Cardinal O'Malley urges Catholics to receive coronavirus vaccine

BRAINTREE -- Speaking at an online conference Jan. 19, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley urged Catholics to receive the coronavirus vaccine, calling it "the ethical choice."

The "Christians in front of the COVID-19 vaccines" virtual conference was held by the Latin American Academy of Catholic Leaders. It was organized by Cardinal Aguiar Retes of Mexico City and academy member Jose Antonio Rosas. Thousands of participants joined the conference live via Zoom, and a YouTube recording of the conference had received more than 36,000 views as of Jan. 27.

Cardinal O'Malley was one of three speakers over the course of the day, each of whom talked about different aspects of the vaccines.

Dr. Katarina Le Blanc, an immunologist and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, provided scientific background on the vaccines. Enrique Garcia Rodriguez, the former treasurer of the Inter-American Development Bank, talked about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world economy. Cardinal O'Malley spoke about the ethical aspects of the vaccines, emphasizing that Catholics can and should be vaccinated.

During his talk, the cardinal said he was there "to assure my fellow Catholics that the Church has looked very carefully at the ethical implications of this vaccine and wants to assure all of us that the decision to be vaccinated is an ethical decision, and we want to encourage people to make use of this very important weapon in fighting the pandemic."

He spoke about Pope Francis, who has consistently taught throughout his pontificate "that God has put us on this earth to take care of one another."

"The Holy Father wants us all to be very aware that although taking the vaccination is a personal choice, it has consequences that affect not only the individual but also more broadly affects our susceptible neighbors. There are people who cannot take the vaccine or do not yet have access to it that can still be affected by those who refuse to take the vaccine. The general principle of the common good comes down to benevolence, love, care for others, laying down personal priorities for the service of others," Cardinal O'Malley said.

He cited the World Health Organization's estimate that 65 to 70 percent of a population must be vaccinated in order to stop the coronavirus from spreading. When that point is reached, the coronavirus will not have enough human hosts to choose from, and transmission rates will drop.

Cardinal O'Malley mentioned that both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had received the vaccine the previous week, and said he hopes "that their example will encourage everyone to do the same and to realize that the ethical choice is indeed to be vaccinated."

He quoted Pope Francis as saying, "I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine. It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others."