Anti-masking: a “God-given” right?

The Second Vatican Council, commonly referred to as Vatican II, was the first council in nearly 100 hundred years (following the First Vatican Council of 1869) where church leaders were invited to discuss the state of the Catholic Church in a global context. This council took place between 1962-1965, in the midst of several global movements, including the Civil Rights Movement, a wave of feminism and new scientific and technological advancements. The world was changing and the Church had to adapt and update its views in the midst of it all.

One of the most significant conclusions of this council was respect for coexistence. While today this may seem like a given, there was significant animosity between people based on their background, with no end in sight. The Church stepped in to condemn the mistreatment of others because everyone was made in the “likeness of God.” That means that people, despite their religious beliefs, were created by God to have the ability to make thoughtful decisions. Essentially, God blessed humans with free will.

Now what does this mean in the middle of a pandemic? COVID-19 has questioned a multitude of ideas, including faith and free will. People have justified so-called “anti-masking” as a violation of personal rights — some even quoting the human right to free will as gifted by God. However, this free will was blessed to humankind in tandem with the ability to respect others. It is expected that humans treat each other with respect and compassion especially because humans are created in God’s likeness. Not wearing a mask can potentially put others at risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and spreading it to people who are most at risk, such as the elderly and immunocompromised. 

The fact that the refusal to wear a mask is a known risk and people are still choosing to put their individual “liberties” above empathy for others makes them disrespectful of others’ health. One person’s  life is not more or less valuable than another’s, and so their health should be treated accordingly. “Anti-masking” completely contradicts the basic values of respect and compassion outlined by the Church during Vatican II. The blatant disrespect of others by not following protective measures goes against what the Church stands for. God would never support fatal negligence. So, is “anti-masking” really a God-given right?