I’m Catholic and I’m Vaccinated
My friends and family claim religious exemptions, but I think getting the jab is a moral duty.
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As I scroll through the once-friendly space that is social media, I can't help but feel dread as I see yet another friend or family member fall to misinformation and selfishness. It makes me sad and angry that my relatives and acquaintances have put blind zeal above science and healthcare and become anti-vaxxers. I'm a devout Catholic, and I can barely recognize my church anymore.
The church has long taught that caring for the sick is a priority and a noble deed. There is a list of “corporal works of mercy” that are like guidelines for good works. One of these works of mercy is to visit the sick, but it is extended to caring for and loving the sick and being present with them. The corporal works are meant to be calls to action, not a sedentary response. This is the place where many Christians fall short, including myself. We shout our beliefs but don’t help those who need it the most. We cry for justice and mercy but offer none. We impose morality yet do not live it.
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Religious Exemptions Don’t Hold Water
Recent events among Christians have shown no regard for the elderly, the immunocompromised and the chronically ill. The people I once knew as generous and selfless are in fact despicably narcissistic. They cling to a religious exemption from the vaccine and hypocritically declare their selfishness to anyone in earshot. But while I am depressed to see their ignorance damage society, the church and themselves, I understand where they are coming from.
I have friends and family who have claimed religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate on the grounds that the vaccines were derived from aborted fetal tissue. Those who believe an abortion is a death have said that they cannot take a vaccine that was derived from such means. From the religious point of view, forcing a vaccine mandate is forcing someone to take a vaccine they believe came from a death, which is highly immoral.
I understand this logic because I am pro-life, but I still got vaccinated. For me, it was an easy decision. I’m an environmental engineer but also spend a great deal of my free time reading moral theology and philosophy. While many perceive this as a dichotomy, I believe in the cooperation of science and theology. They are not meant to battle, or even simply coexist, but to build each other up and help us understand God and our life on Earth. I believe that even though the vaccine was the result of a death, we should not let that loss of life go to waste. I believe good can come from bad.
The vaccine has and will continue to save lives. Why reject something that has already been done? The church has an obligation to protect the sick, which is why even Pope Francis has requested all the faithful to take the vaccine.
Christian Anti-Vaxxers Are Hypocrites
We can see the irony in the defense that some use to seek a religious exemption. They steal an argument out of the pro-choice book and claim "my body, my choice." They believe their appropriation to be a strengthening juxtaposition, but in reality, it buries their argument in a shallow grave of ignorance. Catholics claim that abortion is not adequate healthcare, which leads many with opposite beliefs to think Catholics do not understand proper healthcare. The church’s response to the pandemic has only deepened those doubts. For a group so deeply enmeshed in the healthcare system, it is surprising that we would not jump to the safest and most reliable defense against a deadly disease. The Catholic Health Association of the United States runs over 600 hospitals and is the largest group of nonprofit healthcare providers in the country. To me, the most worrisome issue regarding this pandemic is that the Catholic Church will damage its reputation for healthcare, its pursuit of moral science and its support for those in need.
When I have the opportunity to speak on this matter, I generally choose my words carefully. My purpose in discussing this topic is to start a conversation about selflessness. As Christians, we believe the greatest sacrifice one can make is for their neighbor. It’s the golden rule that is so ingrained in our culture: Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Unvaccinated Aren’t Beyond Redemption
I believe that those who choose to be unvaccinated based on religious grounds are selfish. On the other hand, I also believe it's selfish to dismiss these individuals as too far gone for redemption. Having discussions with your friends and loved ones about the importance of the vaccine is the only thing that will push them to get it.
I have a friend who’s a nurse in a pediatric ICU. She has seen hundreds of children suffering from COVID over the last year and a half. Up until a month ago, she was unvaccinated for religious reasons because the vaccine originated from aborted fetal tissue. She decided to get vaccinated because she served so many children on the verge of death that she couldn't bear causing that pain to a child. Her husband is still unvaccinated. Their children are unvaccinated. My family continues to push for them all to become vaccinated.
The vaccine should not be a personal choice—it should be a mandate, regardless of its origin. It will save more lives than its cost. I ask those reading to continue to have conversations with their loved ones about getting vaccinated. It may be obvious and directly in front of them, but they still may not see its grave necessity.