I read with keen interest a talk delivered by Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk on October 23 in Rome, during a conference organized by Voice of the Family, a lay-run Catholic pro-life, pro-family organization.
Entitled “Ethical questions concerning Covid-19 vaccines,” the talk very ably covered the moral reasoning involved in evaluating the moral liceity of the use of “abortion-tainted” COVID-19 vaccines. Of particular interest were his treatment of the distinction between moral and material cooperation in evil and the principle of double effect. Equally welcome was an insightful reflection on the effects of the abandonment of the notion of intrinsic evil on Catholic thinking in the latter half of the 20th century.
Ultimately, however, I was dismayed by his talk for the following reasons:
- Though his moral reasoning seemed to me quite valid, the facts on which his reasoning is based, namely the facts about the “pandemic,” the lethality of COVID-19, the non-availability of alternative therapies, etc., seem completely off the mark, leading to what I believe is an unsound, erroneous moral determination with tragic results for the Church, viz. that vaccination against COVID-19 is morally obligated;
- The Cardinal’s whole text is suffused by what I would call “epistemic naïveté,” or the tendency to take at face value the dominant narrative concerning the virus. Completely absent from his consideration is the idea that the whole “corona pandemic” may perhaps be better characterized as a great moral evil, an instrumentalization of a virus with a view to implement social controls that would otherwise never have been accepted;
- His lack of consideration of the importance of not only health but virtue and subsidiarity in fostering the common good.
Cardinal Eijk’s talk was rife with assertions that are contested and have been so from the beginning of the “pandemic.” Unfortunately, these propositions lead him to conclude that vaccination against COVID-19 is morally obligated. He states, for example, that “The diseases caused by COVID-19 are very severe and its death rate is quite high;” and “Care for COVID-19 patients causes huge problems to the whole of health care.”
However, the best estimates of COVID-19’s infection fatality rate (IFR)—the rate of death per infection—seem to come from seroprevalence studies of the sort analyzed by John Ioannidis of Stanford University. An April 2021 paper he authored has established the Sars-cov-2 IFR at roughly 1.5 per thousand infections, where a rate of one per thousand is the upper bound of deaths from influenza. For those under 70, the median IFR is 0.05 percent, that is, five deaths for every 10,000 infected. It therefore follows that the death rate of COVID-19 is not orders of magnitude above that of influenza, though it is, perhaps, a few times more potent. But we are still talking about a relatively moderate disease, similar to influenza, and not at all comparable to SARS or MERS, which have an IFR of 10 percent and 36 percent respectively.
Moreover, assessing the lethality of the virus from absolute death statistics (that is, total deaths attributed to COVID-19), as Cardinal Eijk has done, is liable to exaggerate one’s perception of the lethality of the disease. For example, at the moment, Canada has recorded 30,000 “COVID-linked deaths,” while the all-cause mortality has barely increased year over year between 2019 and 2020, the year of the greatest “COVID peak” in that country. The reason for the disparity, it seems, is that deaths normally attributed to other causes in non-pandemic times have, during the COVID-19 crisis, been routinely attributed to COVID-19, even in the absence of any real evidence that said deaths were caused by the virus—many health authorities preferring to err on the side of caution, not wanting, apparently, to underplay the severity of the situation.
In other words, in many cases, deaths that would have happened anyway (such as cancer deaths) were falsely labelled “COVID” deaths, thus exaggerating the perception of the lethality of the virus. It should also be noted that the criteria for the use of the word “pandemic” were modified in 2009 to remove the necessity that the virus be lethal, conserving only the criterion of ubiquity. This undoubtedly has played a role in facilitating the bias in favour of labeling a death “COVID” by virtue of the strong expectation of deaths that understandably comes when one is informed that a “pandemic” is underway.
Finally, there is reason to believe many deaths might have been provoked by the pandemic response itself. In Canada and many other Western jurisdictions, for example, a majority of “COVID-19 deaths” have occurred in old-age homes. However, during an ongoing enquiry into COVID-related deaths in such homes in Quebec, it was heard that many so-called COVID-19 deaths were labeled as such to “cover up” the fact that the panic-fueled exodus of staff led to the neglect, dehydration, and starvation of many elderly.
If it turns out that many of the long-term-care-home deaths, which account for about 70 percent of all “COVID-19” deaths (as of November 8, 2021) in Quebec, are, in fact, due to neglect, panic, and other sociological factors, the real infection mortality rate of COVID-19 could be much lower than that indicated by the studies of Ioannidis et al., which presumably obtain the numerators for the infection fatality rate (infection fatality rate = official deaths/total infections) from government statistics.
It can therefore be reasonably doubted that COVID-19 is an exceptionally dangerous disease, especially for those under 70 years of age. This therefore significantly undermines the argument for the moral obligation to vaccinate.
The Cardinal also affirms that “The COVID-19 vaccines are effective…”
However, the all-cause mortality differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated cannot, for the moment, be determined (see here for a discussion on the situation in the UK). But this is the most robust way of determining whether a COVID-19 vaccine does or does not improve one’s chances of survival overall. There is, therefore, no true reason to believe, for now, that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the risks.
Finally, Cardinal Eijk affirms that “[Vaccines] are, at the moment, the only means to slow down or stop the pandemic.”
This is simply untrue. Natural immunity provoked by contact with the disease is also a very effective means of slowing down the virus. Given the relatively moderate nature of the virus, such a means, when paired with the protection of the especially vulnerable (the aged and infirm), would be a more than sufficient strategy for living with the virus.
A Spanish randomized controlled trial found a 96 percent reduction in the risk of requiring intensive care in patients receiving high-dose vitamin D (100,000 IU).
The need for a vaccine seems obviated by the availability of such alternative therapies, which can be readily made available to the vulnerable, and even used preventatively.
Much more troubling than the mere doubtfulness of many of the Cardinal’s empirical affirmations, however, was the seeming readiness he demonstrated in embracing what could be called “the mainstream” or dominant narrative about the pandemic.
At all times, but most especially when the stakes could not be higher—we will examine shortly why they could not be higher—we should expect any Catholic, perforce a Cardinal, to be critical of the messages, explicit and implicit, conveyed by the mainstream media, government, and academia, all of whom have demonstrably been, for a very long time, anti-Catholic in key areas ranging from abortion, to euthanasia, to marriage, to contraception, to the place of religion in the public square. Yes, broken clocks can be correct twice per day, as the saying goes, but the converse is also true: they are usually wrong. So how can a Cardinal, in the treatment of a question that has far-ranging consequences (again, we will soon see why), be willing to take “at face value” what instead should be received with much circumspection and scrutiny?
In the case of the pandemic, the media narrative, controlled by powerful interests, has been so lopsided as to lead, in the UK for example, to the virus being perceived as one hundred times more dangerous than it really is.
As for the situation itself, its seriousness is easily discerned. To take but one example, the person writing this was unable to attend the Rome conference in which the Cardinal spoke, for the simple reason that he refuses to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The same person cannot even leave his country. Access is barred him from restaurants, libraries, museums, and the like. Employment opportunities are equally severely curbed for the unvaccinated. And with the multiplication ad infinitum of sars-cov-2 “variants,” there is little reason to believe this will end anytime soon!
The reason given for this severe limitation of employment and movement, considering the doubtful value of the vaccine at lengthening life and, in any case, its limited use for anyone who is reasonably healthy and under 70, can really be seen only as a fig-leaf for the real reason behind the limitations: the desire to implement a new set of social controls which, without the pretext of a “pandemic,” would have been roundly rejected by ordinary people.
Indeed, the virtual house arrest of millions would be ridiculous and unthinkable unless seen from the point of view of those who are profiting now and will immensely profit from it in the future: not only the pharmaceutical industry and the government officials and scientists it corrupts, but the heads of corporations and foundations who have all but decreed that a new type of world government is to be implemented, with themselves in command.
Along with Professor Douglas Farrow of McGill University, whose two excellent essays on the COVID-19 situation are essential reads (see here and here), I, too, am astonished at the refusal of many Catholics to recognize the real dangers we face. “I find it astonishing,” Farrow writes in “Enrolled in the Religion of Fear,” “that so many people have not noticed how odd all this is, or how sinister. Can anyone who takes the slightest trouble to examine the facts doubt that we are faced with a plan, a ruthless plan, of global proportions? That the phantasy [of permanently eradicating the virus]—together with the hysteria it feeds, the discrimination it breeds and, above all, the unconscionable abuse of children to which it leads and by which it will be damned—has been carefully prepared and perpetuated?”
Indeed, this is the most mysterious aspect of Cardinal Eijk’s intervention and, I would say more generally, of a certain Catholic milieu’s response to the pandemic. How can otherwise traditional, solid, pro-life, pro-family Catholics, quite aware of the perfidy of many international institutions and national governments, suddenly become as trusting as lambs when these same entities call for universal, perpetual vaccination under pain of virtual house arrest and loss of employment?
How bitter to me was Cardinal Eijk’s seeming blindness to what Professor Farrow calls “a ruthless plan of global proportions” when it was this same Cardinal who had warned that a pope’s refusal to clarify doctrinal questions relating to intercommunion evoked thoughts of “The Church’s ultimate trial” where will be unveiled “the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” I hope that the Cardinal not take me as facetious when I ask him whether he thinks that the necessity of receiving a mark on one’s arm to buy and sell might not also be a cause to think that “the Church’s ultimate trial” might not be far off?
Finally, I believe that much of the Cardinal’s thinking could very well betray a certain post-Vatican II drift to anthropocentrism and naturalism, especially as regards the “common good.” Indeed, the state must ensure the temporal common good, which, however, must remain open to the spiritual. A state must ultimately work to ensure virtuous living among the citizenry, and though a healthy citizenry would arguably more easily attain to virtue, health cannot be the only consideration. As John XXIII emphasized in Pacem in Terris: “the measures that are taken to implement the common good must not jeopardize [man’s] eternal salvation; indeed, they must even help him to obtain it.”
Even if the vaccines did work, did not involve abortion, and had no significant side effects, we should nonetheless be extremely cautious about allowing ourselves to be beholden to a global pharmaceutical syndicate which could easily be more detrimental to the common good than any real pandemic, if only for the tendency of these corporations to enslave those whom they would heal in a paradigm where only the body counts.
Instead of chasing after health at all costs, even unto the house arrest of millions for a disease that kills less than 2 per thousand infected, are we willing, finally, to accept that sometimes a better, more spiritual life might turn out to be a shorter life, perhaps even a life marked with more illness; and conversely, a worse life might be one in which bodies are healthy but souls empty and minds dull?
Also, the question of subsidiarity seems altogether absent from the Cardinal’s considerations on the vaccine and the common good. Indeed, subsidiarity, or the idea that a problem ought to be solved by those nearest it, is essential for the common good; vaccine mandates violate that important principle, making the state not only the sole purveyor of health services, but dictator of health measures. The travestying of the principle of subsidiarity which characterizes the whole of this COVID-19 crisis—the concentration of power into relatively few hands; the removal of the responsibility for the common good from the hands of citizens to the state—leads inevitably to loss of personal responsibility, which cannot but lead to a loss of sincerity of belief and responsibility before God.
Along these lines of subsidiarity, why is there hardly any recognition on the part of upper-echelon clergy of the many Catholics and pro-lifers who, wanting to resist abortion and other modern ills with “maximum determination,” voluntarily decide to withdraw from the emerging pharmaceutical dystopia? Is this not akin to St. Benedict of Nursia’s quest for a more authentic albeit demanding Christian life? The hierarchy should be more sensitive to the signs of the times and the talk of parallel societies and “Benedict options,” for these are signs that the globalist, one-world ideal pedalled by pharmaceutical corporations and their proxies is considered by many anti-Christ, not least of which because it in no way respects subsidiarity.
All in all, what impresses most deeply at the reading of Cardinal Eijk’s talk is the sense of disconnection. Being myself a Catholic, I am certainly not one to reflexively dismiss our very real need of elites, both temporal and spiritual; I am hungry, and grateful, for any sign of excellence and authority in any sphere of human endeavour. But even among what I consider the very best Cardinals, I get a strong sense of, for lack of a better word, cluelessness, or disconnectedness regarding the state of our world. It is as if these cardinals are on a separate, parallel track, with no end to our divergence of perception.
When these Cardinals speak, and often very ably on certain precise points of doctrine, as did Cardinal Eijk on the various technical aspects of the moral reasoning involved in the vaccination debate, one nonetheless gets a sense that they are living in a completely different world, a world coloured by the exaggerated optimism inoculated into the human element of the Church during the Vatican II era. But it is high time we come together onto the real, firm ground, for there is a war at hand. The powers fuelling the fear pandemic and dazzling the world with their medical “signs and wonders” may indeed prefer an unquestioning, trusting clergy. But the God who revealed Himself in Christ Jesus, the only One who can truly heal the sick and raise the dead, demands much more.
[Photo: Cardinal Eijk (Bohumil Petrik/CNA)]