Catholic Social Teaching and Mask Mandates

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Millennial writer Dan DiLeo writes:

Catholicism teaches each person possesses rights — claims on goods necessary to protect dignity. As Saint John XXIII outlined, these include goods like life, food, shelter, health and social services.

Catholicism also distinguishes between positive and negative rights. Positive rights are entitlements to realize goods and negative rights are entitlements to not have positive rights violated. You have positive rights to life and health, as well as negative rights to not be killed or sickened. When rights directly conflict, claims most essential to dignity take priority: One’s rights to life and health come before another’s right to expose their face….

Catholicism thus views persons as fundamentally social and teaches that individual dignity is bound up with the community — we are made by love, for love, and to love. Thus created, Catholicism insists that each person has positive duties to help others realize their rights and negative duties to not violate their rights. We must help persons stay alive and healthy and not kill or sicken others….

Catholicism does not declare, “Don’t Tread on Me” but calls for solidarity which Saint John Paul II defined as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” Catholicism does not support mask opposition that absolutizes one’s nonessential right to freedom of expression and rejects duties to protect others’ essential rights to life and health….

Faced with the highly contagious delta variant, rising cases, and rampant vaccine refusal, the Catholic understanding of love calls for prudent consideration of the CDC’s updated mask recommendations and openness to mask mandates.

Allergy to government may be orthodox ideological conservatism, but it is not orthodox Catholicism.