January 11, 2021 Column Father De Celles

ALTAR RAILS AND PULPIT—FINALLY. After months of waiting, first, for the Italian authorities to allow our shipment, then for the various port authorities to lift their quarantines of the ship, and finally for the US Customs to release the shipment, we finally have marble pieces of our new altar rails and pulpit in the hands of our artisan in Maryland. Installation begins on Monday, January 18th after 8:30 Mass, and should be finished before the following weekend. Daily Mass will continue in the church, but the altar and sanctuary will be closed. The Blessed Sacrament will be kept in the small confessional chapel by the Family Room.

            Thanks so much for your patience with this project (especially to all who donated). I’m so excited and give glory to God for this gift to our parish.

VACCINES. There’s been a lot of discussion and debate in Catholic circles as to whether or not it is morally permissible/okay to take one of the new COVID-19 vaccines. Some go as far as to say, on the one hand, it is morally necessary to take the vaccine to protect others, or, on the other hand, it is morally wrong to take the vaccine.

            The debate comes from the fact that all of the current vaccines approved or under development have, in some stage of their development, testing or manufacturing (DTM), made use of cells taken from aborted fetuses. Let’s refer to these as “morally objectionable vaccines.” (Note: these abortions occurred literally decades ago). I am not the ultimate expert, but my academic background is moral theology, and after consulting trusted authorities I’ll give you my advice.

It is clear that the principle that applies to this case is the Catholic moral teaching on “cooperation with evil.” The “evil” involved is direct intentional abortion, which is always evil in itself (“intrinsically evil”), as well as the evil of using these aborted fetus cells in the DMT of these vaccines (although not intrinsically evil, this is still clearly morally wrong under Catholic moral principles).

The problem/question for us is whether in receiving the morally objectionable vaccines we are cooperating or promoting abortion.

Applying long established Catholic moral teaching, it is clear that in taking the vaccine you are, in fact, not cooperating in the abortion (or abortion in general) either formally (you do not intend the abortion), nor immediately (you do not directly take part in or provide necessary material for the abortion), nor proximately (your participation is not closely associated with the abortion). To put it another way, your “cooperation” is essentially “very remote mediate material cooperation.” Therefore, you are not guilty of “active cooperation” in the abortion. 

However, there is the risk of what are called “passive cooperation” and “scandal.” “Passive cooperation” refers to the omission of an act of denunciation of a sinful action carried out by another person, insomuch as there was a moral duty to do so. “Scandal” is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil, e.g., by taking the objectionable vaccine you may lead others to reasonably conclude that abortion is morally okay.

To mitigate the possibility of these sins, particularly in this case involving the grave matter of abortion, if you take the objectionable vaccine you must first ascertain that there are grave reasons for taking it, and then make known your objections to the vaccine to those responsible for it’s DMT (e.g., the manufacturer, the government, etc.).

So, in its 2005 “Moral Reflections” on such vaccines, the Pontifical Academy for Life stated:

“As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health. However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience…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.”

And in its 2008 instruction “Dignitas Personae” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the specific approval of Pope Benedict XVI, stated:

“Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such “biological material”. Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.”

It is important to note that ascertaining whether there are grave reasons is up to your individual conscience. But that conscience must be well-formed by Catholic moral teachings and by reason.

While many good Catholics, including well-respected bishops, priests and theologians judge the situation differently, I strenuously disagree with any effort to compel Catholics to take or not take the vaccine. You are free to chose what you think is morally right, based on your honest application of Catholic principles and reason. For example, you may reasonably come to the conclusion that the vaccine is biologically dangerous in itself—how can a bishop compel you to endanger yourself, and how is his scientific judgment better than yours? Or you may reasonably conclude that the pandemic is so dangerous to you or your kin or society at large that you have a grave responsibility to take it—how can another bishop tell you must endanger your very life etc.?

They can’t. It is wrong for them to do so. And it would be wrong for me to do so. And in like manner, it would be wrong for you to condemn others who disagree with your conclusions and choices in this matter.

            Different Vaccines. From what I’ve read, all the various vaccines being distributed and still being developed are morally objectionable. But some are truly and clearly more objectionable than others, and I believe in very important ways. For example, some are developed using the aborted fetus cells in the development and even manufacturing stages—let’s call these “very bad.” Others used the aborted fetus cells only in the testing phase. The “very bad” are clearly more objectionable than the “less bad” vaccines. So if you have a choice between vaccines, you should demand one of the “less bad.”

Among these “less bad” are the Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine. Among the very bad are Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

STRANGE. Did you hear that Congressman Emanuel Cleaver closed his prayer on the House floor the other day by saying: “Amen. And a-woman.” I hear that Joe Biden wants to institute a requirement that we all wear masks—it will be a mandate and a womandate.

Oremus pro invicem, Fr. De Celles