Of Delta, Vaccine Conspiracy Theories, Francis and the Leper

Of Delta, Vaccine Conspiracy Theories, Francis and the Leper August 8, 2021

The Friendship Room is putting the plexiglass back on their porch.

I don’t think the situation with the Delta Variant of the COVID-19 virus really hit home until this weekend. I noticed that there had been 750 COVID deaths on Friday– eerily close to the thousand a day we were having last summer before things got exponentially worse in fall and winter. I read doctors pleading with people to get vaccinated, because this wave of hospitalizations was almost entirely adults who had refused vaccination, or children who were not yet eligible for the vaccine. I saw that hospitals in Texas and Louisiana were full and life flighting patients elsewhere. And then I saw the picture the Friendship Room had posted online, of their tireless volunteers putting plexiglass back on the porch to protect the homeless who shelter there.

I wanted to cry.

Michael and I are vaccinated against COVID-19, thankfully. But Rosie isn’t. All she wants in the world is to go back to taking martial arts lessons. They were her life, eighteen months ago when this nightmare started. I have been promising her again and again that things will go back to normal soon and it will be safe for her to do what she loves. She has completely lost touch with most of her friends from the martial arts lessons. She can’t even get vaccinated to protect herself because she’s not even twelve. I have to keep her home.

No, vaccines aren’t 100% foolproof. But they make it far less likely for us to catch the virus, and they mean that if we catch it, we’ll probably have a much milder case. If we do get a breakthrough case we may spread the infection, which is why Michael and I still mask in crowded places. But since we’re less likely to catch the virus, we’re less likely to spread it. The more people get the vaccine, the fewer cases of COVID there will be overall, which means fewer transmissions, which means slowing down the runaway train that the pandemic has become. Our only path to something resembling normalcy is if enough people get the vaccine. Rose’s only path back to Taekwondo is if enough people get the vaccine, and if the vaccine is approved for children her age.

Somewhere in all of this chaos, J. D. Flynn of The Pillar, who was recently roasted by everyone including me for his sketchy journalistic ethics, tweeted that this situation reminded him of Saint Francis. And not in any way you could have guessed. Flynn said that vaccinated people shunning those who refuse vaccines for their own safety and that of their families, reminded him of the story of Saint Francis embracing the leper. He was so loudly booed for this take that he deleted the tweet, but the internet never forgets:

Of course, there’s no comparison between the story of Saint Francis embracing a leper and people afraid to be indoors with the unvaccinated. The leper was an innocent victim. People who refuse a free inoculation are not. Saint Francis was trying to be kind to a marginalized, vulnerable person, and people who refuse a vaccine for ideological reasons are endangering vulnerable people. I tried to stammer as much on social media in response to the tweet.

A person with a statue of the Virgin Mary for a profile picture began reaming me out for my ignorance. They repeated the urban myth that vaccines are created by butchering thousands of unborn babies; you may recall that Abby Johnson tried to claim the same thing last year. This person added a lurid fantasy about doctors tying down unborn babies with tape so they can vivisect them “while they gasp for breath.”

I lost my patience.

The COVID vaccines are not made of aborted fetuses.

They also do not contain thimerosal, aluminum, spermicide, high fructose corn syrup, desecrated Hosts, the ashes of Robert E. Lee, or Pachamana idols. They do not contain abortifacients. They do not contain soy. They do not contain Planned Parenthood. They do not contain Disney movies that insult priests. They do not contain the number 666. They do not contain Ouija boards. They do not contain magnets or microchips, clay chalices, cootie catchers, condoms, women’s trousers, the Glory and Praise hymnal, teen pregnancy, immodest fashions which greatly offend Our Lord, the original text of the Third Fatima Secret, Dungeons and Dragons dice or anything else that could contaminate your pious superiority.

The closest the COVID vaccines come to abortion is that they were tested on the HEK-293 line, which is not a person but a lab-grown lump of kidney cells grown originally developed from a cell taken from an embryo who diedin the 70s and whose remains were donated to science. Not a single cell the vaccine was tested on was ever a part of a human person, they’re just descendants of a cell that was. Using a medicine tested on HEK-293 is, morally speaking, the same level of cooperation with evil as availing yourself of the benefits of any other scientific research that involves a cadaver.

And guess what? I’m nearly certain that you’ve already used a medicine tested on HEK-293 once in your life. As my colleague Father Matthew Schneider has pointed out, HEK-293 was used to test Advil, Aspirin, Aleve, Sudafed, Benadryl, Claritin, Robitussin, Mucinex, Tums, Pepto-Bismol, Metformin, Mucinex and Zocor, among other things. The medication that former reality TV star Donald Trump took when he was in the hospital for COVID-19, Regeneron, was also tested on HEK-293. All of these are the exact same degree of cooperation with abortion as the COVID vaccine. The Pope and a host of bishops have already approved of and encouraged the vaccines. There’s no controversy about taking them except in the minds of people who think they’re better Catholics for seeing controversy everywhere.
The story of Saint Francis embracing the leper isn’t a story about why we should all put ourselves in danger when there’s an easy, morally non-controversial way for most of us to help stop the spread of the pandemic.
The story of Saint Francis embracing the leper is a story that highlights one of our duties as Christians: if there ‘s something scary or uncomfortable that you’re hesitating to do which would benefit or comfort the marginalized and vulnerable in your community, you should lay aside your fear and do it. Like, for example, getting a vaccine even though shots hurt, the side effects are no fun, and social media is full of conspiracy theorists trying to frighten you out of doing it. That’s a way you can slow the spread of COVID, protecting the vulnerable. So is going back to wearing your mask in crowded places even if you’re vaccinated for the moment, until things are better under control or until further research proves it’s unnecessary.
I’ve been hearing “Faith over fear!” for eighteen months now. Here’s a way we can put “faith over fear” into practice. Stop spreading hysterical conspiracy theories and go get a shot.
My daughter wants to go back to Martial Arts.
The Friendship Room wants to get rid of that stupid plexiglass.
I want innocent children to live.
Don’t we all want that?

Image via Pixabay. 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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