Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen time and again just how much the so-called “experts” don’t know. There have been ongoing disagreements among medical researchers and the public health community with their ever-changing predictions.
For the first few months, we were told to stay home, avoid beaches and parks, and wear N-95 masks. Then we were told to wear cloth or surgical masks but avoid N-95 masks. Now we’re told that the use of cloth and surgical masks is like using a chain-link fence to keep out mosquitos, but they insist we must keep wearing them.
We were told we would eventually be safe due to herd immunity once 60-70% of the population gets Covid or is vaccinated. More recently, however, we were told that herd immunity requires 90% and it may never protect us since vaccines are not fully effective and the disease is evolving.
One thing is clear… the “experts” don’t really know. Yet they are always quite sure we must do whatever they tell us.
How about a little common sense and perspective?
While Covid-19 is real and it certainly can be deadly, the vast majority of deaths occur among the elderly and people with certain pre-existing conditions.
There is no proof of health risk to the majority of our population, especially working-age people, sufficient to justify the mass shutdowns that are causing severe damage to the overall health and well being of our society. These shutdowns, often imposed arbitrarily by local government officials, have destroyed thousands of businesses and impacted the health and lives of untold numbers of citizens who are foregoing preventative health care and suffering the effects of job loss, depression, family breakdown, and increased suicides.
It is hard to fathom all the misery caused to the millions of Americans who are isolated by fear of Covid-19, including thousands of elderly and sick people living and dying alone without their loved ones.
Will the vaccine solve the problem?
Now we are being bombarded by a relentless media campaign telling us that the Covid vaccine is the solution to a problem that is still not well understood and is very possibly exaggerated.
How can we have any confidence in this when the government’s response to the public health crisis has been plagued by repeated errors?
We know that every drug and medical procedure has potential side effects that are often not discovered until months or years later. How much greater are the risks from a vaccine developed by drug companies rushing to make a profit, pushed along by politicians eager to take credit for a “cure” and news media bent on stoking public fear?
Should a healthy middle-aged person with a close-to-zero percent chance of dying from Covid really take a vaccine that has unknown long-term health risks and was rushed through the research and development process by big pharma, government, and the news media?
What about the moral perspective?
Aside from medical risks, we should also consider this from a moral perspective.
Covid vaccines currently being developed are indirectly linked to aborted babies whose “descendant cells” were used in the development and/or testing of those vaccines.
Even if we are comfortable with the potential health risks, or even enthusiastic about possible health benefits, we should consider carefully whether this justifies taking a drug that is indirectly linked to the murder of innocent babies. Even if those abortions happened in the past, doesn’t use of the vaccine encourage future medical experimentation and harvesting of aborted baby parts and tissue? Surely most of us have heard of the recent accusations and video proof against Planned Parenthood that it sold—and continues to sell—aborted body parts for medical use.
What are the moral principles to apply here?
First of all, we should distinguish between two issues.
One issue is whether it is moral for us to “benefit” from what was essentially a murder, namely the past abortion. We can debate whether this dishonors the tiny victim or validates the past murder. Perhaps it violates our moral duty to treat a dead body with respect.
On the other hand, the abortion is something that happened in the past without us being involved in any way. If my life depends on getting a kidney transplant and the only available donor was someone murdered (not by me) in a gang fight last night, would it be immoral to accept the kidney? Perhaps it would be so, since the murder victim did not consent?
A more practical consideration at this juncture is whether taking a vaccine derived even remotely from past abortions lends tacit approval for researchers to continue aborting babies for research and testing in the future.
Wouldn’t participating in receiving this vaccine, and therefore paying for it ourselves or through our insurance, provide financial motivation for medical researchers to continue killing babies? Wouldn’t this make us somewhat complicit in perpetuating future abortions?
Church teachings on moral dilemmas
The Church for centuries has taught a distinction between direct cooperation in another’s wrongdoing, which is always wrong, versus indirect, remote cooperation which may be tolerated under limited circumstances.
Another distinction is between formal (intentional) cooperation with evil, always a sin, versus material (unintentional) cooperation.
Direct cooperation in another’s wrongdoing is always wrong, and intentional cooperation is always wrong whether it is direct or indirect, but indirect, unintentional cooperation in another’s wrongdoing may be allowable if there are “proportionately” serious justifications.
This is not to say the end justifies the means. It does not. However, in some cases there can be sufficient justification to excuse indirect participation by someone who does not share the evil intent.
We see examples of this every day.
We give money to the government in the form of taxes which the government may then use to pay for abortions. There is no denying that we are indirectly paying for those abortions. However, this is not a sin if we do not intend the abortions ourselves and if we have proportionately serious reasons for compliance.
In this example, we probably have proportionately serious reasons to pay the tax since we need to work to support our families and we have to pay tax on the earnings in order to stay out of jail. The point of this example, however, is that if we did not have proportionately serious reasons to give our tax money to the government, we would be remiss in doing so.
Of course, there can be many shades of gray between direct and indirect cooperation with evil.
It would be direct cooperation with an abortion, and therefore always wrong, to work as an abortionist’s assistant or receptionist, while it would be very indirect to work as a bus driver on a bus route that stops at the abortion clinic.
Similarly, there can be gray areas in determining what are proportionately serious reasons for indirect cooperation.
The bus driver has proportionately serious reasons to drive that route as part of his job; namely, to support his family and for all of his passengers going about their legitimate business on his route. On the other hand, if the mother of a girl seeking an abortion drives her daughter to the clinic, that would be seriously wrong as an indirect participation in the abortion with no justification.
Life is complicated so we can debate forever what is direct versus indirect and what are proportionately serious reasons, but the point is that we need to have a very good reason before we knowingly play any part, however indirect, in something as evil as abortion. And of course, we always have a moral obligation to minimize our involvement.
So, what about taking the vaccine?
Getting back to the vaccine, none of us wants to directly or intentionally encourage future abortions or experimentation on aborted baby parts, but if we take the Covid vaccine we are indirectly and unintentionally supporting companies that do that. As a result, we are to some extent encouraging future abortions that will be done for the sake of medical research and development.
This is not just a hypothetical problem either. We can see plainly the political battle lines drawn around us over abortion and the harvesting of aborted human tissue.
Many would argue that there is a “proportionately serious” justification for Catholics to take the vaccine since it is the only available remedy for a catastrophic public health disaster and we all need to stay healthy to avoid passing the disease to others.
Others would argue that the disease isn’t really that serious for most people; there are treatments available, and our society can get to herd immunity without a vaccine.
Each of us needs to honestly evaluate these potential justifications in our own life, recognizing that the danger from Covid may be more serious for one person than for another, say for a medically compromised older person or a young person who works with the elderly versus a healthy younger person.
A 2005 statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life suggested that we may legitimately use a vaccine that has a distant association with abortion if it is truly necessary, there are no other available vaccines, and if we can avoid or rebut any suggestion that we are condoning the original abortion.
The Vatican instruction Dignitas personae
in 2008 stated that “grave reasons may be morally proportionate” to justify the use of a vaccine developed using cell lines of illicit origin if we make known our disagreement and ask the healthcare system to make other types of vaccines available.
Frankly, I am not convinced that any of those conditions are met with the Covid vaccine, at least for those who are not elderly, medically compromised or in regular contact with vulnerable people.
The “brave new world” we face
We should not fool ourselves or assume too quickly that there are “proportionate” moral justifications to take this vaccine. We are on the cusp of a brave new world as far as medical ethics are concerned, one in which all sorts of ghastly experimentation and disrespect for human life is right at hand if we do not stand against it.
We can tell the world all we want that we are personally opposed to immoral medical research and technology, but that is all talk—just words—if we do not act out of principle. No matter how we try to register our moral objections, does anybody think the liberal establishment gives a hoot about our moral scruples if we are lining up to take their vaccine?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, has taken a very strong stand against any vaccines that are even remotely connected to aborted fetal cell lines on the grounds that we should not benefit from any “fruits” of one of mankind’s greatest crimes.
Bishop Schneider argues that the acceptance of Covid vaccines by Catholics would play into the hands of the Church’s enemies and weaken her position as the last stronghold against the evil of abortion.
He urges us to resist the myth that “there is no alternative,” encouraging us to proceed with the hope and conviction that alternatives exist and that human ingenuity, with the help of God, can discover them.
In summary, considering the link between the Covid vaccine and aborted baby cells, each of us should have a pretty compelling reason before taking the current vaccine. Abortion is a horrendous evil and we never want to encourage more of it. We should consider whether we really trust the people making this vaccine and those who are encouraging us to take it. If we do, are we so elderly, medically vulnerable or in close contact with others who are vulnerable that we really “need” a tainted vaccine?