Tuesday, April 27, 2021
My friend and colleague, Gerry Bradley, along with Bishop Thomas Paprocki, have published a letter to the editor in which they challenge the University's announced policy that (nearly) all students arriving or returning in the Fall will be required to have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Although I have the greatest respect for the authors, I (think I) disagree with the letter. Assuming (a) that it is morally permissible to use these vaccines, (b) that we ought, to the extent we can and to the extent it is (reasonably) safe and prudent, and even when we'd rather not, to do morally permissible things to help others, (c) that a vaccine requirement will help others because only with such a requirement will the onerous and damaging restrictions on students' lives and our classroom teaching be lifted, and (d) that Notre Dame is entitled to impose morally permissible conditions on admission to the community . . . it seems to me that, all things considered, students may and should bear witness to the horrors of abortion in other (more visible and so, probably, more effective) ways. If (a)-(d) are warranted assumptions, then it strikes me as prideful -- even though, of course, students themselves are not really at risk and, in any event, are generally entitled to assume risks -- to refuse vaccination. And, if these assumptions are warranted, then it seems wrong to say, as Prof. Bradley and Bishop Paprocki do, that "any undertaking to exclude from campus every student who declines to be vaccinated . . . would be immoral."
I should emphasize that my conclusion depends on these assumptions -- including (c) -- being correct. If it turns out that, even with (near) universal vaccination, the University elects to continue (contrary to evidence, data, sound cost-benefit analysis, and "science") with what would be fair to characterize as (again, onerous and damaging) "safety theater", then things would (to me) look quite different.