Pope Francis believes that taking the coronavirus vaccine in a moral imperative. In contrast to many Christian and Catholic groups, the Pope refused to equivocate when Italy’s T5G News asked him about his stance on vaccination.
“I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine. It is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.”
Simple as that. In a time when some Christian churches are choosing to flout COVID protocols, Pope Francis is reminding Catholics that respect for human life always comes first.
Catholic Opposition to Vaccines
I’ve written before about the tendency of American Catholics to prioritize loyalty to conservative politics over Church teaching. To be clear, I do not expect every individual Catholic to accept every teaching of the Church. I have oppositions myself. However, I do expect Catholics to be honest about when their beliefs align with Church teaching and when they do not. In the case of vaccination, a small but vocal minority of Catholics claim that vaccination is contrary to Church teaching on abortion. This is simply false. The USCCB has clearly stated that vaccination is licit, even when vaccines make use of fetal issue derived from abortions. Catholics can only refuse the vaccine if:
“it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health.”
The Bishops emphasis protecting the lives of those around us first and foremost.
For the Greater Good
Recently, I wrote sympathetically about religious groups that have chosen to ignore COVID restrictions in favor of their spiritual practice. But Pope Francis reminds Catholics that our spiritual practice does not take place in a vacuum. We live in a community that requires mutual support and shared sacrifice. Christians are morally obligated to protect each other by vaccinating. Until that point, we must make sacrifices to reduce the spread of the disease. This includes the continued painful limitations on Church services.
I still remain emotionally sympathetic to the need for ritual during this time, and I still believe our society could benefit more from understanding than anger. However, when it comes to moral rightness, I ought to have deferred to the Pope’s simple reasoning:
“In conscience, I cannot cause assemblies, no?”
Life is complicated. Fortunately, for Catholics, this really isn’t.