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COVID: Catholics Can’t Avoid “Remote Cooperation with Evil”

COVID: Catholics Can’t Avoid “Remote Cooperation with Evil” September 3, 2021

My friend, Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC (Through Catholic Lenses), has performed a great public service for Catholics and others, with a constant stream of articles on the general topic of use of baby parts in the research and development of the COVID vaccines, with explanations as to how and why the Catholic Church allows Catholic use of such vaccines, due to the extreme remoteness of the evil, in relation to the user of the vaccine (“remote material cooperation”). This is why the Catholic Church, including Pope Francis, encourages, — indeed strongly recommends –, widespread recourse to COVID vaccines.

Despite the caricatures of some of my detractors, I have agreed with the Church and Fr. Schneider in principle, all along. My views have not changed (and have been perfectly consistent) from the beginning of the pandemic. I wrote on 4 February 2021 on my Facebook page (promptly censored by Facebook):

What both the pope and Church leaders are teaching concerning it is that Christians are not responsible if in the past any portion of these vaccines was drawn from aborted babies.
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It’s a question of “how remote a thing can be before we are not personally responsible for it.”
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As an example, we all buy many things made in China because so much is! Does it follow that in purchasing a shirt or a video game from China, that we therefore are supported slave labor, prison re-education camps or forced abortion that occur there? No.
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We’re not required to not buy things from China. On the other hand, it might be good to further reflect on cutting down, based on these same reasons.
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Personally, as a committed pro-life activist these past 39 years, I don’t like this aspect at all, and it would be one reason why I don’t want a vaccine. But that view can’t be imposed onto everyone else. The Church has allowed it and she is our authority.
I didn’t knock the vaccine in and of itself. I didn’t tell anyone else not to take it (I was neither legalistic nor conspiratorial), and I said it would have a good overall result as a result of people taking it.
The Church permits [COVID vaccines for Catholics] because of the remoteness of participation in the evil of use of aborted babies in the research and implementation. That’s not the same as being wildly enthusiastic about it. There still remains everyone’s individual conscience. I cannot participate in a thing that exploits human beings in a Nazi-like way. I would die before I did that. But I don’t condemn others who do. That’s the thing. We all have our own free choice and our conscience. My conscience is an avidly pro-life one.
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I have not dissuaded anyone from getting a vaccine if they feel that they should (and I can document that from way back). I cannot do so according to MY conscience. 
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My conscience leads me to refuse it, and the Church says I must follow my conscience [Catechism: 1776, 1778, 1782, 1790, 1800], which was and is formed according to what she teaches (but is not universally applicable to all men, by the nature and essence of what conscience is).

[T]he Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith produced on 12-21-20: Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines. [approved by Pope Francis]

. . . from section 5:

. . . Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable. [my bolding] . . .

The Church has condemned it (while allowing Catholics to receive vaccines due to remoteness of participation in the evil). This is a matter of conscience. It applies only to me. I’m not here telling you or anyone else what they should do. Go do your thing and leave those of us who have a different view alone. . . .

I have not argued that folks shouldn’t get vaccinated. I have said that it is overall a good thing. . . .

Conscientious objection was a fundamental notion of things like the civil rights movement, protests against Vietnam, and Operation Rescue’s blocking of abortion death center doors (of which I was a part). . . .
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We can and should all agree that it is good for many to take the vaccine.
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With that all said and understood, now the question becomes: “how many other medicines / pills / prescription and over-the-counter drugs have been tainted with this participation in the evil of abortion? According to Fr. Schneider, in another of his very informative articles (“If Any Drug Tested on HEK-293 Is Immoral, Goodbye Modern Medicine”), very few. He wrote:

Thanks to Dr. Lisa Gilbert, MD, for pointing me in this direction and sharing her research on the topic. She summarized her findings, “I believe all the Top Twenty medications prescribed in the US are tested on HEK293.” And “Every medication I’ve researched so far appears to have some connection to HEK.” In the end, I found a single over-the-counter drug not tested on HEK-293, which Dr. Gilbert had not previously reviewed.

The List of Medications

Common over the counter medicines tested on HEK-293 cells or derivative cell lines.

    1. Tylenol / Acetaminophen (12)
    2. Advil / Motrin / Ibuprofen (12)
    3. Aspirin / Acetylsalicylic Acid (ASA) (12)
    4. Aleve / Naproxen (12)
    5. Pseudoephedrine / Sudafed / / SudoGest, Suphedrine (12)
    6. Diphenhydramine / Benadryl (it is used so much with HEK293 that it has a page for using it and HEK293 together for further studies on the FDA site, 2)
    7. Loratadine / Claritin (12)
    8. Dextromethorphan / Delsym / Robafen Cough / Robitussin (12)
    9. Guaifenesin / Mucinex (1)
    10. Tums / Calcium Carbonate (12)
    11. Maalox / Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Hydroxide (1)
    12. Docusate / Colace / Ex-Lax Stool Softener (12)
    13. Senna Glycoside / Sennoside / Senna / Ex-Lax / Senokot (1)
    14. Pepto-Bismol / Bismuth Subsalicylate (1)
    15. Phenylephrine / Preparation H / Vazculep / Suphedrine PE (12)
    16. Mepyramine / Pyrilamine (12)
    17. Lidocaine / Lidoderm / Recticare (12)
Common prescription drugs tested on HEK-293 cells or derivative cell lines.
    1. Levothyroxine / Synthroid / Tirosint / Levoxyl (12)
    2. Atorvastatin / Lipitor (12)
    3. Amlodipine / Norvasc (12)
    4. Metoprolol / Toprol XL / Lopressor (12)
    5. Omeprazole / Prilosec OTC / Zegerid OTC / OmePPi (12)
    6. Losartan / Cozaar (1, it is used so much in testing the FDA has a page on using it with HEK293)
    7. Albuterol / Salbutamol / ProAir / Ventolin (12)
    8. Sacubitril / Valsartan / Entresto (2 studies mentioned in FDA application)
    9. Tenapanor / Ibsrela (1 study mentioned in FDA application2)
    10. Enbrel / Etanercept (12)
    11. Azithromycin / Zithromax (12)
    12. Hydroxychloroquine / Plaquenil (12)
    13. Remdesivir / Veklury (12)
    14. Dapagliflozin / Farxiga / Ipragliflozin / Suglat / Enavogliflozin / Jardiance (1)
    15. Ivermectin / Stromectol (12)
    16. Canagliflozin / Invokana / Sulisent / Prominad (1 study mentioned in FDA application)
    17. Metformin / Glucophage / Riomet / Glumetza (12)
    18. Cerivastatin / Baycol / Lipobay / Fluvastatin / Lescol / Pitavastatin / Livalo / Pravastatin / Pravachol / Rosuvastatin / Crestor (1)
    19. Simvastatin / FloLipid / Zocor (1)
    20. Oxbryta / Voxelotor (1 study mentioned in FDA application)
    21. Lisinopril / Qbrelis / Zestril / Prinivil (12)

The only drug where I could not find any testing done on HEK-293: Simethicone / Gas-X / Infacol / Wind-eze / WindSetlers. This is a drug that never enters cells. It prevents gas bubbles in the digestive tract. I found a few experiments where it was used to prevent foaming and HEK-293 was used in another part of the experiment but none testing it as a drug on HEK-293 directly.

This is pretty grim stuff, and shows the level of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, with regard to exploitation of aborted babies for the purpose of science (a la the Nazi “doctors” in the 40s). It appears that no one can avoid even the remote cooperation that the Church allows. It’s virtually impossible. I take very few medications (Tylenol for headaches, Tums or the equivalent for stomach: though calcium carbonate is not a “drug”, and occasionally Claritin or similar for allergies to pets; none of them regularly; only when symptoms arise).

I didn’t realize the situation was this bad; but it is clear that it would be extremely difficult to apply the objection to medications based on connection to abortion across the board. Hence, Fr. Schneider notes:

If we were to disallow all remote cooperation, we would need to reject all of modern society more than contemplative nuns. Only hermitic subsistence farmers or hunter-gathers making their own clothes and tools could be completely free from very remote cooperation in evil. I’ve noted before that the most logical and moral Christian response is realizing that we can’t avoid all really remote cooperation in evil. In general, we should try to avoid it. However, we should not get scrupulous about it: it is one factor in a decision but should not overwhelm every other factor or lead to excessive worry.

As noted above, those who reject vaccines tested on fetal cell lines argue that abortion is such a horrendous evil that ordinary rules of cooperation don’t apply. They would see remote cooperation in slave labor like mining raw materials for my phone as acceptable, but use different reasoning when the evil remotely cooperated in is abortion. I’ve written a whole piece on how we inevitably cooperate in many other evils. It would be within reason to be a little more cautious about remote cooperation in abortion, but you can’t use radically different moral reasoning. . . .

Every time something is produced in China, a fraction goes to the Chinese government and a fraction of that goes to their forced abortion program. . . .

God never demands the impossible and this degree of vigilance required to avoid all even very remote cooperation in abortion is beyond what most people are even capable of doing. I do not know anyone who could survive in the USA while doing what was presented in the above paragraph, as you would need to build everything needed for survival directly from natural materials. The Catholic Church does not require or even recommend this. In fact, plenty of stuff in churches involves such remote cooperation in abortion as some stuff we buy is made in China, to take one example.

Note that my own position does not “disallow all remote cooperation”. I haven’t said that. I have contended that this was a decision based upon my own conscience, and I wrote as early as last February (and believed from the beginning): “Does it follow that in purchasing a shirt or a video game from China, that we therefore are supported slave labor, prison re-education camps or forced abortion that occur there? No. We’re not required to not buy things from China. On the other hand, it might be good to further reflect on cutting down, . . .”

Neither I nor (it looks like) anyone else, short of a hermit in the wilds of Siberia, living off of the land, can avoid all remote material cooperation in evil. But it doesn’t follow that all objections of conscience are therefore disallowed or unethical or inconsistent. We may not be able to possibly apply the objection across the board, due to the ubiquity of the sin of exploitation of murdered preborn babies, but we can (and should) make selected “prophetic” objections. Fr. Schneider fully recognized this, and notes that the Catholic Church does. He stated on 8-9-21:

[T]he Colorado bishops write, “We continue to support religious exemptions from any and all vaccine mandates,” and a “Person should follow their conscience [if it says not to take these vaccines], and they should not be penalized for doing so.” This makes sense if applied to a universal mandate[.] . . .  Vaccines should not be mandatory for all, . . .

In the same article of his that I cited at length above, he also wrote:
[T]he Church has generally encouraged vaccines while noting issues with certain ones grown on fetal cell lines. She allowed people to give prophetic witness against abortion by not taking such vaccines (I have defended the right to a prophetic stance in this case).
Following the link he provides, to another of his articles, from 9-1-20, that dealt with Archbishop Viganò’s extreme, legalistic position on this matter. The reactionary (anti-pope / anti-Vatican II / conspiratorial) archbishop has stated:
[F]or every Catholic who intends to remain faithful to his or her Baptism, it is absolutely inadmissible to accept a vaccination that utilizes material coming from human fetuses in its process of production.
That is contrary to the Church’s stated position (and my own). But as to the non-legalistic / non-extreme position of “prophetic” objection from conscience, Fr. Schneider reiterates:
[Bishop] Strickland says that he personally will not take a vaccine if derived using fetal stem cells. Most Catholic bioethicists would allow one to take a prophetic witness against abortion like that, but that is different from saying it is immoral to use the vaccine. One is not obliged to take such a prophetic witness. . . . both the Vatican and the National Catholic Bioethics Center allow a Catholic to take the position of prophetic witness . . .
My right, and the right of any Catholic, to not receive a COVID vaccine, due to objections of conscience, and in order to be a prophetic wotness against the outrage of childkilling, and exploitation of these human beings who were murdered, is rock-solid in Catholic moral and social teaching.
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The issue then usually becomes: “are you not irresponsible and uncaring about others, by not receiving a vaccine? You could cause someone else, or many, to possibly die!” Like many, if not all, who refuse the vaccine on conscience and other grounds (and I have others), I have been hit with this accusation several times. It’s off my main topic, but I’ll address it briefly, because it’s the “elephant in the room” at this point of the discussion.
It turns out that the unvaccinated likely are not causing the virus to spread much more (or possibly any more, or even less) than the vaccinated. An article posted at the Foundation for Economic Education (8-30-21) stated:

A newly published medical study found that infection from COVID-19 confers considerably longer-lasting and stronger protection against the Delta variant of the virus than vaccines.

“The natural immune protection that develops after a SARS-CoV-2 infection offers considerably more of a shield against the Delta variant of the pandemic coronavirus than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to a large Israeli study that some scientists wish came with a ‘Don’t try this at home’ label,” Science reported Thursday. “The newly released data show people who once had a SARS-CoV-2 infection were much less likely than vaccinated people to get Delta, develop symptoms from it, or become hospitalized with serious COVID-19.”

Put another way, vaccinated individuals were 27 times more likely to get a symptomatic COVID infection than those with natural immunity from COVID. . . .

Harvard Medical School professor Martin Kulldorff said research showing that natural immunity offers exponentially more protection than vaccines means vaccine passports are both unscientific and discriminatory, since they disproportionately affect working class individuals.

“Prior COVID disease (many working class) provides better immunity than vaccines (many professionals), so vaccine mandates are not only scientific nonsense, they are also discriminatory and unethical,” Kulldorff, a biostatistician and epidemiologist, observed on Twitter.

Nor is the study out of Israel a one-off. Media reports show that no fewer than 15 academic studies have found that natural immunity offers immense protection from COVID-19.

[see links to those fifteen studies]

Moreover, CDC research shows that vaccinated individuals still get infected with COVID-19 and carry just as much of the virus in their throat and nasal passage as unvaccinated individuals.

“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus,” CDC Rochelle Director Walensky noted following a Cape Cod outbreak that included mostly vaccinated individuals.

These data suggest that vaccinated individuals are still spreading the virus much like unvaccinated individuals. . . .

People who have had COVID already have significantly more protection from the virus than people who’ve been vaccinated. Meanwhile, people who’ve not had COVID and choose to not get vaccinated may or may not be making an unwise decision. But if they are, they are principally putting only themselves at risk. [my bolding]

There you go. According to the latest findings of science, as opposed to the fashionable zeitgeist and “approved” talking points, unvaccinated (especially those who have recovered from COVID) are not causing this virus to spread any more than vaccinated individuals (and actually far less, according to several reputable studies). We are not “killing” people. We don’t lack “compassion” etc. I have followed all the regulations all along on masking, social distancing, etc. (Michigan was one of the strictest states, but has now relaxed the rules). No one in my immediate family of ten (four children, two daughter-in-laws, two granddaughters) has obtained COVID. Only one of us was vaccinated.

Anyone I know who did contract the virus was not anywhere near me at the time (family of my wife’s best friend, my one niece [daughter of my late sister], whom I’ve seen once in the last few years, friends who lived fifty miles away, etc.). Others (such as my own priest) were obviously around a lot of people, not just me. Thus, to the best of my knowledge, I have not caused anyone to suffer from this scourge. I don’t even get to socialize very often. I work at home, in a small town in a very rural county of Michigan. My main social outing is Mass every Sunday.

No one has any “moral superiority” or vantage-point to make such sinful judgments against a person who has done all that is morally / medically required to make sure he or she isn’t exposing anyone else to harm.

Meanwhile, legitimate scientific research in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals, continues to suggest that the vaccines are not a cure-all, and do not prevent all transmission or remission of cases, etc. Other research shows the efficacy of COVID treatments, as compared to vaccines, and the much greater strength (over against vaccines) of natural immunity after having been infected.

Meanwhile, those in my age bracket (60-69; I am 63) have a 99.41% survival rate from COVID infection, or a 1 in 168 chance of dying from it, which is about the same odds as dying in a car crash. Funny, that hasn’t lessened the number of drivers out there, as far as I can tell.

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Photo credit: Alexandra_Koch (1-5-21) [Pixabay / Pixabay License]

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Summary: I tackle the questions of conscientious objection to COVID vaccines, & extreme difficulty of avoiding all remote cooperation with evil (baby parts having been massively used in pharmaceutical / medical research).

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