Why I oppose the argument for the moral liceity of COVID vaccination
May 20, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — I recently managed to read Professor Roberto de Mattei’s booklet “On the Moral Liceity of the Vaccination” (MLV from now on), and I have to say that I was disappointed on several fronts, even though I cannot go into all of them here. This disappointment comes from the respect that I have for Professor de Mattei.
Professor de Mattei, in dealing with the science of the vaccines, resorts to logical fallacies and subtle ad hominem attacks. He says, “in Europe and throughout the world, there are hundreds of thousands of immunologists, virologists, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists who recommend the vaccination. Only a small minority disagrees with them.”
This statement contains two logical fallacies known as the “headcount fallacy” (argumentum ad populum in Latin), and the “reputation fallacy” (argumentum ad verecundiam).
To confirm the reputation fallacy, Professor de Mattei presents an ad hominem attack on those who do not support vaccination by saying, “This minority is, generally speaking, made up of doctors with little authority, seeking media exposure and unable to provide documented evidence for their claims.” Professor de Mattei provides no evidence for either of these claims, they are made as simple statements of fact.
Professor Dolores Cahill is one of those who does not support the vaccination programs. She is a molecular biologist and immunologist with a world-renowned reputation, and has been an advisor to governments, has been given national awards for her work in two countries, Norway and Germany, and has also developed ethical vaccines for the treatment of meningitis in Africa.
Dr. Michael Yeadon is a former vice president of Pfizer and an expert in the field of drug research. There are other medical professionals in organizations such as the “World Doctors Alliance” and “America’s Frontline Doctors” which have many eminent medical experts who are opposed to the vaccination programs. To dismiss these medical professionals as being motivated by seeking media exposure and to falsely say that they have not provided documented evidence for their claims, as Professor Roberto de Mattei does, is unjust.
Of course, these people may be wrong in what they claim, but this should be proved by showing where they have erred, not by using ad hominem attacks and logical fallacies. It is also possible that the medical experts supported by Professor Roberto de Mattei may also be wrong, and again, this should be proved or disproved by examining what they have to say considering the medical experts who disagree with them.
Professor de Mattei should also be aware that historically, injustices are often only opposed by small minorities in the beginning. There is the striking image of the lone man standing in front of a tank, prior to the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989. We have the German martyrs of the second World War such as the Scholl siblings who belonged to the minority White Rose movement.
But let us examine the core issue of Professor Roberto de Mattei’s booklet. Before doing so, it is important to state a few moral truths of the Catholic Church as follows.
One of the foundational principles of moral theology is that one cannot do evil even though good may come of it. Another is that Catholics should seek to avoid all co-operation with evil. The Catholic Church has long recognized that there are times when it may not be possible to avoid all co-operation with evil, and has therefore enunciated an in-depth moral theology on this very point. Matters to be considered include the gravity of the evil in question, whether there are alternatives to co-operating in the evil, the duty to publicly oppose the evil in question and to do all in one’s power to bring the evil to an end, and the necessity of the good that is being sought which may involve co-operation with evil.
I understand that the original booklet of Professor de Mattei was written in Italian, but I was disappointed with the English translation, which may or may not accurately reflect the author’s thinking, because of the lack of distinction in the terminology used. Vaccination and vaccines are treated in many cases as being the same and are used almost interchangeably.
In the first paragraph, for example, it speaks of “the moral liceity of anti-Covid vaccines,” which is not the same as the moral liceity of vaccination against COVID. Vaccines and other medicines which use stem-cells from aborted babies in their production can never be morally licit, as a deliberate evil is done — the procuring of organs from a baby killed in an elective abortion — to create the vaccines. This contradicts the first principle of moral theology — it is never licit to do evil, even though good may come of it.
As Saint Paul says, “And not rather (as we are slandered, and as some affirm that we say) let us do evil, that there may come good? whose damnation is just.” (Romans 3:8)
Professor de Mattei goes to great lengths at the beginning of the book to outline the moral question that faces us. However, he errs because he only looks at the grave sin of abortion.
“Does the receipt of, or if I am a doctor, the injection of vaccines, render me complicit in abortion, hence committing a grave sin?” (MLV pg. 7)
There are other grave sins involved in the making of these vaccines and co-operation with these other evils must be morally assessed separate from the co-operation with abortion. These other evils are not addressed in Professor de Mattei’s booklet, which renders his arguments defective.
That these other issues must be addressed is confirmed by the instruction Dignitas Personae of the Congregation for the Doctrine and the Faith.
“The use of human embryos or fetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person”. These forms of experimentation always constitute a grave moral disorder.” (DP 34)
“Proposals to use these embryos for research or for the treatment of disease are obviously unacceptable because they treat the embryos as mere ‘biological material’ and result in their destruction. The proposal to thaw such embryos without reactivating them and use them for research, as if they were normal cadavers, is also unacceptable.” (DP 19)
“Therefore, it needs to be stated that there is a duty to refuse to use such ‘biological material’ even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centres in which the artificial fertilization took place. This duty springs from the necessity to remove oneself, within the area of one’s own research, from a gravely unjust legal situation and to affirm with clarity the value of human life.” (DP 35)
The instruction Donum Vitae of the congregation also confirms this.
“The corpses of human embryos and fetuses, whether they have been deliberately aborted or not, must be respected just as the remains of other human beings. In particular, they cannot be subjected to mutilation or to autopsies if their death has not yet been verified and without the consent of the parents or of the mother. Furthermore, the moral requirements must be safeguarded that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and that the risk of scandal be avoided.” (DV section 4 para 3)
It is therefore sad to read Professor de Mattei dismiss this concern as being “peripheral.”
“Here, however, we are discussing the murder of innocents, not possession of the mortal re-mains of a victim, a problem which is entirely peripheral.” (MLV pg.52)
Professor de Mattei also compares the corpses of aborted babies to stolen treasure buried in a field, and to stolen goods (MLV pg.52). To speak of the human body of a murdered innocent child in such crass terms is disrespectful and not worthy of the eminent professor.
He also cites Professor Danilo Castellano on the use of cadavers who in turn cites the case of the air accident of the Andes in 1972, where the survivors were obliged to feed on the bodies of their deceased travel companions.
As previously noted in the instruction Dignitas Personae of the Congregation for the Doctrine and the Faith, it is not acceptable to treat the bodies of murdered innocent children “as if they were normal cadavers” (DP 19).
The comparison is not valid for another reason. There are no pilots deliberately crashing planes in the Andes so that the survivors can eat off the dead corpses of their fellow passengers. There are abortionists however, who are deliberately killing children in order to sell their organs to universities and to pharmaceutical laboratories, and it is quite probable, given that the demand is for “fresh” organs, that some of these children may not be dead when their organs are taken. We are dealing with a whole industry that is abominable, and we must take cognizance of all of the evils being committed, not just the act of abortion which facilitates the other evils.
To understand the great dignity of the human body one has only to look to Our Lady. After her death, Our Lord did not allow corruption to touch her sinless body. She was assumed body and soul into heaven. Our Lady was conceived without original sin and, while the bodies of the innocent aborted children are tainted by original sin, they are not tainted by actual sin, and therefore they have a dignity that is greater than the bodies of those whose lives have been tainted by actual sin.
One cannot treat the remains of aborted children “as if they were normal cadavers,” because they are not “normal cadavers.” They are still to be respected because of their great dignity, having been created in the image and likeness of God. This is not a peripheral issue, because the use of “biological material” from a deliberately aborted baby is also a grave evil, and therefore unacceptable, and a Catholic cannot have formal co-operation in the desecration of the corpse of a deliberately aborted human child regardless of whether they had formal co-operation in the abortion itself.
Shift in empasis in Vatican documents
Another weakness in Professor Roberto de Mattei’s analysis is that he does not seem to see the shift in emphasis that has occurred within the Vatican documents he cites in relation to the vaccination issue. He sees it in other areas, including in the document Amoris Laetitia.
“However, it could be objected that fifteen years is not sufficient time to attribute infallibility to the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church as expressed in these documents, or for its being closed to reform, especially since over recent decades we have seen the ecclesiastical authorities adopt ambiguous and, at times, erroneous moral positions. It suffices to recall the debate prompted by Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia of 19 March 2016.” (MLV pg. 9)
The position adopted in recent Vatican documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine and the Faith, most notably those of 2017 and of 2020, contradict the position of the 2005 letter of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which was approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The 2005 letter states:
“As regards the preparation, distribution and marketing of vaccines produced as a result of the use of biological material whose origin is connected with cells coming from foetuses voluntarily aborted, such a process is stated, as a matter of principle, morally illicit, because it could contribute in encouraging the performance of other voluntary abortions, with the purpose of the production of such vaccines.”
“Therefore, doctors and fathers of families have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines (if they exist), putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human foetal origin. Equally, they should oppose by all means (in writing, through the various associations, mass media, etc.) the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human foetus, and requesting rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers.”
“In any case, there remains a moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically.”
All of this was dismissed in the 2017 and 2020 documents which, contrary to the 2005 letter, endorse the use of these immorally produced vaccines.
“Especially in consideration of the fact that the cell lines currently used are very distant from the original abortions and no longer imply that bond of moral cooperation indispensable for an ethically negative evaluation of their use.” (2017 note)
“As for the question of the vaccines that used or may have used cells coming from voluntarily aborted fetuses in their preparation, it must be specified that the ‘wrong’ in the moral sense lies in the actions, not in the vaccines or the material itself.” (2017 note)
“The technical characteristics of the production of the vaccines most commonly used in childhood lead us to exclude that there is a morally relevant cooperation between those who use these vaccines today and the practice of voluntary abortion. Hence, we believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion.” (2017 note)
“In this sense, when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available (e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.” (2020 note)
The “grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems” (2005 letter) has unfortunately been abandoned in the later documents.
As noted above, Professor Roberto de Mattei raises the question of infallibility and bases his moral support for vaccines on the position that it is the magisterium of the Church that is speaking. But, because these documents are saying contradictory things, it clearly shows that they cannot be part of the infallible magisterium of the Church and that they are indeed open to question. In 2017, the duty not to use these vaccines, if possible, and the duty to oppose these immorally produced vaccines “by all means,” is no longer stated, and there is a suggestion that the passage of time can somehow change the morality of the production methods and lessen the immorality of the origins of these vaccines. Such a position is incompatible with Catholic moral thinking. Professor de Mattei has not picked up on this point.
Vaccines based on abortions in the distant past
On page 41 of MLV, Professor de Mattei begins a section titled “Moral co-operation with the past?” Once again, because he is solely focused on the immorality of abortion to the exclusion of other gravely evil matters, he consigns the immorality connected with these vaccines to the distant past. This is not the case. Just last year, in 2020, vaccines were immorally developed using cell-lines from an aborted child, and these vaccines are being produced in the current year. We are not dealing with long past immoral actions, and so this section of Professor de Mattei’s work is deeply flawed.
Professor de Mattei quotes Professor Stefano Kampowski, who says, “The past cannot be changed. No one today can assist in the performance of someone else’s past action any more than he or she can prevent it.” (MLV pg.47)
While this is true, present immoral actions can and must be changed. Vaccine manufacturers can and must stop using all cell-lines obtained from aborted children, but they will not do this as long as there are Catholics who defend the products they make through the immoral use of the bodies of aborted children. One can assist in these present actions, and indeed one is assisting by taking the immorally produced vaccines. It would seem to me, that because one is actually taking the immorally produced product, that the co-operation with this evil is proximate and not remote.
To explain proximate co-operation in evil, Professor Roberto de Mattei gives the example of a man holding a ladder for a burglar. But to make the analogy more relevant, in this case, the burglar has murdered the woman of the house and has cut off her hand because it is reputed to have healing properties. He has then made a potion from the severed hand and offers it to the man holding the ladder. I would argue that the man holding the ladder, is in danger of formal co-operation in the evil because he knows the origin of the potion he is given.
The current Vatican position, supported by many eminent Catholics, is exacerbating the situation of immorally produced vaccines and medicines because it creates a potential market for billions of tainted, immorally produced vaccines and other medicines. The level of scandal being given is huge, especially for those women who have had abortions and who have returned to their faith. The Vatican is telling them that it is acceptable to have medicines injected into their bodies which may have been produced using the dead bodies of their own children.
Professor de Mattei also joins those who seem to misunderstand the concept of the “common good” and speaks of the common good only in terms of this world and the health of the body.
St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, addressing the question of whether God is the final cause of all things tells us:
“But it does not belong to the First Agent, Who is agent only, to act for the acquisition of some end; He intends only to communicate His perfection, which is His goodness; while every creature intends to acquire its own perfection, which is the likeness of the divine perfection and goodness. Therefore the divine goodness is the end of all things.” (Summa Theologiae, First Part, Question 44, Article 4)
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2004, has this to say about the common good.
“The common good of society is not an end in itself; it has value only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation. God is the ultimate end of his creatures and for no reason may the common good be deprived of its transcendent dimension, which The Catholic Response moves beyond the historical dimension while at the same time fulfilling it. This perspective reaches its fullness by virtue of faith in Jesus’ Passover, which sheds clear light on the attainment of humanity’s true common good. Our history — the personal and collective effort to elevate the human condition — begins and ends in Jesus: thanks to Him, by means of Him and in light of Him every reality, including human society, can be brought to its Supreme Good, to its fulfillment. A purely historical and materialistic vision would end up transforming the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being, without any transcendental goal, that is, without its most intimate reason for existing.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 170)
Abortion denies the common good of those aborted by depriving them of the grace of Baptism and of the beatific vision. We should not profit from the bodies of these poor unfortunate souls simply because we seek to protect ourselves from diseases which can be countered in other ways and which, in the case of COVID-19, do not represent a significant threat to the vast majority of the population. As the Pontifical Academy for Life reminded us in 2005, we still have “a moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically.”
The best way to stop the production of these immoral vaccines is to “kill” the market by refusing to accept ethically compromised vaccines. The immoral production of vaccines and other medicines continues to increase in our world precisely because the market for these morally compromised products is still growing, and sadly, this market is now being fueled by the statements coming from certain sections of the Catholic Church.
This situation is also being used by malevolent forces to divide the pro-life community with conflicts arising between those who accept the vaccines and those who do not accept them. From what I have seen, and I count myself in the group that does not accept the vaccines, the Catholics on either side of this issue seek to live their lives according to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In any area of conflict, both parties cannot be correct, either one or other of the parties is right and the other wrong, or both are wrong. Let us strive to maintain charity in our dealings with those who disagree with us on this issue. Let us continue to have robust discussion while maintaining respect for all involved in this sad situation, where the bodies of aborted babies are being unjustly used for commercial and other research purposes. Let us pray and work for an end to abortion and for the creation of a Catholic society founded on the family, which consists of the marriage of one man and one woman and their biological children.