Religion should be about healing. We need to be healed from our sins and restored to our original destinies. So, as priest I think of myself as a healer, not that I have any personal powers to make whole again, I am a conduit for the healing mercy of God, otherwise, I have very little use. I heard an American Indian elder say once: “What good is a religion that does not heal anyone?” I agree.
I am against all sickness, physical and spiritual. From the time I was a young man I have thought that spiritual and physical healing are really one thing. That’s part of the reason that I went on in medicine and became a physician assistant. That profession added to my priesthood has allowed me to understand better what healing is about. As a physician, if you heal only the physical sickness, you miss the effect that sickness has had on the patient’s personhood.
Recently, measles has reappeared after years of control. Some parents feel that there is enough evidence to convict the measles vaccine of causing autism. Even though this opinion has pretty much been debunked, parents still are not sure and some of them are refusing to allow their children to be vaccinated. Unfortunately, these are the children who are contracting measles. If any of those children come in contact with children under two who are not yet eligible to receive the measles vaccine, the contagious children could spread the virus to these infants and toddlers whose immune systems are not sufficiently developed to combat the powerful measles virus. They can die from the disease.
Parents are agonizing over their responsibility to protect their children. What if the measles vaccination does somehow cause autism? Do I run the risk of having a child suffer with autism because I allowed him/her to be vaccinated? Do you see the spiritual suffering of parents who are wrestling with the concept of vaccination?
Benjamin Franklin lost his son Frankie to smallpox. He could have had the child inoculated (not vaccinated) with a small amount of tissue from an infected person. People who were inoculated did generally come down with smallpox but a less virulent form and most survived with immunity from further disease. Franklin had decided not to inoculate his son:
“In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way (he contracted it through contagion from someone else). I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.” (The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin).”