106—Abortion-Derived Vaccines: Conscience Over Legalism—Michael Pakaluk, Jay Richards
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Catholic circles, especially online, have seen significant division and anger over the COVID-19 vaccines. The majority position is essentially “The Church says taking the vaccine is OK”—“Rome has spoken”—while a loud minority insists that no circumstances can ever justify using vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines.
Neither side accurately represents the Church’s guidance on the matter, especially her most authoritative statement, Dignitas Personae (2008), which says that only grave reasons may allow taking such vaccines, and that those who do so have a special obligation to protest the use of abortion and aborted fetal cells in its production. It also says that refusing out of conscience to take such a vaccine is not only allowed, but can be praiseworthy.
This discussion with Michael Pakaluk and Jay Richards, two signers of the statement “To Awaken Conscience”, avoids undue rigorism about cooperation with evil, but also avoids a permissive legalism that says, inaccurately, that the Church says it’s allowed under any circumstances and therefore there is no reason of conscience to refuse the vaccine. Instead of dictating to or dulling conscience, it assists conscience by clarifying a number of issues related to the production and use of vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines.
We do so by consulting Dignitas Personae as well as examining the moral issues with the actual production of the vaccines. While the liceity of vaccine production and the liceity of using the end product are two distinct issues, the latter decision is clarified when we know precisely what we are remotely cooperating with (not so much the original abortion, but an ongoing series of outrages by research scientists continuing to use aborted fetal cells). We also distinguish between the moral principles provided by the Church and the prudential judgments about public and personal health which lie outside the Church’s competence.
We also address various other statements that have been made, such as the one by Archbishop Schneider, Bishop Strickland and other bishops; and the statement by the Ethics & Public Policy Center.
Church documents discussed:
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dignitas Personae (relevant paragraphs are 34-35) https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20081208_dignitas-personae_en.html
CDF, Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 Vaccines (2020) https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20201221_nota-vaccini-anticovid_en.html
“To Awaken Conscience” https://mailchi.mp/7742dd12483f/statement-of-conscience-to-awaken-conscience
Michael Pakaluk, “Why I Signed ‘To Awaken Conscience’” https://www.crisismagazine.com/2021/why-i-signed-to-awaken-conscience
Jose Trasancos, “The Cell Lines Used for COVID-19 Vaccines Came from Carefully Planned Abortions, Not Miscarriages” https://stream.org/the-cell-lines-used-for-covid-19-vaccines-came-from-carefully-planned-abortions-not-miscarriages/
Bishops Schneider, Strickland, et al, “COVID Vaccines: ‘The Ends Cannot Justify the Means’” https://www.crisismagazine.com/2020/covid-vaccines-the-ends-cannot-justify-the-means
Ethics & Public Policy Center, “Statement from Pro-Life Catholic Scholars on the Moral Acceptability of Receiving COVID-19 Vaccines” https://eppc.org/news/statement-from-pro-life-catholic-scholars-on-the-moral-acceptability-of-receiving-covid-19-vaccines/
Roberto de Mattei, On the Moral Liceity of the Vaccination https://libri.edizionifiducia.it/on-the-moral-liceity-of-the-vaccination/
Richards, Briggs, and Axe; The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe https://www.regnery.com/9781684511419/the-price-of-panic/
Podcast interview with Phil Lawler https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/105-confronting-unprecedented-church-scandal-phil-lawler/
Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus.
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Posted by: Thomas V. Mirus -
May. 28, 2021 5:04 PM ET USA
Kevin, thanks very much for your comment. I'm sorry you were coerced. I would think threat of job loss suffices for grave reason as far as your conscience is concerned, but it's still terrible.
Posted by: Kevin01 -
May. 27, 2021 7:02 PM ET USA
Simply put, great work. Listen to this before it gets memory holed. This podcast has become my favorite. It was painful listening to me because I immediately regretted getting the vaccine. I was one of the first "offered" (coerced on threat of job loss) in early January as a healthcare provider with a very high viral load exposure. Like Thomas, I read the CDF statement in a very simple way. And prudentially, I was by far sicker from the shot than the virus.