Christian Charity in the New Phase of the Pandemic
Over at Where Peter Is, the sane and sensible Paul Fahey talks common sense:
On Thursday, May 13, the CDC announced new public health guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals in the United States. During a press conference, CDC director Rochelle Walensky announced that Americans who are vaccinated can safely gather outdoors and indoors without wearing masks or physically distancing. Based on the downward trajectory of cases and the scientific research, Dr. Walensky said the words that so many have longed to hear since the pandemic began. She told the vaccinated population, “You can do things you stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
The CDC provides more detail on the guidelines on their website, which clarifies that a “fully vaccinated” individual is someone for whom two weeks has passed since their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or since the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “If you don’t meet these requirements,” the CDC says, “you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.” These precautions include wearing a mask and staying at least six feet away from others.
For obvious reasons, many of those I’ve spoken to are excited about these new guidelines. Not only does it mean we can begin to live our lives more normally again, but because it hopefully will encourage the vaccine-hesitant to get their shots. Obviously for those with family members who cannot get vaccinated due to health reasons or age (the vaccine is not yet available to children under 12), things remain complicated.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the changing guidelines provoke new social and moral questions. Those of us who are vaccinated have to consider whether to wear a mask while out in public in order to help those who aren’t vaccinated feel safer? Some might wonder whether wearing a mask after receiving the vaccine is just virtue-signaling. Additionally, those who are not vaccinated (including those who have decided not to take the vaccine for moral reasons), might be tempted to act as if they are—so that they can return to normal daily living.
As Catholics, we have the deposit of faith and the Magisterium of the Church to help us make these decisions. St. Paul offers some practical guidance in his first letter to the Corinthians that is relevant here. After he explains that Christians are not morally prohibited from eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols, he cautions that they “make sure that this liberty of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). In other words, he’s advising us to be mindful of our public actions. Even if they aren’t sinful in themselves, we also want to avoid causing scandal.
On his Facebook page, Catholic writer Mark Shea applied the same principle to the CDC guidelines. He wrote, “I regard mask-wearing now as Paul regarded eating meat. I’m fully vaxed and don’t need to. But if it eases those around me or the house rules of the store or theatre or parish still require it, I will wear the mask out of consideration for others.”
None of this is very hard to understand, of course–except to MAGA. Meanwhile, if you are not vaccinated, get that way and wear the mask till you are out of consideration for those who cannot be vaccinated. You won’t die. Offer up the inconvenience.