Mounting fears over the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on U.S. soil have unleashed inordinate levels of hoarding among consumers. Basic necessities like bottled water, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer are now scarce. Department stores offer little hope when they know their products will sell immediately upon release. And for technologically savvy online shoppers, price gouging reinforces the average buyer’s fear, with some companies marking up hand sanitizer at 2,000 percent above its original asking price. While preparedness is rational, stockpiling in excess is selfish and therefore morally irresponsible. Everyone has a right to private property, and everyone has a responsibility to care for and protect his or her family. But buying out grocery store supplies out of an exaggerated fear only hurts those who need these basic necessities as much as everyone else, especially the poor. As the Catechism teaches, “The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race … The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise” (CCC 2402-2403). Catholics should be a voice of reason and solidarity in the midst of this global health emergency. The person of faith respects the demands of justice, which accords each and every person his rightful due. Notwithstanding basic and necessary precautions, major health scares do not exempt Catholics from the requirements of the Gospel. Rather, they provide an opportunity for self-gift, solidarity, and care for one’s neighbor.
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