Morality of using Vaccines derived from Fetal Tissue Cultures:
Phil Wolfe, FSSP
Catholics troubled by the morality of using vaccines derived from fetal tissue cultures should be mindful of the ancient axiom: Bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu. (Goodness arises from an integral cause, evil arises from any defect whatsoever)
What does this axiom mean?
It means that the moral goodness or evil of an act can be determined by a
thoughtful assessment of the act itself, as well as its attending circumstances.
A good act, attended by good circumstances, is said to have an integral
cause, and thus can be safely performed by Catholics;
but however admirable an act may be in other respects, if even one of the
circumstances is gravely evil, the act cannot be recommended to Catholics.
How, then, can a Catholic thoughtfully assess the morality of an act, such as these vaccinations?
He must determine the goodness by assessing
the morality of the object and the circumstances of the act.
The first consideration is to assess the
moral object of the act. What is
the moral object of a vaccination? Let's use a specific example to illustrate: an immunization
against Measles, Mumps and Rubella using the MMR II vaccine. Since the moral object of any act is the exterior act as
proposed by reason, in this case, the moral object of the act of immunizing a
child with MMR II is to give him an inoculation with this vaccine so as to
induce an immune response - so that he will be immune to measles, mumps and
rubella. This - in itself - is a
good moral object.
The circumstances which surround the MMR II
vaccination must now be considered. The circumstances are those things that
"stand around" an act, and qualify it in some manner.
There are 7 circumstances: who, what, where, by what aid, why, how and
when. (cf. St. Thomas
Aquinas, De Malo,q. 2, a. 6.) If all the attending circumstances are good, or indifferent,
then that act is good; that act arises from an integral cause.
If one or more of the attending circumstances are evil, then there is a
defect, and the act itself is evil.
For this particular act, that of immunizing
a child with MMR II, the circumstance which deserves close scrutiny is "by
what aid." "By what
aid" refers to the instrumental cause, or agent of the act, in this case
the MMR II vaccine, a product produced using fetal tissue, obtained from an
aborted baby, as a culture medium.
At this point a feeling of extreme unease
might overcome the Catholic who is attempting to assess the morality of this
procedure. He recognizes that the
moral object of the act is good - to immunize a child against these diseases -
and he recognizes that if all the attending circumstances were good, he
could safely conclude that this act would be good.
But now he reaches the uneasy notion that this vaccine is tainted in some
fashion, since it was produced using fetal tissue.
May he then use it - since he is not directly approving of the abortion
which made production of this vaccine possible?
He wonders, does this circumstance "by what aid" pertain here?
Can he disclaim the origin of this vaccine, as some have argued, on the
basis that his use would only be a remote material cooperation with the
intrinsic evil of the direct abortion and use of the aborted baby's tissue?
In order to answer these questions, he
should pay thoughtful attention to the rules for restitution for a possessor in
bad faith, which is to say, that he should study the "rules for returning
things that he knows don't belong to him."
Now, in order that a Catholic get a reasonably solid grasp on the rules for restitution for a possessor in bad faith, a few illustrations will first be offered; and then the rules will be applied to the situation at hand.
Imagine a man steals his neighbor's
lawnmower. He knows full well that
he has NO right to this thing. This
man is in bad faith. So possession
in bad faith means that the man who has the goods in bad faith knows full well
that they are not rightfully his.
Now, suppose that the thief sells this
lawnmower to another man for a very good price, and tells him that the price is
so cheap because the lawnmower is stolen. Is the man who just bought this lawnmower - knowing
full well it was stolen - in good faith? No,
he's also an example of possession in bad faith.
Now, supposing, in either of these cases, the man who has unjust
possession of this lawnmower repents: What
does he have to do?
There's one basic rule: A man in bad faith has to make restitution for ALL the foreseeable damage caused to the lawful owner. It's easy to understand - he's responsible for the damage, so he has to fix it.
Now what does that mean, in these cases?
1) he has to return the thing itself, if it
still exists: in this case, a stolen lawnmower.
Now, suppose a little more complicated
situation: Suppose that the original owner of the lawnmower used it for
business. And now he is sitting around without his equipment, unable to
work, since his mower was stolen. And
suppose, again, that the thief repents. What
does the thief have to do for restitution?
1) The thief still has to return the thing
itself, if it still exists: in this case, a stolen lawnmower.
Now, he has Another responsibility, since a man in bad faith has to make good for all the foreseeable damage caused to the lawful owner. And that is the 3rd point:
3) He has to restore the profit which the owner would have made, or reimburse him for the loss he suffered - in this case, the $ lost from being unable to work has to be restored to the owner.
Now suppose a even more complicated
situation: Suppose the thief put
some work into the lawnmower; suppose that he did 3 things - he painted it
- not because it needed paint but to make sure he didn't get caught with
a stolen lawnmower. Then, he had it tuned up since it was running a little
rough, and this tune-up was definitely very useful.
Then, since the blade was so dinged up it hardly cut, he put a new blade
on the mower. And after putting all
this into this stolen lawnmower, he repented.
What does he have to do now?
1) the thief still has to return the thing
itself, if it still exists: the stolen lawnmower.
Now, suppose an entirely different
situation: Imagine a rustler who steals about 20 head of cows., and then, 2
years later, he repents. What is he
has to return the thing itself, if it still exists: in this case, 20 head
of cows - not bulls, not steers.
Here's the new addition:
Now how does all this apply to the situation with the MMR II vaccine? If a man in bad faith has to restore all the natural products of the property he has unjust possession of, how can the pharmaceutical companies possibly justify their possession of the natural product of a little baby, the tissue used to culture the vaccine; the same tissue which was - in an act of supreme injustice - carved out of the flesh of a baby? It is crystal clear that all those involved are in bad faith, and that restitution must be made; that these tissues not only not be utilized in any sort of experimentation or production at all, but that they be allowed to die. There are no provisos in the rules for restitution which could excuse a possessor in bad faith from returning his ill-gotten goods, on the condition that he could do all kinds of interesting research with his contraband. These people are in bad faith, and they are in unjust possession of someone else's tissues without any right.
But, you say, what if the mother agreed to donate the tissue from her aborted child for research? The parents have no right to donate their aborted child for medical research. Bodily rights ultimately belong to God and when He creates us He gives us conditional rights over our bodies. Through natural death, God cedes the right over the body to the next of kin (or state if there is no next of kin). When someone is murdered, they violate not only the person's conditional rights over their body, but they also usurp God's rights by killing that person. God's rights are usurped because it is ultimately God's body to give to whom He pleases. Through natural death it is clear that God is giving the body to someone else because He has taken it from the person who had it. So in abortion, the parents have usurped rights over the child's body which is not theirs because God did not cede the rights to them; they illicitly took them. Therefore, the parents of an aborted child or the person who murders can not use the body of the person they killed. With abortion and murder, the only way that justice is served is that the body must be buried. This in a sense gives the body back to God and it respects the right of the individual by not doing anything with the body since the person's will regarding their body can not be ascertained.
The notion of possession in bad faith - when applied to fetal tissue culture - is only an analogical usage. Why? Because unlike the situation wherein a rustler could actually purchase the cattle he had stolen, and thus come into legitimate possession of that previously stolen livestock - no power on Earth can give anyone the right to possess, purchase or preserve tissue taken from a sacrificed baby. Human tissue obtained in such a manner is not an object of possession, and can never be an object of possession, irregardless if they are producing vaccines for every disease on Earth. The evil use of fetal tissue for someone's good cannot justify the situation: it is a screaming violation of justice. In this case, the circumstance of "by what aid" is evil, and therefore the whole act of immunizing a child with the MMR II vaccine, as originally considered, is evil: Bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu. (Goodness arises from an integral cause, evil arises from any defect whatsoever.)
It is immoral to knowingly use any medical products - vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, stem cells, you name it, which are derived from tissue obtained via abortion or embryonic destruction.
A man may be
possessed of the property of another without a just title either through an act
of injustice, e.g., fraud, theft, usury, etc., or in good faith, e.g., by
purchase, donation, or legacy. In
the former case there is a culpa theologica, i.e., a formal violation of strict
justice (iustitia commutativa), in the latter there is merely a material
injustice. These two forms of
unjust possession determine the manner in which restitution must be made.
clamat domino," i.e., the rightful owner is entitled to his property, no
matter into whose hands it may have fallen.
This rule follows necessarily from the nature of property and ownership.
In applying it, however, due regard must be paid to prescription, etc.
possessor can not reach the owner, he must make restitution to the heirs.
The fruits of a thing (fructus rei) may be:
naturales, natural, i.e., derived from the thing itself (beneficio naturae)
without the co-operation of man, or with but slight co-operation on his part,
for example, fruits of trees, wood in a forest, grass on a meadow, milk, wool,
I. One may be
in possession of the property of another either in bad faith or in good faith.
A possessor malae fidei is one who knows, or has good reason for
believing, that the property he holds belongs to another.
Such a one is bound to restore to the rightful owner whatever the latter
has been unjustly deprived of, that is to say:
(From A Handbook of Moral Theology by the Reverend Antony Koch, D.D., adapted and edited by Arthur Preuss. Volume V. Man's Duties to His Fellowmen. B. Herder Book Company. St Louis, MO. 1933 pp. 379-383.)
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