Vatican bioethics official on rationing care during a pandemic

In recent weeks, the Vatican has made it clear that it sees the coronavirus pandemic as a pressing call for the transformation of society. This past week, Pope Francis put together a task force with specific mandates for coordinating humanitarian aid, international relations, and the protection of the environment, all at the service of a broader vision of human solidarity in a time of pandemic.

Listen and subscribe to “Inside the Vatican” on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

That vision was laid out on March 30 in a note entitled “Global Pandemic and Universal Brotherhood,” issued by the Pontifical Academy for Life, which focuses on moral theology and bioethics. In this episode of “Inside the Vatican,” the president of that academy, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, speaks to me about that document and some of the specifics of the Vatican’s vision for a new human solidarity arising from this pandemic.

In the interview, Archbishop Paglia describes the theological and health considerations that have factored into the decisions to cancel public Masses while keeping churches open: “Precisely because of the principle of incarnation, which is at the heart of our faith, we must take seriously the concrete concerns to which our body is subject,” the archbishop said.

He also speaks in depth about the need that Vatican leadership has expressed for a globally coordinated health care network which would ensure care for the most vulnerable people. Speaking about how decisions about rationing care are made when resources are scarce, Archbishop Paglia said, “the choice is not about the dignity of the person or the value of his or her life, which is equal and priceless for all, but on the treatment: priority must be given to those who—when needs are equal— are expected to benefit the most.”