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US bishop: Are COVID lockdowns morally obligatory? ‘I would say no’

Bishop Paprocki explained that preventing people from going to church is ‘unduly burdensome.’
Fri Sep 25, 2020 - 6:36 pm EST
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Bp. Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, September 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Thomas Paprocki published a philosophical analysis of the coronavirus lockdowns, arguing there is no “moral obligation to shut down our society, require people to stay at home, put employees out of work, send businesses into bankruptcy, impair the food supply chain, and prevent worshippers from going to church.”

In his essay for the September issue of Ethics & Medics, the bishop of Springfield, Illinois distinguished between extraordinary means to save life and ordinary ones.

“While some people may voluntarily adopt [extraordinary] means, only ordinary means that are not unduly burdensome are morally required to preserve life, both on the part of individuals as well as society as a whole,” he explained.

Paprocki applied the moral principles commonly used in clinical decision-making to society as a whole.

“First, while we recognize that our human life is one of our greatest gifts, it is not a moral absolute and in fact is secondary to the eternal life of our immortal soul,” he wrote. While life needs to be treated “with respect and reverence,” there are higher goods, as can be seen in “things like martyrdom, or attempting to save the life of another.”

“Second, recognizing that our human life is passing, there are circumstances when it is just to decline medical treatments because they would be considered extraordinary to the situation,” Paprocki continued, mentioning the expenses connected to a treatment as an example. “Deciding to forgo such treatments is in no way a refusal of life, but is rather a recognition that even life is passing.”

“Third, medical professionals work with those in competent authority over others — in some cases family members with medical power of attorney for those who cannot make the decision themselves — to make prudent decisions regarding which treatments to utilize or to decline,” he wrote.

Finally, he listed the principle that “medical science and government leaders are called to act in a way that protects the health of our population.”

Turning his attention to society as a whole, Paprocki argued, “If we have a moral obligation to use every possible means, even extraordinary means, to preserve life, then we should not even get into our cars, since there is a risk that we could be killed, given the fact that over thirty-five thousand people have died nationwide in auto accidents every year since 1951.”

Instead of simply proscribing driving, society has implemented certain safety features to make a crash less risky, including seat belts and air bags.

“Similarly in the face of a pandemic, do we have a moral obligation to shut down our society, require people to stay at home, put employees out of work, send businesses into bankruptcy, impair the food supply chain, and prevent worshippers from going to church?” the bishop asked. “I would say no.”

“That would be imposing unduly burdensome and extraordinary means,” he explained. “While some people may voluntarily adopt such means, only ordinary means that are not unduly burdensome are morally required to preserve life, both on the part of individuals as well as society as a whole.”

While Paprocki argued that society is required to impose only ordinary means on itself, he didn’t directly explore the question whether it’s morally acceptable for the government to impose those extraordinary means. On the flip side, he also didn’t address whether individuals could refuse to comply with extraordinary means.

Nevertheless, he wrote that “the US Supreme Court got it wrong” when it ruled that Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom could enforce the order “that discriminated against houses of worship in placing numerical restrictions on public gatherings.”

“Physical health is important, but the highest good is eternal life,” Paprocki emphasized in conclusion. “The free exercise of religion and access to the means of salvation established by Christ through the Church must have priority in the moral and legal order.”

The bishop referred to the Gospel of Matthew, where Christ says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Thomas Paprocki is one of the most outspoken faithful bishops in the United States. Recently, he told the faithful of his diocese that abortion is “the pre-eminent issue of our time” while also calling out Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by name for being pro-abortion.

He explicitly contrasted the pro-abortion platform of the Democratic Party and its candidate for president with the pro-life platform of the Republican Party and President Donald Trump.

“The 2020 Democratic Party platform states that Democrats believe unequivocally that every woman should be able to ‘access safe and legal abortion,’” Paprocki explained. “They also pledge to ‘restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood,’ the largest single provider of abortions in the U.S., and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which since 1976 has prohibited federal funds to pay for abortions except in rare cases to save the life of the mother, or if the pregnancy arises from incest or rape.”

On the other hand, Republicans “oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide health care,” and “support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”


  catholic, coronavirus, illinois, lockdown, quarantine, thomas paprocki

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