Awareness and the COVID19 vaccine

torstensimon: COVID19 vaccine / pixabay

The COVID19 pandemic continues to threaten the world. What can be done to stop it must be done for the common good. Vaccination mandates can be, and indeed have become, an important tool in dealing with the pandemic. Some people, believing the false information and lies they have heard, have been tricked into believing that they should not take the vaccine, and thus form a conscientious objection to doing so. Some, who do not like having to be vaccinated, confuse their desire with conscience, and thus claim to be among those who have a conscientious objection to the vaccine. Obviously, this claim is wrong, as we can and often must do things that we would rather not do. Others, stubborn and disliking government officials, oppose getting the vaccine as a political statement, and although they claim conscientious objection to the vaccine, their argument has nothing to do with their conscience but rather their rebellious nature. While it is true that those whose conscience tells them not to get vaccinated should not (although they should work to better train their conscience), that does not mean that the state cannot or should not impose restrictions on them, nor should anyone who claims such an objection really have one.

When the public good is harmed, society can defend itself, even if the one who harms society claims to do so as a result of what his conscience tells him to do. We must not embrace a libertarian or relativist ethic that would lead us to anarchy. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that there is an objective moral framework: “But here we encounter a serious risk because modern thought has developed a reductive view of consciousness. She maintains that there are no objective references to determine what is valid and what is true but that it is the individual person with his intuition who is the standard; each therefore has its own truth, its own morality.[1] Saint John Paul II also warned against a libertarian approach to morality, an approach that some defend by appealing to the primacy of conscience:

Certain currents of modern thought have gone as far as exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be a source of values. This is the direction taken by doctrines which have lost the sense of the transcendent or which are explicitly atheistic. The individual conscience is recognized as the supreme tribunal of moral judgment which renders categorical and infallible decisions on good and evil. To the affirmation that one has the duty to follow one’s conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one’s moral judgment is true simply because it has its origin in conscience. But thus the ineluctable claims to the truth disappear, giving way to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and “to be at peace with oneself”, to the point that some have come to adopt a radically subjectivist conception of judgment. moral.[2]

Conscience must be properly developed, and this requires people to engage in and recognize an objective truth which forms the basis of an objective moral standard. Their conscience should respond to every situation illuminated by such objective motives. If someone had resisted the proper formation of his conscience, although he must follow it to the extent that it is there, he can and will be held responsible for the bad decisions he makes because he would have already compromised his conscience by ignoring his need to be properly developed:

Conscience, as the final concrete judgment, compromises its dignity when it is guilty wrong, that is to say “when man cares little about seeking what is true and good, and the conscience gradually becomes almost blind to getting used to sin”. Jesus alludes to the danger of distortion of consciousness when he warns: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not healthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Mountain 6: 22-23). [3]

Saint Pius X therefore warned us not to use our conscience as an excuse to ignore the precepts of authority, claiming the love of truth when in fact what is promoted is pride. and stubbornness:

Finally, and this destroys almost all hope of a cure, their very doctrines have given such inclination to their minds that they despise all authority and endure no restriction; and relying on a false conscience, they try to attribute to a love of truth what is actually the result of pride and stubbornness.[4]

So, it is true, conscience is queen. We must obey him and his precepts. And, to the extent that its directives lead us to act in a way that does not harm the public good, we should be free to follow our conscience without restriction. “Civil authorities also have a corresponding obligation to respect and ensure respect for this fundamental right within the just limits of the common good. “[5] Those in positions of authority must also follow their conscience. If they believe that without certain rules and regulations on society the common good would be needlessly and seriously compromised, they must make those regulations even if someone else would object with their own conscience. The state must do what it can to give people the freedom to follow their conscience, but it has limits on what it can allow; if someone’s conscience wants them to act against the common good, the state must respond with justice and mercy in order to reduce possible harm to society. If the authorities do this, if they are working for the common good and their regulations do not go against the greater moral law (but strengthen it), then, even if it is inconvenient, their citizens are obliged to to obey :

It also follows that political authority, both in the community as such and in the representative organs of the State, must always be exercised within the limits of the moral order and oriented towards the common good – with a dynamic conception of this good – according to the legal order legitimately established or to be established. When authority is thus exercised, citizens are bound in conscience to obey. [6]

Indeed, like religious freedom, the exercise of conscience must be subject to certain regulatory standards in order to preserve justice and civility:

The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: its exercise is therefore subject to certain regulatory standards. In the exercise of all freedoms, the moral principle of personal and social responsibility must be observed. In exercising their rights, individuals and social groups are bound by moral law to respect both the rights of others and their own duties towards others and the common good of all. Men should treat their fellow human beings with justice and civility. [7]

Conscience is king, but it is not infallible. When the state comes up with something for the common good, those who oppose the state’s demands must do their due diligence on what the state says, learn as much as they can, so that their conscience can be properly trained. He gives his answer based on what a person knows and understands about the situation. Since they can be ignorant, their conscience can lead them to do wrong. “Certainly, in order to have a ‘good conscience’ (1 Tim 1: 5), man must seek the truth and must make judgments in accordance with that same truth.[8] Invincible ignorance takes away the guilt, but vincible ignorance, on the other hand, leaves the person guilty of his bad conscience. Thus, one should not confuse people acting with their conscience as if they are acting righteously or even morally. Their consciousness can be malformed; their ignorance can lead them astray, and so they can act in a way that would harm the public good. When this happens, the state has not only the right, but the duty to respond. Following your conscience does not mean that you will be free from blame for what you do, nor from the consequences of your actions. That is why, if someone opposes the vaccination warrants for COVID19 and their conscience does not allow them to take the vaccine, that does not mean that the state cannot respond and impose various sanctions for their actions. . The state would be violating its duty if it ignored the public good, and its leaders have not acted with their conscience to do all they can to stop the pandemic.


[1] Pope Benedict XVI, “To the Officers and Personnel of the Italian State Police” (1-21-2021). Vatican translation. [2] Saint John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor. Vatican translation. ¶32. [3] Saint John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor, ¶63. [4] Saint Pius X. Pascendi Doominici Gregis. Vatican translation. 3. [5] International Theological Commission. Religious freedom for the good of all. Vatican translation. 40. [6] Vatican Council II, Gaudium and Spes. Vatican translations. 74. [7] Vatican Council II, Dignitatis humanae. Vatican translation. ¶7. [8] Saint John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor, 60.

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