The heavenly, angelic order…
October 26, 2021
31st Sunday in OT (B)
October 26, 2021

Vaccine moral dilemma

By Dr Ryan Corbin

The goal in this pandemic is universal; “return to normal” and currently, the main tools in this Covid-19 fight have been vaccines. The pandemic fatigue and resultant anxiety have fuelled many questions about the Covid-19 vaccine’s integrity, from a medical perspective but also ethically when their link to abortion has been exposed.  This ethical argument is critical for many of our Christian peers. One can justly argue that the soul is more important than our physical body—one eternal, the other finite. Where is the line in the sand? However, does the Church agree? If so, why does She promote these vaccines? Are they morally acceptable? Is the Church bending to social pressure? There is enough published Covid-19 vaccine safety/efficacy medical research, so I will not expound on that. I will instead be focusing on the moral dilemma. Are we encouraging or participating in an abortion if we vaccinate? Are we sacrificing the powerless for the sake of the powerful?


The science of human

foetal cell lines

How is abortion linked to vaccines? From the medical perspective, human cells are notoriously hard to develop and grow in a lab for testing and development. Therefore, in the 60s – 80s, scientists began to isolate and use human foetal cells to develop cell lines.

The current cells in use are not from those specific foetuses whose death occurred decades ago. The aborted foetuses and their individual cells no longer exist. There are no foetal body parts or foetal tissue in storage. Only distinct, new cells derived from the original foetal cells remain and are grown in the laboratory.

How is this linked to vaccine use? Through a form of replication, these stable cells can produce large numbers of viruses for implantation and/or testing. This helps to explain why no new lines are being developed from recent abortions. We have therefore established that there is a difference between ‘foetal tissue’ and ‘foetal cell lines’ with emphasis that some of the available vaccines use foetal cell lines in development/testing but do not have foetal tissue in them.


Cooperation in evil

To morally navigate justification of these vaccines linked to abortion, we must discuss the multi-factorial concept of ‘cooperation in evil’. The pro-choice nurse who assists in abortion surgery (scrub nurse) cannot hold the same culpability as the pro-life nurse who does post-operative care.

The scrub nurse has “formal moral cooperation” in the sinful act of the abortion, while the other “material moral cooperation.” Further to this, can the cleaner of the operating room hold the same accountability as our post-op nurse?

One seems even further removed from the act; the cleaner having remote material cooperation while the post-op nurse has proximate material cooperation.

Can we, the consumer, hold the same guilt as the scientists who developed the vaccines? The Church confirms one’s freedom for/against vaccination.  Nevertheless, vaccination during this public health crisis outweighs any potential remote attachment to the sin which occurred decades ago.

Our decision to vaccinate has no effect on the sinful act of the past abortion, a completed action. However, our refusal to vaccinate can potentially cause more harmful problems for ourselves and society.

Therefore, the Church has termed vaccination an act of ‘charity’ towards the common good, morally recommending use of the one with the most remote attachment available.

Importantly, the Church continues to urge the scientific community to develop ethically sound vaccines with no attachment to abortion.

So, what now? Do we want a perfect vaccine with absolutely no link to past sins? Yes! Does this allow us to abstain? We have autonomy to do what we ought, with a well-formed conscience, but who guides us in this ocean of uncertainty?

We should rely on mother Church who is guided by the third person in the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. With this certainty, we can always be assured that the Church will continue to guide us towards the North Star:  “Here is a safe doctrine that I want you to know; one’s own mind is a bad advisor, a poor pilot to steer the soul through the storms and tempests and among the reefs of the interior life. That is why it is the will of God that the command of the ship be entrusted to a Master who, with his light and his knowledge, can guide us to a safe harbour.” —St Josemaria Escriva, The Way (59)