COVID-19 and the Common Good
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
Although the last several columns have been dedicated to looking at issues falling under the Eighth Commandment, given the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems appropriate to look instead at some of the moral issues these new circumstances present us with. 
Even though the situation evolves everyday, some of the ethical concerns and, indeed the Church’s ethical principals, remain constant (even if they must now be applied in new ways). 
While there are some moral issues which will have to be faced primarily by certain individuals (such as those in the medical community), others effect us all. One such issue has to do with the Church’s teaching on “The Common Good.” 
This is one that every believer, every citizen, not only can play a role in, but must. This is true in the best of times, but can become more critical in difficult times. 
In fact, the Common Good has often been cited by both ecclesial and civil leaders as a motivation behind some of the actions that have been taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
The Common Good can be defined as: “The sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.” 
The Common Good is not only about creating a just society, but also about keeping society functioning as well as possible long term. My choices, be they public or private, can be seen as my personal contribution to the Common Good. 
Under normal circumstances, many of my choices can seemingly have little noticeable effect on society as a whole. But in the current circumstances even choices that once were routine and normal take on a greater gravity and can even pose a threat to the Common Good. 
Given the dangers that this new virus poses to humanity, the shutdowns, closures, quarantines and other such actions, all are aimed at keeping the spread of the virus to a minimum so that as few people as possible are infected — and hence, as few people as possible will have their lives, or the lives of those around them, put in jeopardy. 
Even though some of these measures are difficult and inconvenient at the least, they represent a much smaller threat proportionally to society’s long term health and well-being. In this way, they represent the best known way to protect the Common Good. 
While many of these decisions are outside of our control, each of us has the ability to abide by them or not. Granted, in some cases choosing to ignore them may carry particular civil penalties, but in every case ignoring them might well represent an ethical violation. Not taking them to heart demonstrates a failure to contribute to what the Common Good requires of us at this time. 
Likewise, downplaying their importance, refusing to take necessary precautions, or taking unnecessary risks might also demonstrate a degree of selfishness or pride. 
Those on the front lines caring for those affected, especially medical personal, display an example of heroism by putting themselves in a place which carries with it added risk. This is their contribution to the Common Good, and it demonstrates both sacrifice and courage. 
On the other hand, those who may put themselves or others at risk because of irresponsible and unnecessary choices, demonstrate a failure in basic human virtue and hence, a failure to contribute what they owe to the Common Good. 
It is understandable that people want to continue to do the things that they were doing everyday not long ago, but it is irresponsible and unethical to act as though things haven’t changed for the time being. 
The more we recognize that in the current circumstances even simple choices can have serious effects on the Common Good, the more motivated faithful Catholics should be to abide by the recommendations given to the best of our ability.