In the unfortunate battle between Catholics who promote the COVID-19 injections and those who oppose them, several specious arguments have arisen. Proponents point to a long list of commonly used medications they say were also developed or tested using the cells of HEK-293. This is a fetal stem cell line propagated from an aborted baby whom those who care about the humanity of children named Johanna (she was a person not a licence plate number). Johanna’s cells were used to develop or test three of the four available COVID-19 injections, while the fourth used stem cells from another aborted baby.
Catholic jab promoters tell us opponents that if we forgo the injection because of its derivation from Johanna, then we better boycott aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, Tums, Maalox, and a host of other common medications because they were also tested on Johanna or other fetal stem cell lines.
However, aspirin was invented in 1897 when a scientist modified the naturally occurring plant compound salicylic acid. Needless to say, no tests on aborted babies’ cells were performed before Bayer brought the product to market.
In one article that pushed this “logic,” Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC included a list of medications with a few linked studies next to each, endeavoring to show that the medications’ connections with Johanna were equivalent to those of the COVID injections. This doesn’t pan out either. I spot-checked three different medications’ linked studies, reading the full articles (not just the abstract). None of these studies constituted evidence that the original development or testing of these medications used Johanna’s cells.
In each case, the studies were conducted by academic researchers looking for further information on the mechanisms of action or the cellular targets of action for existing drugs, a common research goal that is often part of the development of new drugs or new uses for existing drugs. For instance the 2015 study referenced for Albuterol (which was invented in 1972) sought to determine how the positively charged ions of the medication react with negatively charged transporters in the smooth muscle of the lungs to determine whether the cations assist them in reaching their target receptors.
Is it right for these researchers to employ Johanna’s cells? Of course not. But it is also not right for Catholic jab proponents to imply (or state) that a drug like aspirin is morally equivalent to Moderna’s COVID injection. The former was brought to market as a pain treatment without the use of stem cells from an aborted baby, and with no intention for such cells to be used in the future. The latter was brought to market using Johanna.
The other effort to marginalize jab opponents consists in calling us “hypocritical” if we use other vaccines that were derived from aborted babies or “anti-vax” (i.e. irrational) if we do not. The Church has addressed the vaccine-abortion link previously, in the pre-Covidtide times of the early 2000’s. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, directed the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) to elucidate the morality of vaccines derived from the stem cells of aborted babies. The resulting 2005 document is a somewhat thorough consideration of the moral implications of this issue for scientists, corporations, healthcare workers, and individuals. Recently, a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) specifically addressed the COVID jabs.
As we know, the documents assert that development of vaccines using Johanna or another aborted child is always gravely immoral, but they say that grave proportional reasons may exist to justify an individual’s use of such a vaccine. (Coercion of individuals to receive an injection is always condemned.) Therefore, we must weigh on one side of a sort-of “moral balance scale” the evils associated with the vaccine—for instance, the level of cooperation we have with abortion by using a drug resulting from it—against, on the other side, the evil that may arise from forgoing the injection.
Sadly, the 2020 document first takes pains to note that the abortion of Johanna occured in “the last century,” a factor apparently lightening the load on her side of the scale. I wonder how the CDF authors would feel if the cells used were from Jewish victims of Nazi concentration camps way back “in the last century”?
It then characterizes the threat of COVID-19 as an example of a serious enough reason to justify the “passive material cooperation” with the evil of taking the jab. This is a failure (or refusal) to weigh all factors: the purported seriousness of the virus has been (overstated and) placed on one side of the scale, while “only” the passive material cooperation with the evil of Johanna’s murder is on the other.
First, there’s more in Johanna’s bucket than the CDF document acknowledges. Unlike rubella, which the Vatican also pointed to in 2005 as an illness whose seriousness justifies the use of abortion-tainted vaccines, COVID-19 has spawned an entire culture of lies, coercion, and godlessness all its own.
Let’s stop pretending that the COVID injections are at all comparable with other medications and vaccines. Participation in the jab program is participation in the COVID regime, a “sanitary dictatorship” that has us locking elderly patients away from their families; covering the faces of children and keeping them from seeing the image of God in their classmates and teachers; replacing real relations between persons with “virtual connection”—the feeling of a hug, a whisper in the ear, a firm handshake having become mere vectors of infection in the COVID culture.
Failure to acknowledge these evils, speaking of the COVID injection as if it can somehow be seen as just another shot, is the worst kind of spiritual and moral make-believe.
People with health-related and moral objections to the jab are losing their jobs. Would this be happening if 80% of us refused the injection? No, it’s happening because most people are accepting it. So much for the “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” that was highlighted in PAL’s 2005 document. How can the Vatican both encourage us to fight the evil of the use of Johanna and her peers while also telling us it’s some kind of moral duty to get the injection?
So for you who say, “I got the vaccine, but I don’t think people should be forced to get it,” thanks for nothing. Your getting the vaccine is what contributes to your neighbor losing her job and your nephew getting kicked out of medical school. Do you think vaccine mandates would be possible if most people weren’t willing to comply with them? Would tanks be deployed in Australia to enforce COVID lockdowns if most citizens there weren’t willing to abide by COVID mandates?
Secondly, on the other side of the balance scale, the biggest open secret: the threat of death from COVID-19 is not grave. So, your 79-year-old grandfather contracts the virus. He has a 3.2% chance of dying from it. That sounds a bit grim. But you should also realize that a 79-year-old man has a 5% chance of dying within a year from all causes. Older folks do tend to die sooner than younger folks.
COVID-19 is classified as a low infection mortality rate disease (as opposed to MERSA, for instance), with higher income countries exhibiting at most a mortality rate of 1.15% of infected individuals (the rate is lower in lower income countries, which have younger populations). Even if that number hasn’t been inflated and the jab is actually 100% effective against the virus for every person with no side effects (I can play make-believe, too), the “evil” of forgoing the COVID injection is minimal.
Meanwhile, the evils on the other side of the balance—passive material cooperation with the abortion of Johanna and compliance with the COVID regime—should constitute a serious burden of conscience for Catholics.