Share this story

Father Brad Jantz, S.T.D. | Photo: File photo of Bishop Raica receiving his COVID-19 vaccination. By Mary D. Dillard)

Prudence Will Watch Over You – Part 6

Welcome to the final regular installment of our moral discernment of COVID-19 vaccination. This week, we will bring together our discussion of Scripture and the Magisterium’s teaching. Throughout this series, several ideas have come up from different angles: God cares about human well-being and lets us join Him in caring for each other; public health and society’s moral order are interrelated; and we all have a part to play in protecting each other’s health.

The Way of Understanding

As we know from the Gospels, Jesus came among us as a healer of body and soul. God cares deeply for the well-being of each of His children, and He has allowed human beings to play a part in restoring the health He intends for His creation. The skill of our scientists and medical professionals in quickly developing vaccines to protect us against the current pandemic is something that we rightly celebrate.

Unfortunately, despite the reasons for cautious optimism right now, many people are still feeling the burden of these hard times. After a year of disappointments, we are almost afraid to let ourselves feel hope. That fear seems to be the source of much of the suspicion some people have toward the vaccines. In response, we need to work hard to let hope and reason speak rather than fear and anxiety—in reality, the vaccines have been through very rigorous tests to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

With that in mind, we Catholics have a duty of charity to be voices of positivity in the present moment. As a people saved in hope (Romans 8:24), we need to help our despairing friends and neighbors feel the strength of hope: God is allowing human skill and understanding to help our nation and our world in this moment! Let’s be intentional about amplifying hope rather than suspicion. As Pope Francis teaches, this means we need to be especially careful about the information we share with others on social media.

To get specific, we have a responsibility to make sure that the information we share about medical matters comes from (or at least reflects) reliable sources of medical information, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health authorities, rather than from partisan or unverified sources. It also means we must take care to always speak in charity and love to our virtual neighbors, regardless of how their beliefs differ from ours.

The Way of Wisdom

Next, the current effort of restoring physical health to the human family provides us with a moment to reflect on and improve society’s spiritual health. For the current vaccine effort, the connection between the realms of health and morality mean that we must be advocates for the marginalized. In the present moment, “marginalized” includes two important groups of people.

First, we must work to protect the economically and socially marginalized. This will occur through personal and public efforts to make sure everyone has access to vaccination, both in the United States and around the world. Practically speaking, if you know someone eligible for vaccination but who lacks internet access, insurance, or transportation, it will be an act of charity to help them get this protection, following the example of the Good Samaritan. Similarly, as a Catholic community, we must raise our voices in support of those within our country and around the world who have been or continue to be excluded from vaccine access, for any reason. People of all races, legal statuses, and nationalities are loved by God and are part of our common good.

Second, we have an opportunity in this moment to improve our society’s respect for the unborn. The current COVID vaccines (from Pfizer and Moderna) have made some use of fetal-derived stem cell lines in their confirmatory testing, a practice to which the Church objects. This does not present a moral barrier to getting vaccinated, and the currently approved COVID vaccines (from Pfizer and Moderna) are actually an improvement on this front compared to common vaccines against other diseases, but there is still room for improvement. Concretely, we should preferentially seek out the higher tier vaccines if and when lower tier options become available. As a community, we should be intentional about expressing our moral beliefs to pharmaceutical companies and public authorities, in the form of (polite and charitable!) letters and advocacy, both acknowledging the moral progress they have made and challenging them to eliminate all use of this ethically problematic technology.

The Way of Prudence

Finally, we have seen throughout Scripture and the Church’s teaching that the health of both body and soul is a community effort. All members of society have a responsibility to cooperate in support of the public good. As Catholics, we are called to be leaders in this effort, beginning in our prayers for the world around us and continuing through our individual decisions of receiving vaccination responsibly and helping others do the same. It also includes our public witness as a Church: our on-going commitment to being agents of hope, justice, and reconciliation in our world.

Just to make sure the Church’s guidance is clear: both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops have stated clearly that we can receive the currently available vaccines in good conscience, a position which reflects decades of magisterial teaching and precedent. The connection between the vaccines and abortion is extremely remote, and getting vaccinated does not promote abortion. Receiving vaccination and helping others do so are important contributions to the common good. At this writing, all approved vaccines in the U.S.A. are in Tier 2, which are preferable to the (unapproved) Tier 3 ones.

Additionally, while the COVID vaccines have been our main focus, the Vatican has also indicated that following the preventive guidelines recommended by public health authorities (wearing masks, social distancing, etc.) is another dimension of the Church’s witness right now. We’re all looking forward to the happy day when those measures will be relaxed, but in the meanwhile, let’s stay committed to protecting our neighbors through these acts of prudence and charity.

This article marks the formal completion of this article series. Since the issue is of major public importance, we will work to keep our Diocese informed about the Church’s perspective on these vaccines as new developments happen. In particular, when new vaccines are approved, we will provide updated versions of the vaccine moral tier chart available for your reference.

May God bless all of us in the troubled times, and may His wisdom and prudence watch over us, now and always!


(This article first appeared in the Feb. 26, 2021 issue of the One Voice newspaper.)