Is the decision to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be judged by the conscience of each person? Catholic National Register

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Q. The Archbishop of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada recently instituted a Politics demand that everyone who attends mass be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A few days later he retracted politics. I do not live in NB, I am in Ontario but I am afraid of such a restrictive policy across Canada. Currently, we can attend Mass as long as we are wearing a mask. I agree with this and other protective measures, but I thought that “compulsory” vaccination was contrary to Catholic moral teaching because it infringes on our free will. Please explain. – Married

A. I am happy that your bishop has reversed his decision, but other bishops have introduced similar mandates. The question therefore deserves to be explored.

We know that most Catholics have concluded that they should receive the COVID 19 vaccination.

But some have concluded that they shouldn’t. They are often treated as unreasonable, suspected of magical thinking or conspiracy, and treated as irresponsible. They risk losing their jobs, being denied religious exemptions by Church leaders, and now threatened with banishment from the sacraments. I cannot think of any group of Catholics, neither heretics nor notoriously notorious, who have been treated so harshly in recent memory.

Whether or not to be vaccinated against COVID is up to everyone to judge. Unfortunately, the concept of consciousness is poorly understood.

Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Second Vatican Council teach that consciousness is the end point of a process of deliberation on an alternative, call it x. I want to know if x is morally admissible, morally required or morally prohibited. I educate myself, seek advice, and pray for guidance, and in the end, I come to a judgment, a moral conclusion that x is allowed, prohibited, or required for me here and now. This conclusion, this judgment, IS consciousness.

When we say that the conscience must be properly formed, we mean that our moral knowledge must be true, we must be properly educated, so that when we deliberate we are able to judge evil to be evil and good to be. good. This does not guarantee that we will make good decisions, as decision making often involves more than moving from mere moral premises to certain conclusions. But if our moral knowledge is wrong or distorted or deficient, we are much less likely to make good judgments. Our deliberation must be sufficiently thorough so that we can see as widely as possible the goods promised and the goods threatened by a considered alternative.

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, some people’s moral knowledge is wrong. Some mistakenly believe that vaccination is inherently bad, while others insist that it is morally required of everyone. The truth, affirmed in both the Note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the USCCB document “Moral Considerations”, is that receiving a COVID vaccination is allowed, but not morally required.

The reason this is not morally required is that there may be good reasons to refuse. What are some of these reasons?

Some are concerned about the safety of new mRNA vaccines. There is still a lot that we do not know about the action of experimental sera, the most obvious of which is their medium and long term effects on human health.

Vaccine dissidents read that large numbers of healthcare workers, especially those closest to patients, refused the vaccine. They learn that vaccines can work differently than we initially expected, and that there are risks that we did not anticipate. So wishing to avoid the possible harm that could result from receiving an investigational drug, they conclude that they should not take the hit.

Other dissidents learned early on that in the process of bringing the three most commonly used vaccines to market in the United States, researchers relied on a cell line originally created from fetal tissue from a baby girl. unborn child who was killed by abortion in the 1970s. They took into consideration the widely repeated argument that, given the adverse consequences of not being vaccinated, and in the absence of viable alternatives, and s’ they express their moral objections to the vaccine’s dependence on cell lines contaminated by abortion, it is not necessarily bad to receive one of the three available vaccines. They consent to all of this, but still feel that they or they should not be vaccinated. They believe that Jesus calls them to conscientiously object in order to bear special witness to the evil of abortion, both of abortion in general and of the wickedness of the continued use of fetal tissue in scientific research.

The issue of vaccination is a difficult one to balance the benefits of taking the vaccine against the accepted risks. No one should treat the question as if it was a simple black and white yes or no.

Our public officials and the mainstream media have used every means possible to communicate the urgency and need for the COVID vaccination. Many people have expressed the feeling that such a large public relations campaign on vaccines is a form of manipulation that is bad for our country. There is no moral elevation here. If after responsible deliberation someone judges that the reasons for refusing vaccination are stronger than those for taking, then their conclusion must be respected.

They can be reminded of their social responsibility, that immunization, as many believe, is in the interest of the common good, and that sometimes we are called upon to do what we prefer not to do for the benefit of others. Dissenters like Maria accept and take the necessary precautions to protect their neighbors.

But what everyone needs to understand is that if someone disagrees for one or both of the reasons mentioned above, their moral judgment is based on respect for human property: the human health of on the one hand and the testimony of the Gospel of life on the other. . And although these reasons do not constitute an absolute ban on vaccination, which binds everyone everywhere, they are sufficient to form the basis of particular negative judgments of conscience.

Making such judgments is a matter of being a morally mature adult. And therefore judgments should not be subject to coercion.

Speaking on Freedom of Conscience in Religious Matters, Vatican II Dignitatis Humanae teaches:

“This freedom means that all men should be free from coercion from individuals or social groups and from all human power, so that no one should be forced to act in a manner contrary to the law. his own beliefs, whether in private or in public, alone or in association with others, to the extent required.

Does this mean that church and state leaders can never attach incentives to particular alternatives that leaders believe are most in the best interest of their constituency? Of course not. Only the most unreasonable have opposed all public restrictions during the COVID era.

But to impose a universal punitive policy that leads to the forced stripping of a man’s livelihood or the forced prohibition of a woman from attending mass is despicable and unfair.

Leaders from the start should have taken a phased approach. People over 70, especially those with co-morbidities, are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and its variants. Those in their thirties and forties seem less so. And many doctors are totally opposed to vaccinating children against COVID.

“There is no place,” wrote 93 Israeli doctors, “to vaccinate children at this time. … There is currently no “altruistic” justification for vaccinating children in order to protect populations at risk. “

Pastors of the Church should help the faithful make good decisions, not make the decision the pastor wants.

But to do that, we need access to the best information available, information that both defends and criticizes mRNA vaccines. Censorship of vaccine reviews by mainstream media and social media has been frightening.

The public hype in the foreground and the disturbing evidence of risk in the background is causing national disunity. The same in the Church. Censorship arouses and gives false credibility to extremism on both sides. Noncritical advocates treat carefully reasoned vaccine dissidents like heretics.

If people decide they’d rather suffer from COVID than risk being vaccinated, they shouldn’t be reprimanded. Pastors can ask them to maintain social distancing, wear a mask, receive communion in their hand, be vigilant to minimize interactions with others, etc. But forbid them to go to Mass?

Fortunately, most attempts in this direction have been stopped for excessive damage. Still, the tensions created considerable anxiety.

Obviously, pastors must urge the faithful to intelligently inform their conscience. And no one should punish those they disagree with over COVID vaccination.


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