Below is the link to a scholarly article by a Professor Stephan Kampowski, of the John Paul II Theological Institute in Rome, which analyses very closely and in great detail the question of the morality of taking a Covid vaccine which relies on fetal stem cell research. It is not for the faint-hearted. Below, I have also lifted from the article the author’s main conclusions. I commend the article to those who can persevere with it because it reads, with a healthy critical eye, the statements which have come out of Rome on this matter over the past 20 years (clearly, only the most recent deal with the Covid vaccine specifically). His conclusions concur with the advice and direction given to Catholics by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the covid vaccines (the link to that advice is also given below) even if he nitpicks at the arguments made by the Congregation. That advice is for us to receive the vaccine with a good conscience, even if it relies on fetal stem cell research.
I hope I don’t misrepresent Kampowski’s thinking by trying to summarise it as follows:
- The morality of taking the vaccine should not focus on the question of whether we are cooperating materially in evil, since that can only be done by participating in the actual act of abortion.
- In terms of the formal cooperation in evil, i.e. agreeing with the evil intention of the person who commits the evil, it is to be presumed that no Catholic would agree with it. Hence, there would be no danger of sin from this perspective.
- For the author the real question is whether or not it is moral to benefit from, or “appropriate”, the effects of the evil committed. In his article he gives various examples of what that means.
- He argues that there are three conditions that can justify benefitting from an evil committed which would at the same time counteract the moral risks of doing so: 1) There would have to be a grave necessity and no viable alternative; 2) One would have to look for adequate ways of expressing one’s disapproval of the evil action from whose results one now benefits; and 3) One would have to look for ways to influence the decision makers to develop alternatives.
My own advice to parishioners is to accept with docility and in good conscience the direction given to us by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Not only is this advice the result of a wide consultation process with experts in science, human sciences, and the theological sciences, it is given with the express approval of the Holy Father.
Here is the excerpt containing the conclusions of the Kampowski article:
“However, to benefit from evil is not the same as to commit evil. Therefore, despite these undesirable potential consequences, the appropriation of evil, unlike the perpetration of evil, is not always morally wrong but can be justified for proportionate reasons and under certain circumstances. What could these reasons and circumstances look like? How can one counteract the four dangers involved in the appropriation of evil just mentioned (earlier in the article, PM)? There would seem to be three conditions that could justify and at the same time counteract the moral risks of appropriation:
1. There would have to be a grave necessity and no viable alternative. Our doctor’s use of the Nazi-drawings was not for trivial reasons, like winning an anatomy contest in medical school. She used them to save her patient’s leg. There was no alternative available, not at the given place and time and not absolutely speaking.
2. One would have to look for adequate ways of expressing one’s disapproval of the evil action from whose results one now benefits. And this disapproval is credible only if condition 1 is fulfilled, that is, if there is in fact a grave necessity and no alternative.
3. One would have to look for ways to influence the decision makers to develop alternatives. Any cellphone user of good conscience will feel uncomfortable when learning that the battery of his or her device most likely contains cobalt, a “dirty” material, 60% of the world’s supply coming from mines in Congo that are notorious for exploiting children.27 Does using a phone, or any other item using lithium-ion batteries, mean condoning child labor and slavery? No. It is practically impossible today to renounce all items making use of lithium-ion batteries. And alternatives to the use of cobalt in batteries or to the abuse of children in the mining of this mineral are conceivable. Over and above stating these facts, however, it would also seem just and right to voice our disapproval and to use our leverage as customers, write an email to customer service and encourage our phone maker to renounce the use of “dirty” materials, such as cobalt, making it clear that we will move our allegiance to the first phone maker who provides an alternative to the use of components of “illicit origin.”
Using Nazi drawings in an operation room is not torturing and killing people. Using a smartphone with a lithium-ion battery containing traces of cobalt is not enslaving people. The appropriation of evil is not the same as the perpetration of evil. And yet, the motives for why we nonetheless feel uncomfortable with appropriating evil are rationally compelling. It seems that appropriation needs a justification, especially if by appropriating evil we bring at least part of the evil intention of the maleficent agent to fruition: the Nazi-drawings were made for use in the operation room; cobalt is being mined for use in cellphone batteries. Benefiting does not automatically imply condoning – it does not necessarily involve formal cooperation, so long as the result from which we benefit is not intrinsically connected to the evil action from which it has derived but could also be achieved in other ways. Benefiting is not material cooperation in evil, which would be impossible in the case of using the Nazi-illustrations, and which would be extremely remote in the case of the use of lithium-ion batteries containing cobalt. However, benefiting may encourage present and future evil practices, weaken our witness against this evil, lead to scandal and undermine our character. For all these reasons we should refuse to appropriate evil unless there are compellingly grave reasons, we voice our objection to the very evil from whose use we’re benefiting, and we appeal to the appropriate places to provide alternatives. Presumably most people could agree to these conditions when it is a question of benefiting from Nazi-drawings or cobalt mining. And these turn out to be precisely the conditions for the licit use of vaccines deriving from biological material of illicit origin, as presented by Dignitas Personae and taken up by CDF 2020. It is a “yes but.” And the “but” is important.”
Here is the link to the full article:
Cooperation, appropriation, and vaccines relying on fetal stem cell research
Here is the link to the official advice on this matter given by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: