When we deliberate about how the Church, the state, various institutions, and all individuals should navigate the crisis of COVID-19, we are in fact deliberating about what ultimate common good we collectively belong to. Yes, we are called to protect our own bodily life and the lives of others, but we are also inclined by nature to participate in communities of friendship, extended family life, truth-seeking, meaningful work, gainful employment, liturgy, and contemplation.
Author: Thomas Joseph White, O.P. (Thomas Joseph White, O.P.)
If the state seeks to protect the human body, it should do so in view of a more ultimate flourishing of the whole human person, for the sake of a civic society that promotes the free pursuit of spiritual goods. In a public health crisis, the ways we pursue these goods can be altered temporarily, but if the alterations threaten to radically alter the long-term pursuit of these goods, we must question these new policies.
One can certainly debate the scientific warrant of a quarantine, its effectiveness in a given region or country, its proportionate value in the face of its economic consequences, and its psychological effects on citizens. Still, in principle, the state may legitimately request Catholic Christians to undertake such a quarantine, in accord with the natural law. There is nothing illegitimate about such a request, if it falls within certain parameters of temporary and just use, nor is it historically unprecedented.
It’s a mistake to think the Church cannot accommodate a multiplicity of different philosophers and theologies. The Church is united doctrinally, sacramentally, and by its moral ethos. That real unity can accommodate diverse visions of theology within itself without any rupture, so long as they are each receptive of the complete doctrinal teaching of the Church. Not everybody has to be a Thomist, but it is vital to the Church that there is a Thomistic tradition and culture, which is not only a culture of intellect but also a way of life.