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(LifeSiteNews) — As vaccine mandates loom and even go into effect across our nation and world, the moral question of the liceity of COVID vaccines currently on the market becomes ever more pressing. More and more frequently, apologists for liceity lean ever harder on a document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Note on the morality of some anti-Covid-19 vaccines, as well as certain statements made by the Holy Father.

Arguments for or against the use of ethically compromised vaccines necessarily rely upon principles of material cooperation, which in general provide the grounds for some of the most difficult and uncertain moral questions encountered by theologians and ethicists. Questions of material cooperation inevitably require the identification and weighing of various moral principles against concrete circumstances, and therefore usually admit of only probable and contingent solutions. Solutions will remain only so strong as their suppositions of concrete facts represent real conditions, and as their conclusions accurately weigh those facts against the moral principles at hand. With regard to ethically compromised vaccines, it is imperative that accurate judgments are formed regarding the nature of the evil demanding material cooperation, as well as the proportionate and grave need that excuses it. Both the former and the latter are difficult to measure, and individuals will often measure them differently in good faith.

Vaccine apologists are increasingly obscuring the contingent nature of arguments regarding material cooperation, and – tragically – representing statements from the CDF as authoritative and binding upon Catholic conscience, where in fact the CDF itself does not do so. “Practical reason,” the dicastery writes, “makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.” It admits that some Catholics will refuse vaccination “for reasons of conscience,” and, far from identifying such a conscience as erroneous, gives practical instruction for alternative means of securing the common good.

The arguments in favor of the vaccines tend to take for granted several suppositions that are demonstrably false, or at least dubious and controverted; in addition, some of them are medical or sociopolitical judgments, and therefore go beyond the scope of ecclesiastical competency. Those suppositions and my response to them follow.

  1. The vaccines rely upon – either in development, testing, or manufacture – ethically compromised cell lines originating from abortion. This is false, or at least misleading. While abortion and the industry that surrounds it are in themselves horrific enough, it is evident that in reality the biological samples obtained for these cell lines were procured by the delivery of a living child, who then endured, probably without anesthetic, vivisection and murder. Such samples, in order to be effective and viable, would require absolutely minimizing the time between their “recovery” and “preservation” (called “ischemia time”) to avoid cellular death. Such narrow margins do not permit of lost time between abortion, delivery, and recovery. The children are born alive. It is the recovery process that kills them. This conclusion is suggested by reason, informed by our understanding of the organ transplant industry, and confirmed by industry insiders, as well as by recent news. Suggestions that such samples could be obtained hours or days after the fact, after spontaneous miscarriage, are so outrageous as to be laughable.
  2. The children that provided the biological samples were not murdered for the sake of obtaining those samples. This is false. As indicated above, the minimization of ischemia time requires the intimate involvement of those procuring biological samples in the murder of the child. To suggest that these children would have fallen victim to abortion anyway is morally irrelevant and irresponsible. In what other area of moral theology is a perpetrator of crime excused from culpability because “the crime would have happened anyway”?
  3. The cell lines originating from these children are immortal, and therefore their use does not promote and perpetuate the continuation of the crime. This is false. As industry insider Pamela Acker explains, “When you try to grow cells in culture in the laboratory, they go through a process called immortalization, to develop a cell line. And people kind of confuse that, because it sounds like they live forever, with thinking that you can make these cells live forever in a laboratory. You can’t.”

In point of fact, we know that new cell lines were generated as recently as 2015. The reason? Current cell lines are reaching the point of exhaustion in cell division. “But since these cell lines [WI-38 and MRC-5] are approaching the end of their ability to self-replicate, a group of Chinese vaccine researchers, Bo Ma et al, have developed a new (human diploid) cell strain, Walvax-2.” The NIH heartlessly and clinically describes the process of obtaining the samples necessary for Walvax-2: “We obtained 9 fetuses through rigorous screening based on carefully specified inclusion criteria… The Walvax-2 strain of cells met all of these criteria and proved to be the best cell line following careful evaluation. Therefore it was used for establishing a human diploid cell strain.”

New cell lines are developed not only to replace fading lines, but to supplement them with new types of tissue.

  1. The commercialization of biological samples dependent on abortion is not ongoing. This is false. New cell lines have been developed, to our knowledge, as recently as 2015. The Center for Medical Progress, in recent news, exposed the ongoing complicity of abortion providers in obtaining these samples. And finally, even in recent weeks, the University of Pittsburgh has been implicated in obtaining samples from children born alive, with their hearts still beating. The gruesome crimes of the university were done at the behest of NIH funding – that is, with monies obtained from the American taxpayer. Other universities are potentially implicated in a practice that would seem to have been going on for decades.
  2. The perpetuation of these cell lines is not in itself morally repugnant. This is false, or at least dubious. These cell lines were taken by force, and without consent, from the most vulnerable among us. What morally sane nation, upon discovery of the ghoulish methods used to develop these cell lines, would not immediately set about their destruction? Each forced replication of these cell lines, and each experiment performed upon them, arguably represents a new crime against the helpless victim who provided them. That being the case, any moral calculation cannot limit itself to the original crime, but must consider also the moral weight of cooperation in the perpetuation and experimentation upon the cell lines.
  3. Material cooperation by receiving the vaccine is justified by the danger of the COVID pandemic. This is controverted, and beyond the scope of ecclesiastical competency to determine.
  4. Material cooperation by receiving the vaccine is justified by the lack of alternative therapeutics. This is controverted, and beyond the scope of ecclesiastical competency to determine.
  5. Material cooperation by receiving the vaccine is prudent because the vaccine has proven itself “safe and effective.” This is controverted, and beyond the scope of ecclesiastical competency to determine.

There is increasing evidence that current vaccines, while reducing serious symptoms in the short term, possibly do little to prevent the spread of disease and have potentially lethal side effects in the short and medium term. Long term side effects still remain entirely unknown. Serious caution has been issued by prestigious medical authorities, including but not limited to: Dr. Robert Malone (one of the original developers of mRNA technologies), Dr. Michael Yeadon (former researcher and vice president of Pfizer), Dr. Vladimir Zelenko (who has treated over 6000 COVID patients), and Dr. Luc Montagnier (a Nobel laureate for his discovery of HIV). My purpose here is not to endorse the views of these or other medical professionals, but merely to acknowledge that they exist, and may contribute materially to the moral conclusions of Catholic individuals as to the grave danger of the disease, the lack of reasonable alternatives for treatment, and the relative risk of the vaccines themselves. Taken together, Catholics may in good conscience, and based on their own circumstances, disagree on these matters, and whether a grave and proportionate need may excuse cooperation.

Catholic theologians and bishops may dismiss the arguments put forward in #1 to #5, and may even find absurd any doubts arising from #6 to #8. But they can and must allow liberty to the individual Catholic conscience – a liberty affirmed by the CDF itself. Here, the reasonable and balanced decrees of the bishops of Colorado and South Dakota are commendable. Those on both sides of this question must remember that Catholics cannot be forbidden from following, in good conscience, a probable moral opinion. “A human being,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church argues, “must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.” (CCC 1790)

To decide imperiously that the conscience conflicted by the cooperation in ethically compromised vaccines is necessarily in error and opposed to authoritative teaching (or that it is at least not informed by principles of Catholic theology and the natural law) – in other words, to suppress the faculty of reason in others and replace it with own’s own – is the worst form of clericalism. It is spiritual abuse.