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(LifeSiteNews) The support of Pope Francis and most Catholic Bishops for Covid vaccine compliance is morally crucifying Catholics who object to administering or receiving the experimental vaccines for moral and medical reasons. The example of the Austrian farmer Blessed Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943) who was executed by the Nazi regime for disobeying an order to serve as a combatant in the Nazi army illuminates a way forward for Catholic and non-Catholic conscientious objectors.
In this article, I will give a brief account of Blessed Franz’s life and martyrdom, drawn almost entirely from the work of John P. Walsh. I will then show how Blessed Franz’s reasons for disobeying his government’s orders and the advice of his Church leaders to serve as a combatant in the Nazi army anticipated the reasons that justify the refusal of Catholics and non-Catholics to administer or receive the experimental Covid vaccines. Finally, I will demonstrate that those who follow his example in regard to Covid vaccine mandates should be recognized by ecclesiastical and civil leaders throughout the world as bona fide conscientious objectors whose right to refuse obedience to laws or regulations they believe (on firmly held moral or religious principles) to be unjust has been upheld by Nuremberg Principle 4 which states that “The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter: Rational Thinker
In his excellent account of the life and martyrdom of Blessed Franz, John P. Walsh emphasizes the importance of the habit of lifelong independent reading and the influence of the Beatus’ devout wife on the development of his character:
Franz Jägerstätter was born on May 20, 1907 between Salzburg and Braunau am Inn as the illegitimate child of Franz Bachmeier, a farmer’s son, and Rosalia Huber, a housemaid . . . Little Franz was first cared for by his widowed grandmother, Elisabeth Huber, and attended a crowded one-room school in St. Radegund where, during World War I, there were episodes of widespread hunger and other disadvantages.
After Franz’s father was killed in World War I, Rosalia married prosperous farmer Heinrich Jägerstätter in 1917 who adopted the boy. After Franz’s formal education ended when he was 14 years old, he remained an avid lifelong reader. “People who don’t read,” Jägerstätter quipped, “will never be able to stand on their own feet. They will all too easily become a football for the opinions of others.” Many in St. Radegund were impressed by this popular young man who rode a motorbike he bought in the mining town of Erzberg, Austria, with his work earnings.
Working as a farmer in Teising, Germany and, in 1927, in the iron ore industry in Eisenerz, Austria, Jägerstätter returned to St. Radegund in 1930 where, in 1933, this “raufer” (brawler) soon fathered an out-of-wedlock child. There was no question that 26-year-old Jägerstätter would not marry Theresia Auer, a working maid. At first, he even disputed his paternity, but then helped care for both the mother and child (named Hildegard) and forged an affectionate lifelong father-daughter bond. This experience started Jägerstätter on a different path in life. His future wife, Franziska Schwaninger (1913–2013) of Hochburg, Austria, was working as a dairy and kitchen maid when in 1934, the 21-year-old Austrian woman met Jägerstätter at a local parish social. One of the first questions Franziska asked the “raufer” Franz was whether he attended church. From the start of their relationship, her religiosity influenced him. Franz and Franziska were married on April 9, 1936, during Holy Week. Supported by his wife’s deep faith, Franz, in addition to his farm work, became the sexton in the local church and started going to mass daily where he received communion. In the next four years Jägerstätter and Franziska had three daughters. Franziska included Jägerstätter’s illegimate daughter as part of the family . . .
After their wedding Franz and Franziska set out to Rome, Italy, and received Pius XI’s papal blessing. Within the year Pius XI published and had proclaimed from Catholic pulpits in Germany his encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (“With Burning Concern”) which condemned leading aspects of the Third Reich. Bishop Gföllner of Linz ordered that the papal encyclical be read from the pulpit of every parish in pre-Anschluss Austria. The contents of the encyclical worked to add to newlywed Jägerstätter’s mistrust of the Nazi regime. It was around this time that Jägerstätter reported having a dream. In it a fine-looking train was traveling through the mountains and adults and children flocked to it with a majority of adults boarding it. Then, in the dream, someone took Jägerstätter’s hand and told him: “This train is going to hell.” As during the Fatima apparition on July 13, 1917, Jägerstätter had a vision of hell but also purgatory. Jägerstätter reported that “the suffering in purgatory (was) so great.” For Jägerstätter the dream image of the fine-looking moving train was Nazism.
The Catholic Church and the Nazi Party in Austria
When the Nazis first occupied Austria, Jägerstätter was deeply impressed by the negative response to the Nazis of his local Bishop. This Bishop taught that it was impossible to be a Nazi and a Catholic. After the Nazis established themselves in Austria, however, as priests and lay people who spoke out against their atrocities were murdered or interned, and a new Bishop took over Franz’s diocese, the Church leadership began to accommodate Nazis among her active members. Blessed Franz observed:
In Germany, before Hitler took over, they used to say that Nazis were not allowed to take Communion. And how do things look now in this great German Reich? Some people go, so it seems, quite placidly up to the altar rail, even though they’re members of the Nazi Party, and have let their children join the Party, or are even training to become Nazi educators themselves. Has the Nazi Party, which has been murdering people in the most atrocious way for more than two years now, really changed its program, making it permissible or a matter of indifference for its members to take Communion? Or have the church leaders already given their decision or approval, so that it’s now allowed for Catholics to join a party which is hostile to the Church? Yes, sometimes it makes you want to just shout out. If you think it over a little, could it come as a surprise if even the most fair-minded were to go crazy in such a country? The way things look, we’re not going to see any bloody persecution of Christians here after all, as the Church now does almost everything the Nazi Party wants or orders.
Twice, Franz obeyed an order to report for military training, but after being inducted into the Third Order of St. Francis, he discerned that it was not God’s Will that he serve in the army as a combatant. He reasoned that the Nazi army was advancing a regime which systematically liquidated the weak and vulnerable and that none of the wars that it was waging on every side could be judged just or holy. He defended his decision in arguments with priests, relatives, friends, and neighbors, but virtually no one agreed with him. One of the arguments used to persuade him to fight in the army was that the Austrian forces were engaged in fighting the Bolsheviks and that Catholics could wage war upon them in good conscience. Many Catholics argued that Nazism was a “lesser evil” than communism and that it was just for Catholics to cooperate with the “lesser evil” of Nazism to eradicate the “greater evil” of communism. But Blessed Franz remained unconvinced:
It is very sad to hear again and again from Catholics that this war, waged by Germany, is perhaps not so unjust because it will wipe out Bolshevism. It is true that at present most of our soldiers are stuck in the worst Bolshevist country, and simply want to make harmless and defenseless the people who live there and defend themselves. But now a question: what are they fighting in this country – Bolshevism or the Russian people? When our Catholic missionaries went to a pagan country to make them Christians, did they advance with machine guns and bombs in order to convert and improve them? … If we look back a little into history, we note almost the same thing again and again: if a conqueror attacks another country with war, they have not normally invaded the country to improve people or even perhaps give them something, but usually to get something for themselves.
Arrest and Imprisonment
After stating his intention to disobey the order to report for active military duty and being refused absolution by a priest, Blessed Franz met with his Bishop to discuss his moral reservations. Like Franz’s pastor, the Bishop tried to persuade Franz to “do his duty” by serving as a combatant in the Nazi army. The Bishop even assured him that he would not be held responsible by the Church for “following orders.” At his trial, Blessed Franz explained why he could not follow the advice of his Bishop, affirming that the Bishop had not “experienced the grace that has been granted to me.” With the exception of his devoted wife, none of Franz’s friends, neighbors, or relatives seems to have supported his—in his Bishop’s words—“suicidal” decision; and many upbraided him for abandoning his wife and children. He wrote:
Again and again, people try to trouble my conscience over my wife and children. Is an action any better because one is married and has children? Is it better or worse because thousands of other Catholics are doing the same? . . . Ever since people have existed on this earth, experience teaches us that God gives people free will and has only very seldom noticeably interfered in the fate of individuals and peoples, and that therefore it will be no different in the future either, except at the end of the world. Adam and Eve already completely ruined their destiny through their disobedience towards God; God gave them free will and they would never have had to suffer if they had listened more to God than to the tempter. Even His beloved Son would then have been spared infinite suffering. And so it will remain until the end of the world: that every sin has consequences. But woe to us if we always try to avoid shouldering those consequences and aren’t willing to do penance for our sins and errors.
In May he was transferred to a prison in Berlin, and on August 8, 1943, Franz wrote to his wife for the last time:
Dear wife and mother, I thank you once more from my heart for everything that you have done for me in my lifetime, for all the sacrifices that you have borne for me. I beg you to forgive me if I have hurt or offended you, just as I have forgiven everything…My heartfelt greetings for my dear children. I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter heaven soon, that he will set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.
The following day, August 9, 1943, Blessed Franz Jägerstätter was beheaded and cremated.
For a long time after his death, his conduct remained controversial. Some years after the war, when the Austrian government began to annul the death sentences of Austrians who had been executed by the Nazis, the government refused to annul the death sentence of Blessed Franz because he had not been executed for taking up arms against the Nazis but for “religious” reasons. It was not until October 7, 1997, that Bishop Maximilian Aichern, the Ordinary of Blessed Franz’s Diocese of Linz, opened a cause of beatification for him. The diocesan process was concluded on June 21, 2001, and the records were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. On June 1, 2007, the Vatican recognized the martyrdom of Franz Jägerstätter, paving the way for his beatification by Pope Benedict XVI on October 26, 2007.
Blessed Franz and Covid-Vaccine Conscientious Objectors
At first blush, it might seem absurd to compare Blessed Franz’s conscientious objection to active military service in the Nazi army to conscientious objection to administering or receiving the experimental Covid-19 vaccines. On closer examination, however, the circumstances and the reasons for both are remarkably similar.
Although Pope Pius XII protested the evils of the Nazi regime, all the Church leaders with whom Blessed Franz had personal contact, including his own Bishop, told him that it was his duty to obey the civil authorities and to serve as a combatant in the Nazi army. He was told that “the lesser evil” of cooperation with the Nazi regime was justified to avoid the “greater evil” of abandoning his wife and children and allowing “Bolshevism” to spread. Today, in most of the dioceses of the western world, Catholics are told that it is their duty to receive the experimental Covid-vaccines to help halt the spread of the coronavirus for the common good. With few exceptions, the Bishops tell the faithful that the “lesser evil” of taking a vaccine derived from or tested on [cell lines derived from] the body of a murdered baby is justified to avoid the “greater evil” of allowing the Coronavirus to spread and inflict suffering and death on many of their fellow citizens. However, with reasoning reminiscent of Blessed Franz in his refusal to cooperate with the Nazi regime, Bishop Athanasius Schneider explains why the alleged benefits do not justify the use of vaccines derived from or tested on aborted babies:
When we use vaccines or medicines which utilize cell lines originating from aborted babies, we physically benefit from the “fruits” of one of the greatest evils of mankind — the cruel genocide of the unborn. For if one innocent child had not been cruelly murdered, we would not have these concrete vaccines or medicines. We should not be so naive as not to see that these vaccines and medicines not only offer a health benefit but also promise to promote the culture of death. Of course, some argue that even if people do not take these vaccines, the abortion industry will still continue. We may not reduce the number of abortions if we stop taking such vaccines or medicines, but this is not the issue. The problem lies in the moral weakening of our resistance to the crime of abortion, and to the crime of the trafficking, exploitation and commercialization of the body parts of murdered unborn children. The use of such vaccines and medicines in some way morally – albeit indirectly — supports this horrible situation. Observing the response from the Catholic Church, abortionists and those responsible for biomedical research will conclude that the hierarchy has acquiesced to this situation, which includes an entire chain of crimes against life and indeed can aptly be described as a “chain of death.” We have to wake up to the real dangers, consequences and circumstances of the current situation. . .
The blood of murdered unborn children cries to God from vaccines and medicines which utilize their remains in any manner whatsoever. We have to make reparation for the accumulated crimes involved in their production. We have to ask pardon not only from God, who searches the reins and hearts (cf. Rev. 2:23), but also from the souls of all murdered unborn children, who have a name before God. We must especially ask pardon from those children whose body parts are used in such a degrading way for the health benefit of the living. It is incomprehensible how churchmen, with the aid of abstract theories from moral theology, can tranquilize the conscience of the faithful, by allowing them to use such vaccines and medicines.
It is a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion, that none of the currently licensed vaccines would exist without the exploitation of murdered and trafficked unborn children. Even Novavax, which was just approved for use in the EU and is on the verge of a similar authorization in the United States, made use of aborted fetal cells. Following the example of Blessed Franz, we must conclude that even if the vaccines would limit the spread of the virus—and there is no solid evidence that they do—this would not justify the exploitation of murdered babies and the encouragement that this gives to pharmaceutical companies to continue to expand their multi-billion-dollar programs to develop vaccines from the bodies of murdered children. With Blessed Franz we must respectfully reject the opinion of most of our Church leaders in this matter. The end does not justify the means. We can no longer cooperate with the evil of child sacrifice and exploitation.
But that is not all.
The Natural Law Guarantees the Right to Refuse Harmful Vaccines
Suppose a Covid vaccine were developed without the use of cells from murdered babies and the Pope’s advisors were able to prove—as none of them has been able to do—that the Covid-vaccine could halt the spread of the coronavirus. Would we then be obliged to heed the advice of most of our Church leaders and submit to vaccine mandates in our respective countries?
Once again, Blessed Franz illuminates our way and shows us why we must offer a resounding “No,” even if the vaccines were not developed through the murder and exploitation of unborn babies.
The reason is simple.
The Fifth Commandment and the natural law uphold the right and the duty of all human beings to preserve and protect the human nature and the individual body that God has given them. The spike protein, which is the essential immunological component of all the Covid vaccines in circulation, is actually toxic to human life. It can severely damage the cardiovascular system, causing blood clots, damage to the heart, and lowered blood oxygen. A recent study shows that the vaccine-induced spike proteins increase anti-placental antibodies, which could result in indefinite infertility, and there is mounting anecdotal evidence that it causes damage to the reproductive system in general. The spike protein has also been known to cross the blood-brain barrier in animal experiments, which explains the severe neurological side effects that are observed in some vaccine-injured humans. Although the vaccines are injected in the arm, the lipid nanoparticles and the spike proteins they code for have been found to spread from the injection site throughout the bodies of vaccinated men and women. Moreover, mRNA vaccines in particular have a history of being unsafe and causing serious side effects, and viral vector vaccines can cause immune dysfunction if the recipient has already been exposed to the wild virus.
Blessed Franz ultimately realized that he could not cooperate with the “lesser evil” of Nazism without harming his soul, in spite of the pressure brought to bear upon him by his civil and ecclesiastical leaders. In the same way, Catholics may justly refuse to cooperate with Covid-vaccine mandates because of the risk of harm to the divine design of their bodies from the injections as well as the risk of harm to their souls through their cooperation with child trafficking, exploitation, and abortion.
We Must Obey God Rather than Man
There is one more aspect of the current “coronamania” that demands our attention—and that is the predicament of priests who recognize the legitimate reasons for conscientious refusal to administer or receive the Covid-vaccines and who write letters granting religious exemptions to their parishioners. According to Catholic World News:
The New York archdiocese has instructed priests that they should not support parishioners who seek religious exemptions from Covid vaccination mandates.
A July 30 memo from the offices of the vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese acknowledges that there are pleas from “some Catholics who have a sincere moral objection” to the Covid vaccine because of their use of fetal cell lines taken from abortions. But the memo goes on to note that both Pope Francis and Cardinal Timothy Dolan have encouraged vaccination.
“There is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption to the vaccine,” the memo says.
The vicar general and chancellor—Msgr. Joseph LaMorte and John P. Cahill—go on to present a hypothetical case in which an unvaccinated student causes an outbreak of the epidemic at a Catholic school. “Clearly this would be an embarrassment to the archdiocese,” they warn. They add that a priest might be held personally liable for the outbreak.
While allowing that individuals may “exercise discretion” about the vaccine, the archdiocesan officials stated that they must do so without seeking the inaccurate portrayal of Church instructions. They do not comment on the possibility that an individual Catholic’s sincere moral objections might conflict with the instructions issued by Church leaders.
Apparently referring to the likelihood that parishioners would seek their pastors’ testimony to support their conscientious resistance, the memo concludes: “Our priests should not be active participants to such actions.”
As galling as it is to see high Church officials more concerned about “embarrassment to the archdiocese” than about the ongoing torture, murder, and exploitation of innocent unborn children, it is gratifying to realize that Blessed Franz illuminates a way for lay faithful to protect their pastors from a charge of insubordination while making an airtight case for conscientious objection to the administration or reception of the Covid vaccines. As explained at the link provided at the end of this article, it is not necessary for a Catholic to have a letter from his pastor to be granted a religious exemption from a Covid vaccine mandate. It is only necessary for him to explain why, in the spirit of Blessed Franz, he cannot in good conscience administer or receive the vaccine.
Like Blessed Franz, all Catholics have the right and the duty to refuse to cooperate with the ongoing slaughter of our unborn brothers and sisters.
Like Blessed Franz, we have the right and the duty to refuse to harm ourselves spiritually by cooperation with industrial child sacrifice and exploitation, or physically by accepting the known risks of hospitalization, cardiovascular disease, disability, damaged fertility, and even death—as well as all of the unknown long-term risks—that come with the Covid vaccine.
Through the beatification of Blessed Franz, the Church Herself has acknowledged that a Catholic who acts against the advice of his religious superiors when they counsel something illegitimate—and who disobeys the civil law to obey his informed conscience—must be respected.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter and of all the Saints, may the right of all Catholics and non-Catholics to be conscientious objectors to the administration and reception of Covid vaccines be recognized—without any punitive sanction from the civil or ecclesiastical authorities.
Note: Catholic and Non-Catholic readers who wish to conscientiously object to the administration or reception of the Covid-vaccines will find much helpful practical information at this link: https://news.gab.com/2021/07/29/important-download-covid-vaccine-religious-exemption-documents-here/
Pre-prepared text for a letter of religious objection citing relevant Church teaching on the subject is available at Children of God for Life here: https://cogforlife.org/catholic-exemptions/
Hugh Owen is the founder and director of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation which provides a forum for Catholic theologians, philosophers, and natural scientists who defend the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation as the only firm foundation for a culture of life. See www.foundationsrestored.com and www.kolbecenter.org
LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here.