Conor M. Kelly teaches theological ethics at Marquette University in Wisconsin.
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Who Should Be Next in Line?
ACCORDING TO PSYCHOLOGISTS, fairness is one of our most innate moral intuitions. As a parent, I can vouch for this because I routinely navigate the extra-sensitive fairness meters of bickering siblings. Young or old, we protest perceived slights in the same terms: “That is so unfair!”
This snap judgment, however, is not always accurate. Consequently, when circumstances trigger a reflexive accusation of unfairness, we should pause to verify that we are not off base. As Christians, especially, we must test our gut reactions against the insights of our faith to ensure that our intuitions match our convictions.
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is a paradigmatic illustration of this responsibility.
With a limited supply likely deep into 2021, many who want the vaccine will be unable to get it for quite some time. Recognizing this reality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has created guidelines for who should have priority at each stage of the rollout. According to ACIP, health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities have priority, and after that essential workers and those over 75 should have access before anyone else.
Thou Shalt Not Be Apathetic
ON A COLD January day in 2010, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens felt so strongly about the dangers of corruption that he delivered a rare oral dissent in the Citizens United case. Decrying the majority’s “crabbed view of corruption” that focused on quid pro quo arrangements exclusively, Justice Stevens countered, “There are threats of corruption that are far more destructive to democratic society than the odd bribe. Yet the majority’s understanding of corruption would leave lawmakers impotent to address all but the most discrete abuses.”
In retrospect, the striking thing from that winter morning was not so much the existence of Steven’s oral dissent (though notable), but the basic agreement on all sides. No one on the court contested the idea that corruption poses a threat to “democratic society.” The majority and the minority simply split on whether the specific practice at issue constituted a form of corruption.
Ten years later, we cannot take the same presupposition for granted. Instead of identifying corruption as a danger to the republic, we are all too ready to treat it as an inescapable part of American life. Indeed, the rationalizations have now become as predictable as they are depressing: It may be distasteful, but both sides do it. It is a necessary evil. Get over it.