Being Catholic in a Pandemic

Over the course of the next seven weeks, the Social Justice Commission would like to introduce you to the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching and how they relate to the pandemic.  

“Catholic social teaching is central to our faith, and is based on - and inseparable from - our understanding of human life and dignity. These teachings are derived from: the Gospels and the words of Christ; papal statements and encyclicals; and Catholic bishops’ statements and pastoral letters. Catholic social teaching calls us all to work for the common good, help build a just society, uphold the dignity of human life and lift up our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters.”

#1 – Life and Dignity of the Human Person

“The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.  This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.

We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”

Today’s Gospel:  John 20:19-31 “Jesus came and stood…Peace be with you”

How this relates to the pandemic:

  • This pandemic has hit our elderly population hard.  Not only are they more at risk of dying from COVID, but they also suffer greatly from the impact of confinement.  As Catholics, we belief all life is precious.  No person, young or old, is expendable.  Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else.
  • Confinement has also resulted in an increased risk of domestic abuse and violence.
  • Due to living conditions, the homeless, incarcerated, migrants, refugees, undocumented and asylum seekers at the U.S. - Mexico border are at a greater risk of contracting COVID.  In some cases, their access to testing and healthcare are limited.

How we can take action: 

  • Follow CDC guidelines to keep everyone, especially our vulnerable population, safe.  Make efforts to communicate regularly with elderly friends and family.  Contact a local nursing home to see if you can communicate via cards or letters with residents who do not have family.
  • Financially support organizations which assist those who are victims of domestic abuse and violence.
  • Contact your local homeless shelter to see what donations they need.  Consider donating to refugee agencies who provide assistance to those who are forced to flee their homes. 
  • PRAY!  Pray for the safety of our elderly.  Pray for the victims of domestic abuse and violence.  Pray for stable housing for the homeless.  Pray for the imprisoned.  Pray for those who are forced to leave their homes.  Pray for the dignity and safety of all these who are children of God.

#2 – Call to Family, Community and Participation

“The person is not only sacred but also social.  How we organize our society – in economics and politics, in law and policy – directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.  Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined.  We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

Today’s Gospel:  Luke 24:35-48 Emmaus “He came and stood…Peace be with you”

How this relates to the pandemic:

  • While physical distancing is necessary, we must remember we are one community and we all belong to each other.
  • As the vaccinations have been rolling out in the U.S., what about poor countries around the world who cannot afford them?  As we face this pandemic, we must have concern for our entire human family and work for equitable distribution of the vaccines.

How we can take action:

  • Some of us have been blessed with more family time during this pandemic, however those who live alone have suffered greatly from the effects of isolation.  Reach out to connect with individuals who are living alone.
  • Consider supporting Catholic Relief Services, Cross Catholic Outreach, or other organizations working to provide for our poor in other countries.
  • PRAY!  Pray for those who do not have, or are isolated from, their families.  Pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are in need.

#3 – Rights and Responsibilities

“The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met.  Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency.  Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities – to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.”

Today’s Gospel:  John 10:11-18 “I am the Good Shepherd”

How this relates to the pandemic:

  • We have a moral obligation to avoid actions, behaviors, and attitudes which permit the virus to spread and threaten the life and health of others.
  • It is our responsibility to make sure the right to affordable housing and healthcare for our brothers and sisters is met.

How we can take action:

  • Follow CDC guidelines to protect our vulnerable brothers and sisters.
  • Work with local agencies, such as Catholic Charities, who work to assure affordable housing and healthcare for all.
  • PRAY!  Pray for the protection of our vulnerable population.  Pray for those in need of, and working for, affordable housing and healthcare.

#4 – Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

“A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring.  In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.”

“The primary purpose of this special commitment to the poor is to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. It is to enable all persons to share in and contribute to the common good. The "option for the poor," therefore, is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. The extent of their suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of persons. These wounds will be healed only by greater solidarity with the poor and among the poor themselves.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 88)

Today’s Gospel:  John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine…remain in Me”

How this relates to the pandemic:

  • The pandemic has magnified how vulnerable the poor are.  Many have lost jobs and are struggling to meet their daily needs.  It has also magnified the need for adequate and affordable healthcare and affordable housing.

How we can take action:

  • Consider donating to the Archdiocesan Catholic Appeal, which supports agencies such as Catholic Charities.  Catholic Charities is composed of 8 agencies including: Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, Good Shephard Family Services, Marygrove, Queen of Peace, St. Francis Community Services, St. Patrick Center, and St. Martha’s Hall, which assist the poor and vulnerable.  They also advocate for systemic changes to assist the poor and vulnerable.
  • Consider donating to The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) or Pathways to Progress.  These organizations are both anti-poverty programs which work to break the cycle of poverty by helping people help themselves.
  • PRAY!  Pray for those who are suffering the economic impact of the pandemic.

#5 – The Dignity of Work and the Right of Workers

“The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

Today’s Gospel:  John 15:9-17 “What I command you – love one another”

How this relates to the pandemic:

All workers have the right to safe working conditions.  Early in the pandemic, we became aware of virus outbreaks in meat packing plants across the country.  This was not only harmful to those who were forced to work in unsafe conditions, it threatened the food supply across the country.
We are now aware that our “essential workers” are not celebrities or professional athletes.  These workers did not have the option of working from home, but instead put their health at risk in order for us to survive.
How we can take action:

Advocate for safe working conditions, just wages and benefits, the right to unionize, access to steady employment, and the right to productive work.
PRAY!  Pray for the safety of our “essential workers” who risked their health for our benefit.

#6 – Solidarity

“We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.  Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.” The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.”

Today’s Gospel:  John 17:11b-19 “So that they may be one just as We are One”

How this relates to the pandemic:

  • The global reach of the virus and the reactions to it across the world show we are united by a common humanity and not simply individuals.  We belong to each other and need each other to survive.
  • The Vatican COVID-19 Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life have stated:  Given the absence of an alternative vaccine that is not either developed from or tested on “the results of a voluntary abortion,” currently available vaccines are “morally acceptable” and that moral objections one may use to refuse vaccination “are nonbinding.”  “For this reason, such refusal could seriously increase the risks for public health,” especially when some people, like those who are immunosuppressed, can “only rely on other people’s vaccination coverage (and herd immunity) to avoid the risk of infection.” 

How we can take action:

  • Consider donating to agencies, such as Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Cross Outreach, which help the poor and vulnerable worldwide who live in countries which don’t have the infrastructure to handle this health care crisis.
  • Get vaccinated to not only protect yourself, but those in your community.  The USCCB states, “Receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community.  In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.” 
  • PRAY!  Pray for our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters around the world and their fight against the pandemic.  Pray for the common good.

#7 – Care for God’s Creation

“We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.”

Today’s Gospel:  John 20:19-23 “Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’   Or   John 15:26-27 16:12-15 “When the Advocate comes..”

How it relates to the pandemic:

  • This is one area where we have seen a positive impact worldwide.  Stay at home orders have resulted in improvements in air and water quality, a reduction of noise, and a restoration of ecology.    

How we can take action:

  • Environmental benefits will only be temporary unless we implement long-term measures to cut emissions.  Air pollution is a global threat that can’t be forgotten.  One simple way to implement change as individuals is traveling less, something we have all adjusted to in the last year.
  • Advocate for a transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner energies and greater energy efficiency.
  • PRAY!  Pray for the protection of our Earth, which God has given us to care for.