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Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.

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March 11, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In a newly released “Statement of Conscience,” five prominent Catholics in the U.S. (including Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas) have argued for refusing to receive any vaccine derived from abortion in good conscience. They also pushed back against attempts to qualify taking such vaccines as morally binding.

Among those who penned the statement are Catherine Pakaluk, Ph.D., and Michael Pakaluk, Ph.D., both of the Catholic University of America; Stacy Ann Trasancos, Ph.D., of the St. Philip Institute of Catechesis and Evangelization; Jose Luis Trasancos, Ph.D., who is part of pro-life group Children of God for Life; and Strickland.

The statement emerged as a response to “a growing consensus among Catholic ethicists that vaccines derived from aborted fetal tissue are not only morally permissible (licit), but also (nearly) morally obligatory for the sake of the common good.” The authors point to public statements affirming a requirement to take the available COVID-19 vaccines from Catholic scholars at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), the Catholic Health Association (CHA), and, indeed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the latter two of which directly point to a moral “responsibility” to be vaccinated.

Notably, the bishops’ statement makes reference to the 2008 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) document “Dignitatis Personae.”

According to the authors of the “Statement of Conscience,” the principles of conscientious objection is being violated by the bishops’ instruction. The group argues that all three of the above statements “seem to run afoul of our rights of conscience” to reject abortion-tainted vaccines, and that the CDF, in both Dignitatis Personae and the more recent “Note on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines,” defend this right.

Rather than flip the argument of the USCCB and others in the opposite direction, contending a moral obligation to forego such vaccines, the authors stake a simpler position: “[W]e do not wish to benefit from abortion.”

They posit that there is a religious conviction found in the “natural disgust felt by persons who wish to remain separate from the crime of abortion in every way possible.” At the same time, the group admits the possibility that it is “not always morally illicit to use such abortion-tainted vaccines temporarily, in extreme necessity, and even then under strenuous protest.”

Even so, they qualify that “the use of such vaccines must never be advanced as mandatory, or as a universal duty. Because some of us in conscience believe that we are called to refuse to take them.”

They also “lament a ‘soulless scientism’ that fails to account for the unique dignity of the human person and the role of suffering in human life,” giving rise to “questionable ethical practices” in medicine and science.

On account of such objections, the five Catholics “hereby urge, by our witness and testimony, that people who agree with us — and also those who disagree but who admire our stance, and who wish to defend our right to hold it — join together to claim the freedom in conscience to refuse vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines.”

Key to their insistence on a right to conscientious objection is the principle that, before one can determine the use of abortion-derived vaccines to be morally licit, there is first a “grave responsibility” to seek and make use of alternative remedies, as well as objecting to those which are morally compromised. This judgement has been habitually upheld in documents from the Pontifical Academy for Life and the CDF.

According to the authors, ceding the ground on abortion-tainted, experimental COVID vaccines might have paved the way for authoritarian and unjust laws, including recent developments in legislation allowing children to consent to the vaccine without parental permission or supervision. Opposing merely in word and not in deed, they said, has opened us to “[c]oercion in these and other matters hostile to life.”

Promoting a consistent ethic, the group requested manufacturers to “reveal publicly and label their use” of the HEK-293 cell line (harvested from a child aborted in the Netherlands in the 1970s) in the development and/or production of any goods, which they say is in near “ubiquitous use.”

“We lament that we have been led to use compromised products and medicines in the past without knowledge. Let all that has been hidden be brought into the light.”

The group went on to criticize those moralists who propose applying the now popular principle of remote material cooperation to abortion-tainted vaccines, mitigating the level of complicity one would have today with the evil of an abortion procured at some point in history. The authors questioned the criteria used to determine how long ago an abortion must be before it can be considered “remote,” particularly when the cells from that child are replicated even now and have been “manipulated deliberately” for the “depraved intention” to create cell lines.

Inspired by Sacred Scripture, the authors noted the example of the “holy mother in 2 Maccabees, a type of Our Lady, who urged her sons to resist violating God’s law even if it meant their death.” In like manner, the authors stress that “[w]ithout our courage we fear that pinches of incense will continue to be extracted from us, rendering us insensitive to what should cause our indignation, sorrow, and determination to change.”

Quoting the words of Christ, the Catholic group distilled its message against profiting from abortion with this simple exhortation: “What does it profit a man to gain his life but lose his soul?” Accordingly, they “urge our ethicists to resist a premature ‘consensus’ about abortion-tainted SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.”

“We insist on our freedom of conscience in this matter, to witness to life as we judge we are being called to do.”

Since the release of the statement, a number of additional high-profile Catholics have signed on to the document, including Dr. Jay W. Richards of the Catholic University of America and Crisis Magazine’s Eric Sammons.

LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here.