There are moments in the life of the Church and society when public issues become the occasion for reassessing our conduct, to ensure that it lines up with Christ. Now is such a moment. Fears of this coronavirus have spread throughout the world and even into places like the United States where there are few cases. Stores have run out of items due to people stocking up for fear of the coronavirus (Taylor Telford and Abba Bhattarai, Long lines, low supplies: Coronavirus chaos sends shoppers into panic buying mode, The Washington Post, March 2nd 2020). Dioceses have taken significant restrictive measures such as limiting the reception of Holy Communion to the Body of Christ alone, and, according to The Australian, even removing holy water from churches. The truth is that right now more people are dying from the flu in the US than the coronavirus (Deborah Netburn, The flu has killed more people than the coronavirus). So why all the frenzy about COVID-19? On one level, we can understand this abundant precaution as a respect for human life, and to the degree that one interprets it as such, it is praiseworthy. This is particularly the case with the elderly and children, who are more at risk. However, when we look to the overall context of the coronavirus and what is happening in our society, the response of society and even the Church to the coronavirus seems disproportionate, that is, disproportionate to the response of society and even many in the Church to other clear and present threats to human life.
Abortion, for instance, kills approximately 3,000 unborn children a day (Jacque Wilson, Abortion rate lowest in 40 years, CNN, February 3rd 2014) and is far more deadly than the coronavirus. Where then is the precaution of many in the Church and society in this regard? Why not do everything possible to demand an end to abortion? Yes we have 40 Days for Life and yes we have Priests for Life, but why does society and many in the Church continue to vote for pro-abortion politicians and distribute Communion to those creating public scandal through their public support of abortion. Thankfully, there are signs of hope in this regard such as the priest who rightly denied Communion to Joe Biden in accordance with the norms of Canon Law (Eric Bradner, Joe Biden was denied Communion at Catholic church in South Carolina, October 29, 2019). But even still, the Church could and should insist that there is no room in the Church for those who promote abortion, nor for those who vote for pro-abortion politicians when there are candidates who are pro-life. This does not mean that we do not have an inclusive Church where all are welcome, but that we have a Church that requires people to follow its norms and cease mocking our Lord or openly acknowledge that they are choosing not to live in accordance with the Gospel. Clearly, in the case of abortion, the moral conscience of people has been weakened, the same moral conscience that is so sensitive to fears of the recent coronavirus. Would that everyone in the Church and society was more concerned about the holocaust of abortion than the coronavirus hype.
Sadly, the same weakening of moral conscience can be seen in the case of in vitro fertilization, contraception, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism. Would that everyone in the Church and society was more concerned with preventing the exploitation and freezing of embryos than the coronavirus. Would that everyone in the Church and society was more concerned with the high divorce rates associated with contraception (Paul Buckley, Contraceptives responsible for increased divorce, abortion rates, Sept. 13th, 2007) depriving children of a stable father-mother safety net, than the coronavirus. Would that everyone in the Church and society was more concerned about protecting the art of medicine from being turned into a tool of death by unscrupulous doctors who help people end their lives under the guise of medicine, than the coronavirus. Would that everyone in the Church and society were more concerned about people being starved to death under the guise of compassion and dignity, than the coronavirus. Would that everyone in the Church and society were more concerned about robbing children of a loving father and mother co-essential to their health and well-being by fabricating unions between people of the same-sex which can be neither unitive nor procreative, than the coronavirus. Would that everyone in the Church and society be more concerned about young children being led astray to believe that they are in the wrong sex, that they need to change themselves to express themselves by injecting harmful hormones into themselves, hormones that will never change their DNA nor their identity in Christ, than the coronavirus (Avichai Scher, Study finds health risk for transgender women on hormone therapy, NBC News, July 9th, 2018). Why, if I may boldly ask, are people asleep to the culture of death but hypersensitive about the coronavirus? The imbalance that is reflected in this regard is a red flag that should tell us that something is profoundly wrong with our moral conscience in the west.
Now the purpose of this article is not to use the coronavirus as a tool to lament the culture of death, but to bring to the public awareness the disproportion, the imbalance if you will, between our response to the coronavirus and our response to the culture of death. What we need is to re-awaken the moral conscience to consistently respect human life, so that our responses are measured and appropriate. Whereas the coronavirus will likely fade away, western civilization is not headed in the right direction and we need conversion. To this end, I would propose a few ways to develop a more sensitive moral conscience: (1) daily reading of the Word of God; (2) daily examination of our ourselves and our society; (3) daily prayer wherein we encounter the love of God, the love that casts out fear; and (4) studying the social doctrine of the Catholic Church as a means of ensuring that our respect for human life is always consistent and appropriately measured to the gravity of the threat posed.