Wednesday, March 17, 2021

An Act of Charity

I suppose it’s human nature to try to find the positive aspects in this past year of shutdown. And there are several, there really are. I appreciate every good thing that has happened and I’m happy that we haven’t lost any close family members. But it’s been rough in a lot of ways, no matter who we are or what we’re going through. It’s hardest on those who have lost loved ones, no doubt about that, and I still haven’t fully processed the losses in our country and around the world. 

One positive thing for me is that the University of Notre Dame and other local colleges have made so many lectures available online. Most of those lectures have always been open to the public, but how convenient is it to sit at home and have a beverage while you attend a lecture? Pretty darn convenient, if you ask me. 

So I’ve taken advantage of that (I get updates and notices via the ThinkND newsletter—anyone can join!) and there have been some interesting discussions. I really enjoyed one from the curator of the Snite Museum of Art, in which he talked about a painting in their collection by Grace Hartigan. A beautiful Abstract Expressionist piece and a much-needed infusion of art! 

The most thought-provoking lecture happened last week. It was called “The Covid Vaccine: Good Science and Science for the Human Good.” 

It wasn’t quite what I expected, although I should have. Notre Dame is a Catholic university, after all. My first clue was when the discussion opened with a prayer. Hooo boy. Was this for me? I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. 

There were several presenters: one was a science professor who talked about the mechanisms of vaccine development, including which cell lines are used (hint: one is a cell line that’s been in existence for decades, and it’s from human fetal tissue); one was an ethics and philosophy professor who talked about whether it was ethical and in line with Catholic teachings to use something that uses cells from aborted fetuses, whether induced or spontaneous; one was a young seminarian who continued the theme of whether the Catholic church could condone this. 

Well. As I’m sure you all know, I am firmly pro-choice. There are many nuances there but that’s not what this entry is about. While I don’t believe anything could make me change my mind on that, it made me think about how and why some people would object to scientific research using fetal tissue or cell lines. I don’t agree with that, but I saw it from their perspective in a way I hadn’t thought about before. (I still think that is short-sighted, but I get it a little better now.)

After much discussion, all three presenters concluded that not only was it ethical to get the vaccine, it was a “moral imperative.” There was much convoluted, philosophical discussion of how far you were removed from the “evil” of abortion (their word, not mine), whether saving thousands of lives negated the “original evil” of the abortion that resulted in the cell line, the fact that for the Pfizer vaccine, that particular cell line is not used in production, merely quality control. (The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does use a fetal tissue cell line in production, but it is a long-established cell line, not that from a recent abortion.) 

One of the presenters used the phrase in the title of this entry: getting the vaccine is an act of charity to humanity. Getting it is for the greater good of society. 

It seemed like a really long way to get to what I already knew. But it made me think about it from a different perspective and I found that it really made me think and put myself in their shoes. They were quite uncomfortable shoes for me, but hey, it’s always good to think about things from another viewpoint. You might not feel the same way, but at least you can say, “Okay...I get where you’re coming from.” 

The seminarian also discussed the rise of conspiracy theories, about the vaccine and in general. He said something that I found very interesting. That sometimes the best thing to do is to let people do their own research. He called it “reading yourself out of the rabbit hole.” His point was that when we try to argue with people who believe those things, they just dig in deeper (that’s been my experience, too). That doesn’t solve the problem because most people who believe that nonsense aren’t going to seek out alternative views. But maybe some will. 

The latter is part of the reason I have come to the decision to not engage with those who are refusing to get the vaccine for whatever reason they’ve landed upon. I could probably easily refute all of those reasons, but will they listen? Nope. My hope is that they will start seeing family and friends, loved ones, political figures, celebrities, sports figures, whoever, getting them and they’ll start to think, “Okay...none of these people are dropping dead, so maybe I should get it, too.” 

A gal can hope, right? 

Get your shot, peoples! The life you save might be one other than your own!


  1. ...I guess I am a little surprised that self-preservation and objective understanding moved ND to take such a stance on the vaccine... but I think that is part of what has kept religion so powerful... religion is not as absolute when it comes to existential threats, which I think an out of control pandemic would be...

    I am looking forward to getting my vaccine... I do not miss anything from being in lockdown, but I am wondering how "normal" is going to look like...

    1. You and me both, my friend. I'm not sure we'll ever completely get back to our pre-pandemic norms.


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