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March 26, 2020

Catholic Social Thought and the Coronavirus Crisis

Moral Principles for Terrible Times

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The coronavirus pandemic is a moral crisis, raising fundamental questions about who we are, what we believe, and how we should act to protect human life and dignity and promote the common good in a time of fear, danger, and loss. We face not only a global health calamity, but unprecedented economic, governmental, political, and moral challenges as well.

This online dialogue explored how faith and Catholic social thought can offer moral principles for hard choices, ethical criteria for public action, and hope in a time of fear. In particular, Catholic social thought offers principles to guide our choices as individuals and families, as a nation, and as a global community.

The Initiative convened several respected leaders online to discuss how faith, hope, charity, justice, mercy, and community can guide our responses. John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, moderated this online dialogue. Carr served as the director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for more than two decades.

These leaders drew from their diverse experiences and expertise to address key questions on Catholic social thought and the coronavirus crisis:

  • How do we protect human life and human dignity in the midst of a deadly pandemic?
  • How do we practice solidarity in a time of fear and danger?
  • How do our institutions defend the poor and vulnerable when “the least of these” are particularly at risk and lack resources to respond?
  • How are the dignity of work and the rights of workers respected when some workers are particularly hurt by the economic elements of the crisis?
  • How can subsidiarity help guide governments at all levels in the exercise of their responsibilities, as well as the private sector, local communities, and families?
  • How do we pursue the common good when individual choices can affect all of us?

Our society may face terrible decisions regarding the provision of care, how individual freedoms should be limited for the good of all, and how the economic burdens of this crisis should be shared. These are difficult medical, economic, and policy questions, as well as moral tests.

This online session was an Initiative Public Dialogue, Salt and Light Gathering, and Latino Leader Gathering.

Participants

Reyna Guardado

Reyna Guardado

Reyna Guardado is the co-owner of Guardado’s, a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland. As a Salvadoran immigrant with a family business, Ms. Guardado shared how her restaurant, employees, family, and community have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C.

Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C.

Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., is the former president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association which includes 1,600 Catholic health care organizations. Sr. Carol began her service as a nurse and in 2007 was named the “most powerful person in healthcare” by Modern Healthcare.

Fr. Myles Sheehan, S.J., M.D.

Fr. Myles Sheehan, S.J., M.D.

Fr. Myles Sheehan, S.J., M.D., is a Jesuit priest and physician specializing in internal medicine and geriatrics and a lecturer in the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown. Fr. Sheehan was also the Provincial for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus.

John Monahan, J.D.

John Monahan, J.D.

John Monahan, J.D., is the senior advisor for global health to the president of Georgetown University and the former counselor to the secretary and director of Global Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the H1N1 flu pandemic.