St. Paul reminds us that charity is “patient and kind…it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful…” (1Corinthians 13:4-7)

What’s important is that we treat each other respectfully regardless of our personal opinion. The Scriptures are full of admonishments for us to be charitable towards our neighbour.  Our Lord continues to instruct us to show mercy as He invites us to receive His mercy.

Vaccines ought not to cause further division in our beloved Catholic Church already struggling with discord. Our opinions might be strong but so must our charity also be. Therefore, don’t lose your peace or your resolve as you face opposing views about vaccination or anything else for that matter. As Our Blessed Lord said to St. Faustina, “It is not always within your power to control your feelings. You will recognize that you have love if, after having experienced annoyance and contradiction, you do not lose your peace, but pray for those who made you suffer and wish them well.” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1628)