Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy 20+C+M+B+21!

Ol’ Robbo pocketed his chalk at Mass today and then surreptitiously put up the Epiphany blessing, chalking both sides of the front door of Port Swiller Manor for good measure. The outside of the door is black, and Mrs. R will eventually spot the marks there and quietly erase them. The inside (and its lintel) are white, so………

It can be a true hardship to be the only Catholic in the family when it comes to these lovely little grace notes of the Faith. I give Mrs. R every credit for eventually withdrawing her objections to my swimming the Tiber in the first place, even though for years prior the very idea had horrified her. But manifestations like this one still trigger her revulsion to what she thinks of as hocus-pocus. (Or, as P.G. Wodehouse’s character Dolly Malloy might put it, oompus-boompus.) These things must be handled……delicately.

I’ve found that eventually Mrs. R eventually comes round to a positive view of my beliefs and practices, some quickly, others not so much, but that it’s no good trying to force them. In the long game, I find that the soft touch, the gentle prodding, the leading by example, proves the best approach. (Curiously, I was just reading a sermon by Msgr. Ronald Knox about St. Cecelia in his book Captive Flames which seems to endorse this approach.)

One technique I use is to patiently sit back and wait till Mrs. R asks me about some point of theology or practice. Thank Heaven she hasn’t yet asked me about the Vatican’s recent green-lighting of taking COVID vaccines with cell lines developed from aborted fetal tissue, because Ol’ Robbo would be mighty hard-pressed to come up with an excuse for that call. I get the arguments about degrees of separation from the sin and, to a lesser extent, the ones about the needs outweighing the price in general, but I (armchair religious scholar that I am), think they’re being badly misapplied here.

Abortion is one of the premiere social issues on which Holy Mother Church has taken a very public, bright-line stance. How can a Catholic who knows where the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines come from have anything to do with them?

As for the “Greater Good”, the argument I see is that by taking the vaccine, we will aid in slowing the spread of the virus to others. But vaccines don’t generally do this. They block symptoms from developing in a recipient, but they don’t necessarily stop that recipient from being a carrier capable of transmitting the disease to others. From what I can gather, nobody at this point really knows what effect the COVID vaccines will have in this respect. Surely it would be better to wait until we have some real data before the Vatican puts in an order for a hundred-weight of good intentions pavers. (Of course, it would be best to backtrack even further and take an honest look at just how deadly the virus actually is to the general population, but that’s just me, Mr. Vegas.)

Not that it (the licitness of the vaccines in question) affects me personally. I’ve got about a half-dozen other reasons why I’m not taking the bloody shot before I have to get to this one. But still.