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(LifeSiteNews) — I have been following the LifeSiteNews stories on the morality of accepting the so-called “vaccines,” and just finished reading this article, posted June 23, 2021, with the following headline and caption: 

Priest: Using abortion-tainted COVID vaccine is moral complicity in organ harvesting 

‘The Nazis were bad? The Chinese were bad? We just get the organs from the unborn so that we could have this magical vaccine,’ said Fr. Dominic Clovis. 

I appreciate Fr. Clovis’s efforts to refute those who say that accepting any of the four leading alleged COVID-19 vaccines is defended as morally licit by Catholic teaching. I also share with others a degree of disappointment and surprise over the comment by respected Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei (page 63) that those of us who refuse such “treatment” are guilty of being overly sentimental about the illicit use of the body parts of unborn children (harvested when they were still alive, no less) to either produce the injectable product or test its efficacy. Thus, I also appreciate the efforts Christopher Ferrara previously published on LSN to answer his arguments.  

Nevertheless, these refutations and answers have centered on certain theological propositions about the question of the circumstances in which actions that constitute merely material co-operation with the evil actions of others are permissible (as opposed to formal co-operation with evil, which the Magisterium of the Church has declared to be never licit: Evangelium Vitae, n.74). With respect, I think this approach is logically fallacious, as it involves “arguing beside the point.” The better “Catholic” answer, I submit, is much simpler and more direct. Here I am invoking “Ockham’s Razor,” which George Weigel, in his The Cube and The Cathedral, accurately described as “the principle …. that the simpler of two explanations is, as a general rule, to be preferred” [p. 82].  

To the point, accepting into one’s own body one of the four most prominent alleged COVID vaccines fails to meet the demands of the personalistic norm, which is the norm of the philosophical foundation of Christ’s commandment to love.² Since every one of us became an immortal spiritual being at our conception, there can be no “limitation period” on this norm’s demand that we affirm the personhood, in everything that we say and do, of every unborn child who was used in the production and/or testing of any product. These children remain spiritual persons, and we presume that they are in God’s company in heaven, having died innocent of any conscious and deliberate sin. Voluntarily taking one of those products into our body, it seems to me, does not meet the demands of the personalistic norm. More crudely expressed, such conduct is simply cannibalistic and profoundly utilitarian. It is an immoral or unethical act per se, independent of the conduct of other persons who produced and tested the product. On the other hand, a “material co-operation with evil” analysis, properly understood, presupposes that the actor’s act is good, or at least morally indifferent [1].  

In or around 2009, some of my Canadian Catholic pro-life colleagues became what I have called “Gestational Abortion Law Enthusiasts.” Some went as far as to write proposed abortion laws for Canada that would authorize health practitioners to abort children up to the age of 13 weeks’ gestation, with criminal law immunity. At that time, I challenged my colleagues to explain publicly how this kind of conduct showed love for those children but never received a meaningful response to my challenge. Now, in 2021, it is time to issue a similar challenge to my colleagues who believe that it is morally and ethically licit to take these so-called vaccines. When you arrive at your time of judgment and meet all those persons whose body parts were used in either the manufacture or testing of these products, what are you going to say to them when they ask you why you missed a great opportunity to affirm and witness to their personhood? Somehow, I don’t think that “You should not have taken my decision to accept the vaccine so personally” is going to cut it.    

John Paul II’s understanding of the Commandment to Love and its relationship to the personalistic norm 

Karol Wojtyla/Pope St. John Paul II (“JPII”) identified the “twin” commandments described in Matthew 22.34-40 as Christ’s “Commandment to Love”[2]. In many statements (both those with and those without Magisterial status) published between 1960 and 2005, he consistently confirmed and re-confirmed that the “horizontal” dimension of the Commandment to Love “presented itself” to him as a “personalist norm,” the full content of which not only “excludes the possibility of treating [a person] as an object of pleasure,” but also “requires the affirmation of the person as a person” In what follows, I hope to explicate this concept of the personalistic norm more fully by examining both the pre-papal and papal statements of the man who worked harder than perhaps anyone else in the 20th century to persuade Christians that this norm was the cornerstone of all ethics. In my opinion, these statements are the foundation of the strongest argument against the position that accepting the alleged vaccines into one’s body is morally licit. 

In Memory and Identity (2005), JPII said the following: 

Christ confirmed the commandments of the Decalogue as the foundation of Christian morals, synthesizing them in the twin precepts of love of God and love of neighbor. And he gives a truly comprehensive interpretation of the term “neighbor” in the Gospel. The love to which the Christian is committed embraces everyone, including enemies. When I was writing the essay Love and Responsibility [1960], the greatest commandment of the Gospel presented itself to me as a personalist norm. Precisely because man is a personal being, it is not possible to fulfil our duty toward him except by loving him. Just as love is the supreme commandment with regard to the personal God, so too only love can be our fundamental obligation toward the human person, created in God’s image and likeness [pp. 133-34].  

In Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994) [3], JPII confessed that he had translated Christ’s “commandment of love into the language of philosophical ethics.” That “language” was the personalistic norm, the full content of which not only “excludes the possibility of treating [a person] as an object of pleasure”, but also “requires the affirmation of the person as a person.” He insisted that his theory of the person “is not only a marvellous theory; it is at the centre of the human ethos. 

In the same work, he went on to declare 

The true personalistic interpretation of the commandment of love is found in the words of the Council: “When the Lord Jesus prays to the Father so that ‘they may be one’ (Jn 17:22), He places before us new horizons impervious to human reason and implies a similarity between the union of divine persons and the union of the children of God in truth and charity. This similarity shows how man, who is the only creature on earth that God wanted for his own sake, can fully discover himself only by the sincere giving of himself” (Gaudium et Spes 24). Here we truly have an adequate interpretation of the commandment of love. Above all, the principle that a person has value by the simple fact that he is a person finds very clear expression: man, it is said, “is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for his own sake.” At the same the Council emphasizes that the most important thing above love is the sincere gift of self. In this sense the person is realized through love [4].

Let’s now focus on Karol Wojtyla’s original and extensive explication of the concept of the personalistic norm, which is found in Love and Responsibility (1960) [5]. In the early pages of the book, he identifies the Commandment to Love as “not identical with” but something convertible with (my term) [6] the personalistic norm. Later, he describes it as a “form of” [7] the personalistic norm. Finally, towards the end of the book, in the chapter entitled Justice Towards the Creator, he says the commandment is “more” than the personalistic norm; it “embodies” not just the personalistic norm, but also “the basic law of the whole supernatural order, of the supernatural relationship between God and man”[8]. He goes on to say: “Nevertheless, the personalistic norm is most certainly inherent in it – it is the ‘natural’ content of the commandment to love, that part of which we can equally well understand without faith and by reason alone” [9]. 

This norm “lays down the rights of the person.” Therefore, “love presupposes justice”[10]. Wojtyla postulates two kinds of “justice”: (1) horizontal justice – ethical conduct between human persons; and (2) vertical justice – the justification of human behaviour in the eyes of God [11]. In respect of horizontal justice, this commandment requires all of us to “endeavor” to declare or affirm, by our “whole behaviour,” that other persons have a value higher than that of an object for consumption or use [12]. The “interpenetration of love and justice in the personalistic norm” presents a “concept of love which is just to the person, or if you like a love prepared to concede to each human being that which he or she can rightfully claim by virtue of being a person” [13].

Most of the book is devoted to horizontal justice, with an emphasis on justice in sexual and marital matters in relationships between men and women. The key passages are found under the heading of The Commandment to Love and the Personalistic Norm, at pages 40 to 44, and warrant their extensive reproduction here: 

The commandment laid down in the New Testament demands from man love for others, for his neighbors in the fullest sense, then, love for persons. For God, whom the commandment to love names first, is the most perfect personal Being. The whole world of created persons derives it distinctness from and its natural superiority over the world of things (non-persons) from a very particular resemblance to God. The commandment…, demanding love towards persons, is implicitly opposed to the principle of utilitarianism, which….is unable to guarantee the love of one human being, one person for another….

…. [I]f the commandment to love and the love which is the object of this commandment are to have any meaning, we must find a basis for them other than the utilitarian premise and the utilitarian system of values. This can only be the personalistic principle and the personalistic norm. This norm, in its negative aspect, states that the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end. In its positive form the personalistic norm confirms this: the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love. This positive content of the personalistic norm is precisely what the commandment to love teaches….. [emphasis added]

This norm, as a commandment, defines and recommends a certain way of relating to God and to people, a certain attitude towards them. This way of relating, this attitude, is in agreement with what the person is, with the value which the person represents, and therefore it is fair. Fairness takes precedence of mere utility (which is all the utilitarian principle has eyes for!) –although it does not cancel it but only subordinates it: in dealings with another person everything that is at once of use to oneself and fair to that person falls within the limits set by the commandment to love….

[T]he personalistic norm …. assumes that…. this attitude…will be not only fair but just. For to be just always means giving others what is rightly due to them. A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use. In a sense it can be said that love is a requirement of justice, just as using a person as a means to an end would conflict with justice. In fact, the order of justice is more fundamental than the order of love – and in a sense the first embraces the second inasmuch as love can be a requirement of justice. Surely it is just to love a human being or to love God, to hold a person dear. At the same time love – if we are to consider its very essence – is something beyond and above justice; the essence of love is simply different from the essence of justice. Justice concerns itself with things (material goods or moral goods, as for instance one’s good name) in relation to persons, and hence with persons rather indirectly, whereas love is concerned with persons directly and immediately: affirmation of the value of the person as such is of its essence. Although we can correctly say that whoever loves a person is for that very reason just to that person, it would be quite untrue to assert that love for a person consists merely in being just. Later in the book we shall try to analyze separately and more fully what it is that constitutes love for a person. So far, we have elicited one fact – namely that love for a person must consist in affirmation that the person has a higher value than that of an object for consumption or use. He who loves will endeavor to declare this by his whole behavior. And there can be no doubt that he will, ipso facto, be just towards the other person as a person…. [Emphasis added.]

In Chapter IV of the book, which carries the title of Justice Towards the Creator, Wojtyla moves the discussion of the personalistic norm to the plane of vertical justice. Ultimately, he concludes that “there can be no justice towards the creator where a correct attitude to his creatures, and in particular to other human beings, is lacking.” Again, extensive quotes from the text are warranted. At pages 222-223, he states: 

The concept “creature” denotes a special form of dependence on the Creator dependence for one’s existence (“to be created” means to “depend for one’s existence”). This dependence is in turn the basis of the Creator’s proprietorial rights in all creatures (dominium altum). The Creator possesses each of them absolutely – for each of them exists because of the Creator, originates in Him, there is a sense in which all things are His…. 

Man differs from other creatures of the visible world in that his reason is capable of understanding all these things. Reason is at the same time the foundation of personality, the necessary condition of the “interiority” and spirituality of the being and life of a person. Thanks to his reasoning power man realizes that he is at once his own property (sui juris) and, as a creature, the property of the Creator, he feels the effects of the Creator’s proprietorial rights over himself. This state of mind necessarily develops in a man whose reason is illuminated by faith. Reason also permits him to observe, and teaches him to recognize, that every other person is also sui juris, and at the same time, as a creature, the property of the Creator.  

He returns to this theme at pp. 245-247: 

Justice is universally recognized as a cardinal and fundamental virtue, since without it human beings can have no ordered communal life. When we speak of justice towards God, we are saying that He too is a Personal Being, with whom man must have some sort of relationship. Obviously, this position presupposes a knowledge and understanding of the rights of God on the one hand and the duties of man on the other. These rights and duties derive essentially from the fact that God is the Creator and man his creature. Faith founded on Revelation discloses other respects of man’s dependence on God: God is the Redeemer, and God sanctifies man by Grace. Revelation enables us to understand God’s work of redemption and sanctification, from which it is most apparent that God relates to man as a person to a person, that his attitude to man is one of “love”. Thus, the “personalistic norm” may be said to have its fullest justification and its ultimate origin in the relationship between God and man… 

We know…that the basis of this norm…is justice. It follows that the more fully man is aware of God’s love towards him the better he will understand God’s claims on his person and on his love….. 

Justice so understood has its origin in the fact of creation… [However] … [n]ot only is God the Creator, the constant renewer of existence, but the essences of all creatures derive from Him and reflect the eternal thoughts and plans of God. Thus, the whole order of nature has its origin in God, since it rests directly on the essences (or natures) of existing creatures, from which arise all dependencies, relationships and connections between them….. In the world of human beings, the dictates of the natural order are realized [not by instinct and sensory cognition, as in the animal world, but] in a different way they must be understood and rationally accepted. And this understanding and rational acceptance of the order of nature is at the same time recognition of the rights of the Creator.  

In an article originally published in the Polish language in 1974, Wojtyla wrote the following: “Fifteen years ago, in my book Love and Responsibility, I presented a personalistic interpretation of marriage an interpretation that, it would seem, has found its way into Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes[14] 

It is interesting that, in Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla includes the section on the Commandment to Love and the Personalistic Norm in a chapter entitled “Analysis of The Verb to Use.” The first section of the chapter has the sub-heading “The Person as the Subject and Object of Action” and precedes his most definitive declaration of the personalistic norm (set out above). At the end of this section, he says: “It is now necessary to consider carefully the principles to which a human being’s actions must conform when their object is another person” (p. 24).  He then proceeds with the following analysis: 

To this end we must analyse thoroughly the word “to use.” It denotes a certain objective form of action. To use means to employ some object of action as a means to an end the specific end which the subject has in view. The end is always that with a view to which we are acting. The end also implies the existence of means (our name for those objects upon which our action is focused with a view to an end which we intend to attain), so that in the nature of things the means is subordinated to the end, and at the same time subordinated to some extent to the agent. It cannot be otherwise, since the person who is acting employs the means to achieve his aim the expression “employs” itself suggests the subordinate and as it were “subservient” position of the means in relation to the agent: the means serves both the end and the subject.

It seems, then, beyond doubt that the relationship between a human being, a person, and various things, or beings, which are only individuals or specimens of their species, is and must be of this kind….

All these are simple principles, easily understood by any normal man. A problem arises when we seek to apply them to relations with other human beings, other persons. Is it permissible to regard a person as a means to an end and to use a person in that capacity? …. [A] child, even an unborn child, cannot be denied personality in its most objective ontological sense, although it is true that it has yet to acquire, step by step, many of the traits which will make it psychologically and ethically a distinct personality…..

[This question and others] embody a very important ethical problem. Not primarily a psychological problem but one of ethics, for a person must not be merely the means to an end for another person. This is precluded by the very nature of personhood, by what any person is. For a person is a thinking subject, and capable of taking decisions: these, most notably, are the attributes we find in the inner self of a person. This being so, every person is by nature capable of determining his or her aims. Anyone who treats a person as the means to an end does violence to the very essence of the other, to what constitutes its natural right. Obviously, we must demand from a person, as a thinking individual, that his or her ends should be genuinely good, since the pursuit of evil ends is contrary to the rational nature of the person ….

…. This principle has a universal validity. Nobody can use a person as a means toward an end, no human being, nor yet God the Creator……

This elementary truth…is…an inherent component of the natural moral order. Thanks to this, the natural order acquires personalistic attributes: the order of nature, since its framework accommodates personal entities as well as others, must possess such attributes. It may not be irrelevant to mention here that Immanuel Kant, at the end of the eighteenth century, formulated this elementary principle of the moral order in the following imperative: act always in such a way that the other person is the end and not merely the instrument of your action. In light of the preceding argument this principle should be restated in a form rather different from that which Kant gave it, as follows: whenever a person is the object of your activity, remember that you may not treat that person as only the means to an end, as an instrument, but must allow for the fact that he or she, too, has, or at least should have, distinct personal ends. This principle, thus formulated, lies at the basis of all the human freedoms, properly understand, and especially freedom of conscience [pp. 21-28]. [Emphasis added.]

In a 1965 article originally published in Polish, Wojtyla said: 

The danger of situationalism arises only when we conceive the person in a totally subjectivistic way as pure consciousness. In such a view, the person is merely a “source” of experiences, and not really even a source, but just a background. The person then appears neither as a substantial subject (suppositum) of conscious and free acts nor as the basis of an objective norm. I mentioned earlier that norms (normative judgments) are based on appraisals (value judgments), which, in turn, are based on theoretical knowledge. Consequently, every being—or, more precisely, the essence, or nature of every being—can serve as the basis of an ethical norm and of the positing of norms. A being’s essence, or nature, determines how free we are to behave with respect to that being, how we should or ought to behave when that being is an object of our activity. This whole norm-generating aspect disappears when we conceive the person in a totally subjectivistic way as pure consciousness. [Emphasis added.] 

 In Catholic ethics … we do not accept such a view of the person because it is one-sided and incompatible with reality. The human person is not just a consciousness prolific in experiences of various content, but is basically a highly organized being, an individual of a spiritual nature composed into a single whole with the body (hence, a suppositum humanum). Every being is simultaneously a good of a higher or lower value, depending on the perfection of its nature. The human person, who is the most perfect being in the visible world, also, therefore, has the highest value. The value of the person is, in turn, the basis of the norm that should govern actions that have a person as their object. This norm may be called personalistic to distinguish it from other norms…. All norms, including the personalistic norm, as based on the essences, or natures, of beings, are expressions of the order that governs the world. This order is intelligible to reason, to the person. Consequently, only the person is a particeps legisaeter naeet conscia legis naturae, which means that the person is conscious of the normative force that flows from the essences, or natures, of all beings. In particular, the person is conscious of the normative force that flows from humanity, and this humanity in its individual form always appears as a person……..*** 

… It seems, however, that from the concretely formulated commandment of love contained in the Gospel we can derive the more abstract principle that I referred to as the personalistic norm. For if Jesus Christ commanded us to love those beings who are persons, then love is the proper form of relating to persons: it is the form of behaviour for which we should strive when our behaviour has a person as its object, since this form is demanded by that person’s essence, or nature [15].

Before we bring this analysis back “full circle” to the Pope’s statements on the personalistic norm in the encyclicals Evangelium Vitae (1995) (“EV”) and Veritatis Splendor (1993) (“VS”), let us stop at one more intermediate stop along the journey and examine another document having magisterial status. In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (1988), JPII said the following [in nn. 37-38]: 

Promoting the Dignity of the Person

37. To rediscover and make others rediscover the inviolable dignity of every human person makes up an essential task, in a certain sense, the central and unifying task of the service which the Church, and the lay faithful in her, are called to render to the human family.

Among all other earthly beings, only a man or a woman is a “person,” a conscious and free being and, precisely for this reason, the “center and summit” of all that exists on the earth[fn].

The dignity of the person is the most precious possession of an individual. As a result, the value of one person transcends all the material world. The words of Jesus, “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and to forfeit his life?” (Mk 8:36)contain an enlightening and stirring statement about the individual: value comes not from what a person “has” even if the person possessed the whole world!-as much as from what a person “is”: the goods of the world do not count as much as the good of the person, the good which is the person individually.

The dignity of the person is manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered: created by God in his image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious blood of Christ, the person is called to be a “child in the Son” and a living temple of the Spirit, destined for the eternal life of blessed communion with God. For this reason every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the Creator of the individual.

In virtue of a personal dignity the human being is always a value as an individual, and as such demands being considered and treated as a person and never, on the contrary, considered and treated as an object to be used, or as a means, or as a thing. [emphasis added]

The dignity of the person constitutes the foundation of the equality of all people among themselves. As a result all forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable, especially those forms which unfortunately continue to divide and degrade the human family, from those based on race or economics to those social and cultural, from political to geographic, etc. Each discrimination constitutes an absolutely intolerable injustice, not so much for the tensions and the conflicts that can be generated in the social sphere, as much as for the dishonour inflicted on the dignity of the person: not only to the dignity of the individual who is the victim of the injustice, but still more to the one who commits the injustice.

Just as personal dignity is the foundation of equality of all people among themselves, so it is also the foundation of participation and solidarity of all people among themselves: dialogue and communion are rooted ultimately in what people “are,” first and foremost, rather than on what people “have.”

The dignity of the person is the indestructible property of every human being. The force of this affirmation is based on the uniqueness and irrepeatibility of every person. From it flows that the individual can never be reduced by all that seeks to crush and to annihilate the person into the anonymity that comes from collectivity, institutions, structures and systems. As an individual, a person is not a number or simply a link in a chain, nor even less, an impersonal element in some system. The most radical and elevating affirmation of the value of every human being was made by the Son of God in his becoming man in the womb of a woman, as we continue to be reminded each Christmas[fn].

Respecting the Inviolable Right to Life

  1. In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of therights of the human person.It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change-let alone eliminate-them because such rights find their source in God himself. [Emphasis added.]

The inviolability of the person, which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rightsfor example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to cultureis false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

The Church has never yielded in the face of all the violations that the right to life of every human being has received, and continues to receive, both from individuals and from those in authority. The human being is entitled to such rights, in every phase of development, from conception until natural death; and in every condition, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor. The Second Vatican Council openly proclaimed: “All offences against life itself, such as every kind of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide; all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures; all offences against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where men are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons; all these and the like are certainly criminal: they poison human society; and they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”[fn].

If, indeed, everyone has the mission and responsibility of acknowledging the personal dignity of every human being and of defending the right to life, some lay faithful are given a particular title to this task: such as parents, teachers, healthworkers and the many who hold economic and political power.

The Church today lives a fundamental aspect of her mission in lovingly and generously accepting every human being, especially those who are weak and sick. This is made all the more necessary as a “culture of death” threatens to take control. In fact, “the Church family believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a wonderful gift of God’s goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which casts a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendour of that ‘Yes’, that ‘Amen’, which is Christ himself (cf. 2 Cor 1:19; Rev 3:14). To the ‘No’ which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living ‘Yes’, this defending of the human person and the world from all who plot against life”[138]. It is the responsibility of the lay faithful, who more directly through their vocation or their profession are involved in accepting life, to make the Church’s “Yes” to human life concrete and efficacious….

The lay faithful, having responsibility in various capacities and at different levels of science as well as in the medical, social, legislative and economic fields must courageously accept the “challenge” posed by new problems in bioethics. The Synod Fathers used these words: “Christians ought to exercise their responsibilities as masters of science and technology, and not become their slaves … In view of the moral challenges presented by enormous new technological power, endangering not only fundamental human rights but the very biological essence of the human species, it is of utmost importance that lay Christians with the help of the universal Church-take up the task of calling culture back to the principles of an authentic humanism, giving a dynamic and sure foundation to the promotion and defence of the rights of the human being in one’s very essence, an essence which the preaching of the Gospel reveals to all”[fn].

In EV itself, he said: “The Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel” (EV2.4); and “Thus the deepest element of God’s commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person” (EV41.4). Moreover, even non-believers “can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good [life] respected to the highest degree,”, with “believers in Christ,” those redeemed by Christ, having sufficient additional grace to fulfill this obligation “even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties” (EV2.2-2.4; see also VS102-104). Finally, consider JPII’s uncompromising rejection of ethical relativism in EV70 as any kind of justification for respecting the refusal by others to affirm the right to life of a category of innocent human beings. 

His critique of Utilitarianism 

Karol Wojtyla wrote a devastating critique of Utilitarianism in his Love and Responsibility (1960) (see pages 34-42, 1981 Willett English Translation). He said: “Utilitarians regard the principle of maximization of pleasure accompanied by the minimization of pain as the primary rule of human morality, with the rider that it must be observed not only by individuals, egotistically, but also collectively, by society. Thus, in its definitive formulation [see J.S. Mills and J. Bentham] the principle of utility (principium utilitatis) preaches the maximum of pleasure for the greatest number of people – obviously with the minimum of discomfort for the same number” (pages 35-6). You don’t need a degree in philosophy or political science to detect classical Utilitarianism in the mindset of Christian pro-lifers who choose to behave in a way that objectively disaffirms the personhood of the children from whom human tissue was harvested in order to produce and test the so-called vaccines. This is a mindset similar to that of the Gestational Abortion Law Enthusiasts. Wojtyla went on to say:  

Christ’s commandment….and the utilitarian principle…seem to be on different levels, to be norms of a different order. They do not deal directly with the same thing: the commandment speaks of love for others, while the utilitarian principle points to pleasure not only as the basis on which we act but as the basis for rules of human behavior. We have seen in our critique of utilitarianism that if we start from what utilitarians accept as the basis for the regulation of human behavior we shall never arrive at love. The principle of “utility” itself, of treating a person as a means to an end, and an end moreover which in this case is pleasure, the maximization of pleasure, will always stand in the way of love.

The incompatibility of the utilitarian principle with the commandment to love is then clear: if the utilitarian principle is accepted the commandment simply becomes meaningless. There is also an obvious connection between the utilitarian principle and a particular scale of values: that according to which pleasure [ed. – or the minimization of pain] is not only the sole, but also the highest, value [16].

His and the Church’s very inclusive understanding of the concepts of ‘neighbor’ and the ‘Common Good’ 

In his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987) (“SRS”), JPII defined solidarity as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual” (n. 39). 

In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrote: “As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights” (1987 CDF Donum vitae, III; cf. Catechism, #2273). In 2008 it updated what it had earlier said in 1987: “… The introduction of discrimination with regard to human dignity based on biological, psychological, or educational development, or based on health-related criteria, must be excluded.” (CDF Dignitas Personae, 8). 

 In VS, n. 50, JPII said that the human person “must always be affirmed for his own sake” and that “it can be licit, praiseworthy or even imperative to give up one’s own life (cf. Jn15:13) out of witness to the truth.” In EV, n. 87.2, he said: “In our service of charity, we must be inspired and distinguished by a specific attitude: we must care for the other as a person for whom God has made us responsible. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to become neighbours to everyone (cf. Lk 10:29-37), and to show special favour to those who are poorest, most alone and most in need.”  

As Pope Benedict XVI taught, the Old Testament “limitations” on the concept of “neighbor” were “abolished” by Jesus when he taught the Rich Man (cf. Luke 16:19-31) and Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37) parables: (Deus Caritas Est (2005), n. 15). The Pope said: “Anyone who needs me and whom I can help is my neighbor. The concept of neighbor is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract, undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now.” With these statements, Benedict XVI seemed to re-confirm what JPII had previously stated in SRS, VS and EV. 

In contrast, the secular, utilitarian, liberal democratic understanding of the concept of the “common good” is “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” and is more appropriately described as “common ground,” which is quite a different thing [17].


I think that it is fair to ask all Christian pro-lifers who promote the acceptance of the abortion-tainted “vaccines” to offer some rational explanation as to how the behaviour of voluntarily taking any of them meets the demands of the Christian Personalistic Norm and Christ’s commandment to love, as articulated by Karol Wojtyla/Pope St. John Paull II, vis-à-vis those children whose body parts were harvested to produce and/or test these products. 

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


End Notes

  1. I think M. Cathleen Katherine Kaveny was right to identify the “appropriation of evil” as a distinct category of action and express some discomfort in attempting to apply to this kind of action the traditional factors the manualists identified as appropriate for assessing the permissibility of material co-operation with evil in specific circumstances. These factors were derived exclusively from scenarios involving actions contemporaneous with, and having some kind of causal link to, the original evil conduct of others. See her “Appropriation of Evil: cooperation’s mirror image,” 61 (2000) Theological Studies: 280-313.
  2. [1]“When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?’Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’.” Matthew 22.34-40
  3. Op. cit., at pages 200-201.
  4. Op. cit., at pp. 201-202.
  5. Karol Wojtyla,  Love and Responsibility (English translation by H.T. Willets), San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1981, (original work in Polish, 1960).
  6. Ibid., at p. 41: “In view of this, can it be said that the commandment to love is the personalistic norm?  Strictly speaking the commandment to love is only based on the personalistic norm, as a principle with  a negative and a positive content, and is not itself the personalistic norm.   It only derives from this norm, which, unlike the utilitarian principle, does  provide an appropriate foundation for the commandment to love.  This foundation for the commandment to love should also be sought in a system of values other than the utilitarian system— it must be a personalistic axiology, within whose framework the value of the person is always greater than the value of pleasure (which is why a person cannot be subordinated to this lesser end, cannot be the means to an end, in this case to pleasure).  So, while the commandment to love is not, strictly speaking, identical with the personalistic norm but only presupposes it, as it implies also a personalistic system of values, we can, taking a broader view, say that the commandment to love is the personalistic norm.   Strictly speaking the commandment says: ‘Love persons’, and the personalistic norm says: ‘A person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.’  The personalistic norm does, as we have seen, provide a justification for the New Testament commandment.   And so, if we take the commandment together with this justification, we can say that it is the same as the personalistic norm.”
  7. Ibid., at p. 121.
  8. Ibid, at p. 213.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid., at p. 245.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid., at pp. 42-43.
  13. Ibid.
  14. See Karol Wojtyla, “The Family as a Community of Persons”, in Person and Community: Selected Essays/Karol Wojtyla (Vol. 4 – Catholic Thought fFrom Lublin, translated by Theresa Sandok), New York: Peter Lang, 1993, pp. 315-327, at p. 32.
  15. See Karol Wojtyla, “Catholic Sexual Ethics:  Reflections and Postulates”, in Person and Community: Selected Essays/Karol Wojtyla (Vol. 4 – Catholic Thought From Lublin) (translated by Theresa Sandok) (New York: Peter Lang, 1993), pp. 279-299, at p. 286-9.
  16. Love and Responsibility, at pp. 40-41.
  17. In a speech given at InsideCatholic’s 14th Annual Partnership Dinner, on September 18, 2009, American Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis and former Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, explained this difference very well: “In advancing the culture of life, we must be clear about the objective nature of the common good and of the perfection which it makes possible.  Not everyone who uses the term, common good, understands its true meaning…..“The common good refers to an objective perfection which is not defined by common agreement among some of us.   The common good is defined by creation itself as it has come from the hand of the Creator.   Not only does the notion of common ground not correspond to the reality of the common good, it can well be antithetical to it (for instance, if there should be common agreement in society what is, in reality, always and everywhere evil).