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Covid-19 Vaccines and Catholic Morality

Trent Horn

Audio only:

In this episode, Trent sits down with Fr. Matthew Schneider to discuss the moral issues related to recent Covid-19 vaccine candidates such as whether they are connected to experiments done on aborted fetuses and what the Church teaches about using vaccines that were derived through illicit means.


Welcome to the Council of Trent podcast, a production of Catholic Answers.

Trent Horn:
Welcome back to another episode of the Council of Trent podcast. I’m your host, Catholic Answers apologist and speaker, Trent Horn. Now, if you were listening to Catholic Answers Live yesterday, you know I promised a particular topic today. Yesterday on Catholic Answers Live, we kicked off Jesus week. Our motto, my motto, Jesus week, it’s like Shark Week but with Jesus. We’re doing a whole slate of shows this week on Catholic Answers Live devoted to Jesus. I did the very first episode on did Jesus exist, on mythicism, on people who claim Jesus never existed. We ran out of time in that hour I was on with Cy Kellett. We took a lot of great calls, but we ran out of time talking about the topic. I told Cy, hey, don’t worry. I’ll cover this on my podcast. I’ll probably even do it tomorrow, on Tuesday, and I’ll talk about Jesus mythicism.

I’m still going to do that, but here’s the thing. Necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes things are necessary and they pop up, and I saw on social media that there were a lot of people who were talking about COVID, what’s new, I guess, in the past eight months, but they were talking in particular about the COVID vaccine, the vaccines being produced by Moderna and Pfizer. There were a lot of questions among Catholic Twitter being raised about, well, is this ethical? Did these come from aborted fetuses? Should Catholics reject these vaccines? What should Catholics think about vaccines that might have come from illicit research? I saw that this conversation was really growing and thought, no, I would really like to weigh in on this.

As I was doing research, Father Matthew Schneider reached out to me with some research he’s been doing, so I invited him on the show today to talk about this, because he’s authored some great blog posts on this. He’s also studying moral theology, medical ethics, so he’s really in the know on a lot of these topics, so I thought it would be good to have a conversation today about vaccines, the ethics of vaccines, and how they relate to … in fact there’s a whole slate of vaccines out there for COVID-19, but the two most prominent ones people have been talking about in the news recently are Moderna and Pfizer. We’re going to get into that.

Just a reminder, if you want to help us to keep producing all this great content, be sure to consider becoming a subscriber at trenthornpodcast.com. For as little as $5 a month, you get access to bonus content, you can comment on these episodes, submit questions for our open mail bag. We’re going to do an open mail bag episode here in a few weeks. If you join at the silver or gold tiers, you get a fancy mug, you get the priority placement of your questions for your mail bag episodes, lots of great stuff. Be sure to go and check it out at trenthornpodcast.com. Now, without further ado, here is Father Matthew Schneider. Father Matt, welcome back to the Council of Trent podcast.

Father Matthew Schneider:
Thank you, Trent. It’s great to be on.

Trent Horn:
Can you tell us a little bit more about your background and your particular studies and how you came to be interested in the topic of vaccines, and in particular these vaccines related to COVID-19?

Father Matthew Schneider:
Well, I think there’s a number of different things intersecting. One thing was just I started getting into as I was getting towards my graduate degree in theology, getting into my doctoral degree, I got into a lot of moral theology/bioethics questions. My doctorate degree, specifically on privacy. I started out more in genetic privacy, but I realized I needed to do more of the foundational stuff, just because we haven’t done as much of that in Catholic theology as I had originally assumed. With that, I started studying a lot of these things, and it seemed very interesting.

Then with coronavirus, it started getting all different things. To me it seemed like very soon from the beginning that the quickest way for us to be out of all the restrictions and things was if we get a vaccine, then most of us get vaccinated, and then the chance of transmission is so far reduced that restrictions are no longer really necessary. There was a lot of moral discussion, so I got into that. I already had a little bit of background with that, and I started looking at that. I started looking at some of the other vaccines earlier because people would be sending me stuff about them, and questions beforehand. I’m on social media, and I get a lot of questions, both publicly and also private messages and things. You probably have the same thing where when you see a question the fifth time, you’re like, okay, I guess I should really check this out.

Trent Horn:
Yeah, it’s like a barometer. When I get the same question, this happens all the time. People will say to me, that’s when I did a podcast on Pope Francis’ comments on civil unions and his appearance in the documentary Francesco, I knew it was a big story that I should talk about it, but I was getting Facebook comments, Twitter posts. Trent, what do you think? Trent, what do you think? Trent, what do you think? I don’t always comment on everything, but when it’s something that really affects many people and affects their conscience in particular, where either they want to understand what the church is teaching, or they want to make sure that they’re doing the right thing, that they’re avoiding evil and doing good, especially in the area of bioethics. My third masters degree is actually a Masters in Science in bioethics I earned at the University of Mary, so I also have an interest in vaccines, the ethics involved in that, and how we ethically fight diseases.

I’m excited to jump into that today, and we’re going to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine. What’s funny, Father Matthew, is that I remember at the very beginning of this, when it was back in March and they started the lock downs. It was 15 days to slow the spread. Some people were saying should we be locking down? Should we be doing this? They were saying, it’s not like we’re going to do this until there’s a vaccine. Now it’s been eight months. It seems like, well, we’re going to keep having to do something until there’s a vaccine, because especially with communicable diseases, it’s very hard to control them unless people are vaccinated. Let’s talk about vaccines so people understand. If we’re going to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine, we need to know what a vaccine is in general. What are vaccines and how do they work?

Father Matthew Schneider:
I think the best way to explain vaccines is to explain a little bit about the immune system. The human immune system has two parts. It has an innate immune system and then it has an adaptive immune system. The innate immune system is just everything from your skin to the mucous in your mouth that’s preventing you from getting those viruses into your body in the first place, or bacteria into your body or anything else like that. Then you have what’s called the adaptive immune system, which is kind of like a library of things to kill, like a match that’s like the FBI most wanted list, or the list in a casino of all the people who’ve done card counting that they won’t let back into the casino. A lot of vaccines, most vaccines, historically what they do is they take a virus and they either kill it or treat it with some kind of chemical that made it so it wouldn’t really reproduce much, and then they’d use that as an injection. Then your body would identify it, put it on the you can’t enter this body anymore list. Then with slight swelling maybe on your arm, maybe a little tired for a few hours, you are then immune to this disease which otherwise would have put you in bed for a week or could have killed you or something.

Trent Horn:
Right, so your body learns how to fight a weaker version of the disease so that when it identifies it, it knows to kill it when it comes back. Then if it does come back at full strength, your body doesn’t get tricked by this thing. It recognizes this criminal virus, this cheater virus, and it takes it out before it makes you sick, or at least there’s a high likelihood it will, based on the efficacy of the vaccine. I guess if I was to make an analogy for people to understand how vaccines work, the two analogies I can think of would be if you take a test for a class, it can be very hard to take the test and you might fail if it’s a difficult subject. But if you took the test one day before and you had open book, open notes, or you had the answer key with you, and you took the test and you did it open book and you had these resources so it’s easier, then when you took the real test the next day, you can ace the thing. It’s just not catching you by surprise. I think maybe that’s a similar principle. We can say that’s how vaccines work to protect us from diseases.

Father Matthew Schneider:
I think in a way. I often use a library thing. It has a list or a library. I think that analogy works too. It’s hard to understand because these things are so microscopic that even with the microscope we had in high school lab class, you can’t see them.

Trent Horn:
Oh yeah, absolutely. Now we know how vaccines traditionally work. The two that Catholics are discussing right now that are really new that have made the news, and there are something like I think 20 candidates. There’s lots of candidates for COVID-19 vaccines at various stages of development. The two that have made the news recently are the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. They have two things in common. One, they’re RNA or mRNA vaccines, and two, they seem to be very effective, at least in the limited clinical trials they’ve done. They have somewhere between 90 to 95% efficacy at providing immunity to someone who receives them. A traditional vaccine would be you receive usually a weakened or inactive version of the pathogen. You kill it, you recognize it, and then you’ve got the most wanted list. You can get the guy when he comes back.

What if you could give someone immunity without having to give them the inactive or weakened version of the pathogen? That seems to be what’s behind these RNA vaccines that are being used by Pfizer and Moderna. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Father Matthew Schneider:
Yeah. I think you explained it pretty well, Trent. Part of the reason I was going to the most wanted list or the card counters list was just thinking about how to describe these vaccines versus the other vaccines, because these ones are like if you go to the front door of the casino and say, this guy’s a card counter. It has a picture and it says card counter below it. Then he’s entered into the system to be one of those people that the casino security says, no, you can’t come in because you’re going to count cards and beat the house, so we won’t let you come in and gamble at our casino anymore.

What they do is that library or that pretest, what it is, is your body keeps in the white blood cells, not in the nucleus where the genetic material that defines us is, it will keep a little snippet of DNA or RNA which identifies the virus that it wants to kill, that it won’t allow in. The RNA vaccine, the idea is that it presents something foreign, this RNA strand, as something foreign, and the body recognizes it immediately, oh, this is something foreign, and puts it in the same place it would put in a virus as something to kill if it sees it. When it does it with the virus, what it does, it just kind of gobbles up the virus and takes a piece of that DNA strand to identify it later on. Now we’re just giving it that piece of DNA strand straight, rather than having them have to gobble up the virus first.

Trent Horn:
Right. With this RNA sequence that can be created in a lab, because we have the full genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus. Because of that, we can make the RNA sequence and use that to create the proteins that, from my understanding, it creates the proteins, the same ones that are on the outside of the COVID-19 virus. The reason we call it coronavirus, corona means crown. Remember, at the very beginning of this, people are like, I can’t drink Corona beer. No, they’re not connected. It means if you looked at it under a very powerful microscope, the virus would look like it has a crown from these proteins that allow it to latch on to a cell, then burrow into it, hijack the cell, and then make more copies. If our body can identify that protein, but the protein’s not connected to COVID-19, it’s like here’s that same protein, don’t let that protein connect to a cell, you could create it with this RNA sequence.

I guess to go back to the analogy of the bank robber, I guess maybe I’m going to do my best. As an apologist, I’m making analogies every day, so the best I could do would be something like this. With a traditional vaccine, the police might say, hey, they lead the bank robber up to the bank, but he’s in handcuffs. They’re like, if you ever see this guy come buy the bank, be sure to kick him out. Don’t let him in. The bank robber’s there, but he’s weakened, he’s handicapped so he can’t rob the bank. He’s in handcuffs. That would be like the traditional vaccine where you get a weakened version of the pathogen.

With the RNA vaccines, that would be like if the cops go to the bank and tell the bank employees, here’s the picture of the guy, here’s the guy. He’s not here. This is what he looks like. Don’t let him in. Then you don’t even have to worry about the guy in handcuffs. You’ve just got the plans. I guess to compare, it would be like with the RNA vaccines. You don’t have to get the weakened pathogen or the material. You’ve just got the protein made from the information in the RNA, and then your body will stimulate that immune response. That was my best shot at the full analogy there for you.

Father Matthew Schneider:
I think that’s pretty good, Trent. I think one of the things there is that we have two different types of vaccines being developed for COVID that are similar to that. We have one that’s the actual protein itself. It’s from the outside of the cell, without the cell. This one is just the RNA that would make that protein.

Trent Horn:
Okay, right.

Father Matthew Schneider:
How you make proteins biologically is basically a sequence of RNA defines a sequence of amino acids, and that sequence of amino acids is the protein, simplified. Both those are actually being used. The two that were just announced, their last stage of trials were done, and they’re seeking U.S. government approval, are both RNA, but there are a few others that are coming up the pipeline that actually use the protein rather than the RNA. Both theoretically can work.

Trent Horn:
Right. Okay, good. That’s a good clarification there. That’s important. I know we’ve done a little bit here to elucidate that, and I think that’s important because I’m concerned about some misinformation that may be spreading. For a long time there’s been concern about vaccines that were derived from aborted fetuses, that a cell was taken from an aborted fetus decades ago, and a cell line was created from that to then create vaccines. The reason I wanted to go through all of this, that this uses RNA, not DNA, is because some people have claimed … we’ll talk about the vaccine/aborted fetal tissue controversy here, is that some people have said, oh, Pfizer or Moderna, they use aborted fetal tissue. We’ll explain more what that means, but that’s not the case with these RNA vaccines because the whole point of them is that they’re not made from cells or from weakened pathogens. They just come from creating the RNA strands. Is that an important point to bring out when people first talk about this concern about the controversy?

Father Matthew Schneider:
I think it is, but I think there’s a lot of other vaccines that don’t use aborted fetal stem cells as well. They might use a stem cell from an adult or from a higher level animal, like a monkey or something, to grow the vaccine, even if they’re the more traditional virus vector vaccines.

Trent Horn:
Okay. That’s important. We can’t say all these vaccines come from the same source because many of them come from sources that are not ethically problematic. They are not derived from aborted fetal tissue. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would be some of them. We’ll provide resources here in the podcast. I’ll put that online if you want to look a list from the Charlotte Lozier Institute that shows the different sources and what were used to create the different vaccines. Let’s talk about this claim though, that people say, well I thought vaccines contained aborted fetal tissue. How do we break down this claim to better understand it?

Father Matthew Schneider:
I think that there’s two things to think about. One if that the fetal stem cells are derived originally from a fetus, but the ones that they’re using now are generations and generations after. The two that are currently used in vaccines were both derived in the 1960s, and the one that’s proposed in one of the coronavirus vaccines was derived in 1973. They have technical names. The two that we use are WI-38 and MRC-5, and the one that they’re proposing is called HEK-293. Very technical names, but that’s when they’re from. None of the ones today are using, are causing any new abortions or are using cells directly from that abortion. They cultured the cells that they got from those abortions, and that culture of cells exists in a number of laboratories, and is used to grow the viral vaccines, whether if they’re the fetal stem cells. I think that’s important.

I think it’s also important for us to realize the different degrees of cooperation in Catholic moral theology. We have two distinctions about cooperation. One is formal and material, and the other one is proximate or remote. Formal and material has to do with do we desire or do we will what evil the person’s doing? I’ll use an example of excessive alcohol consumption, because that’s something totally different, but it’s something where there’s obvious cooperation. If I’m making beer in a brewery, if I do that, if I’m doing it with the intention of I want men to get drunk on this, I’m formally cooperating. I want that drunkenness to happen. If I’m making it so you and your friends can have a beer or two and enjoy a Friday evening together, I realize some people might get drunk off this beer I’m making, but I’m not formally cooperating. I’m materially cooperating because I did make the beer.

Trent Horn:
You don’t intend for them get drunk.

Father Matthew Schneider:
I don’t intend that they get drunk. I intend that you have a beer with your friend on Friday night after you get home from work type thing, which is completely within a moral intention. The idea is the proximate and remote, which are also different. Even think of the same thing with alcohol. The bartender handing the guy who’s already intoxicated or almost there another beer is proximately cooperating because even if he doesn’t want this guy to get drunk, he’s close enough that it should be obvious and it should be knowledgeable that I’m getting this guy drunk, or I made him drunker, whereas the guy who’s brewing the beer or the guy who drives the Budweiser truck around town is remote cooperation because he’s just providing something that can be used in moral or immoral ways and hoping people use it in moral ways. I think that that has to do with the vaccines, because all of us obviously, in Catholic teaching, anything where it’s formal is obviously immoral, and anything that’s proximate is also immoral, especially when it’s a grave matter. Proximate does get a little iffy if it’s kind of non grave matter or something.

Trent Horn:
Right. It would have to be grave.

Father Matthew Schneider:
But I think abortion’s clearly a grave matter here. The whole thing is that with that, what we have in that is that we should still generally avoid remote material cooperation, but we don’t have to absolutely avoid it in every case. Once you start getting different degrees of remoteness, it becomes almost impossible. You end up not paying your taxes because some of your taxes go for immoral purposes.

Trent Horn:
Right, or you’re paralyzed. You can’t ever shop at a store because you don’t have time to go through every single store’s financial records to see if some of them donate to Planned Parenthood, and almost every single one donates to something evil, and you feel paralyzed. You can’t shop anywhere. The more remote the cooperation is with an evil, the easier it is to justify that remote cooperation, because there is some greater good, or you’re preventing great evil. It’s just like you’re driving the Budweiser truck around. A guy’s got to support his family and help his kids to eat, and drinking beer in and of itself is not intrinsically evil. He knows some people will get drunk, but that’s on them. He just drives the truck around.

Father Matthew Schneider:
Yeah, and I think in that sense there is that sense. With vaccines, we have, first of all, that there’s two things to think about. First of all, if there’s an option between two vaccines which are similarly effective or within the range, and one used fetal stem cells and one didn’t, we should obviously choose the one that didn’t if we know about that. We shouldn’t just choose, oh, I want the one with fetal stem cells, and it’s no real inconvenience to get the other one. On the other hand, if that’s the only option for a vaccine, then you have to look at it from the principle of double effect. What effect do you have in that evil that was done, and what effect do you have in the good? The Vatican said in 2017 that we have an obligation to seek the widespread vaccination to help everybody else out. I could pull up the exact quote here somewhere.

Trent Horn:
Yeah, go ahead and pull it up because I want to re-summarize what we covered with these principles, because they’re very important. Go ahead and pull that up, and then I’m going to summarize these principles so people get that. Number one, there are no new abortions that are taking place, so vaccines that are derived from fetal stem cells taken from aborted fetuses, some vaccines are, and we’ll show on the Charlotte Lozier list, I’ll list that there for COVID-19. You can go to the National Catholic Bioethics Center and other places to compare vaccines in that regard. The ones that are derived from fetal stem cells, there are no new abortions taking place. These are copies of cells. The evil act happened in the past, decades ago. It’s done. If we use vaccines derived from these stem cells, that involves cooperation with evil. Everyone, I want you to follow with me. This is important to get, because we live in an evil world. You might say, well, I’ll never cooperate with evil. Well, the problem is when you pay your taxes, some of that will go to evil things. Unless you live as a hermit somewhere in Alaska away from everyone else, you’re probably going to be cooperating with evil.

There’s two things. There’s first material and formal. Formal is when we intend the evil, and material is when we provide the means for the evil. You can never formally cooperate with evil. Another example I would give would be an abortion going on in an abortion clinic. If you drive somebody to an abortion clinic to get an abortion because you want them to get an abortion, you’ve formally cooperated. Even though you didn’t get the abortion, that’s formal, that’s sinful, that’s wrong. Material is if you provide the means. Now, material can be either remote or proximate, and as Father said, if it’s proximate, it can still be wrong if it involves something that’s grave. For example, if you work at the abortion clinic, even if you don’t like abortion and you say, well, I just need a job, but you’re the nurse and you hand the tools to the doctor. You say, I don’t like this, but hey, I need a job. That’s too bad. You’re providing the proximate material things for this to happen.

But let’s say you’re the bus driver. You drive the bus down the street, and there’s a bus stop in front of the abortion facility. You’re providing the means for some people who don’t have cars to get abortions, but you don’t intend it, and the material cooperation is remote, so it’s not sinful what you are doing. That’s the key here, that when it comes to vaccines that are derived from fetal stem cells taken from abortion, the guidance we have from the church, I’m sure Father’s brought up here, we have both from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, I believe it’s the Pontifical Academy for Life has said using vaccines to grant widespread immunity from communicable and dangerous pathogens would represent a remote cooperation that is so low, it’s justified by the goods that are produced by vaccination. So Father, I’ll let you take it away if you had other resources to elaborate on that.

Father Matthew Schneider:
Exactly. I was just going to quote the Vatican. I think it’s the Academy for Life or Academy for Life. I always get mixed up. In 2017, they said, and this is the quote I was looking for, I was trying to summarize but I was paraphrasing wrong. It said, “There’s a moral obligation to guarantee that vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others.” We get vaccinated not just for ourselves, but for all those around us. Most of the vaccines are okay at 90% effectiveness. There’s still a 10% chance if you get it, you’re not going to be covered, but if I also get it, if I also get vaccinated, then I’m much less likely to get it and transmit it to you if I’m in the same room. Obviously we’re doing this via telephone. I can’t transmit COVID over the telephone. That’s exactly right. It’s a material cooperation, remote material cooperation with evil. Looking at the minor relationship you have to that evil and the great good of preventing disease, the church has ruled that way.

You have also, along with the Vatican, you have the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Academy for Life, Archbishop Anthony Fisher down in Australia, who’s got a doctrine in bioethics’ word on it, Father Nicanor Austriaco, who’s a Dominican at Providence College, who has degrees in microbiology and moral theology. He teaches both at Providence College, imagine a professor teaching both those topics, and different ones like that. They’ve all been fairly clear that that’s permissible. Most also would say it’s permissible for certain Catholics to not get those vaccines as kind of an I’m going to make a-

Trent Horn:
A prophetic witness.

Father Matthew Schneider:
A prophetic witness. The church has not said you must get these vaccines in that sense. It does allow the prophetic witness on those types of vaccines for that issue, say I want nothing derived from fetal stem cells.

Trent Horn:
Okay. Let’s be clear for everyone who is listening, and what we’re saying when it comes to these vaccines. So far we’re saying that the Moderna and Pfizer ones, well, we’ll get into the nitty gritty there shortly, that some of the vaccines have nothing to do, they’re not derived from fetal stem cells from aborted fetuses. Other vaccines related to COVID and even related to other diseases … Correct me if I’m wrong, Father Matthew, I think rubella would be one of them that is derived.

Father Matthew Schneider:
Yeah. While you were talking there, I pulled up the National Catholic Bioethics Center. They have an FAQ on vaccines.

Trent Horn:
Right.

Father Matthew Schneider:
They note that there are three, rubella, varicella or chicken pox, and hepatitis A are grown on WI-38 or MRC-5 cell lines.

Trent Horn:
And I don’t believe we have alternatives to those yet.

Father Matthew Schneider:
Those are the ones that there’s no alternative. I think there might be one that there’s an alternative to, but it’s not listed on the list here.

Trent Horn:
Okay. For those vaccines, what the church teaches is that you’re not obligated to get those vaccines. The church doesn’t mandate vaccination, but it does permit it seeing that the cooperation with evil is so remote that it’s outweighed by the good of eradicating these diseases or preventing them, that can cause fatalities and injuries, and to promote people’s health. Now, some people may be rejoining to this, may say, well look, you can’t do evil so good may come, but that is not what we’re saying here. That principle is that you cannot directly intend and do an evil act in order to produce a good. If we were saying it would be wrong to go do more abortions to make vaccine., that would absolutely be 100% prohibited. But the evil act already occurred in the past. It’s done. The question is will we use the illicit fruit from that evil act? Will we use the knowledge we’ve learned, the cell lines derived from it to do good? Since the evil act is completed, this is a remote cooperation.

To provide an analogy for people, there was a dilemma in bioethics many years ago about medical breakthroughs that were discovered in the treatment of hypothermia, that these treatments for hypothermia were derived from Nazi experiments that were done on prisoners in concentration camps that were subjected to fatal cold water experiments to see how long people could last in cold water, how do you revive them. Now, there is a bit of a dispute about the efficacy of those treatments, but just to use as a thought experiment, if the Nazis said hey, we developed the best way to treat someone who’s dying of hypothermia, I think most people would say, well we’re not going to throw that knowledge away because it was brought to us through an illicit means. We would condemn the means that brought it to us, but we would still use that knowledge of how to save someone to do good today. We’re not doing evil so good may come. Would that be fair, Father?

Father Matthew Schneider:
I think so. I think another example is if you ever read any of these books, Doctor on Calvary or any along those lines, when they talk about Jesus sweating blood, the only experiments that have ever been able to do that experimentally have been the Nazis, because you basically have to create a situation that would be completely immoral, and even the most allowing ethical committee would be like, no, you can’t do this experiment because they basically had to torture their kids in front of them and get such a huge emotional pain-

Trent Horn:
To see if they would sweat blood.

Father Matthew Schneider:
Where they would sweat blood. I think that may be the only experiment, but I know it’s definitely the one where they were actually able to provoke the sweating of blood.

Trent Horn:
Oh wow.

Father Matthew Schneider:
I use that a lot of times in preaching to think about how, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had all that emotional pain taking on all of our sins.

Trent Horn:
Right. Here, let me read also, we quoted the Pontifical Academy for Life. This is from Dignitas Personae. This is a document on certain bioethical questions that was released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I believe back in 2008. It’s near the end of the document talking about remote cooperation with evil when it comes to vaccination. This is what the CDF said back in 2008. “Within this general picture, there exists differing degrees of responsibility. Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such biological material,” i.e. fetal stem cells derived from aborted fetal tissue to make vaccines.

“Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin. While keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and ask that their health care system make other types of vaccines available. Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of the those who have no voice in such a decision.” So the CDF seems very clear that there’s a different standard placed on those in the pharmaceutical industry versus Mom, Dad, parents, families that are just trying to get medicine to help their families. There’s different levels of moral responsibility that’s placed there. Could you elaborate on that?

Father Matthew Schneider:
Well, I would totally agree with that, because we’re talking about how remote the participation is. It’s a lot different if I’m looking at I want to prevent hepatitis A transmission, and the only vaccine is that one, versus I’m one of the scientists developing the hepatitis A vaccine, and I have the choice of trying to use these fetal stem cells or maybe some donated liver stem cells from an adult human or something like that, that would be totally ethically okay. If I had to do some kind of liver thing, and they’re like, hey, can we use these cells for stem cells for scientific research, I’d probably be, yeah, that’s fine. If they already had to go in there and test my liver for something else.

Trent Horn:
Right. Let me add one more point, and then I’ll let you close with any closing thoughts, Father. When it comes to the COVID vaccines, whether they’re derived from aborted fetal tissue or not, it would be good for us, then, as Catholics, to lobby pharmaceutical companies and the government to promote those vaccines that are licit in origin rather than illicit, and that would include Moderna and Pfizer. Now, it’s interesting. A lot of people emailed me when I mentioned this online. They shared an article from pop.org talking about these vaccines, and the article said several COVID-19 vaccines front runners, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, were using a human fetal kidney cell line, HEK-293, from an abortion done in 1972.

That article, however, when you go back to it, it notes a correction on this point. At the bottom, it says, “Previous versions of this article incorrectly stated the mRNA sequence in Moderna’s vaccine was produced using HEK-293 cells,” the cells from that 1972 abortion, cell line I should say. “Rather, Moderna’s vaccine was developed collaboration from NIAID.” I think that’s a Netherland institute for research. “They conducted research using HEK-293 to isolate the SARS COVID spike protein.” You know, I’m going to keep all this together, Father, to make it in my head when it comes to this cooperation. It seems to me that Moderna, their vaccine itself does not rely on any fetal stem cells whatsoever, but as part of the clinical trials to test it, there was a collaboration with NIAID that had done some work with this cell line derived from a 1972 abortion. So it’s even more remote of cooperation. Would that be correct?

Father Matthew Schneider:
Yeah. What happened with it is that one of the first things that was developed was they isolated this spike protein from the whole mRNA sequence of the current COVID-19 SARS-CoV2 virus. They studied that portion of it and found the protein. In that experiment they used HEK-293 cells. But Moderna only uses the information from that experiment. They look at that experiment that says, oh, we’ve identified this part of the RNA sequence as the outside protein, the one that we need to have to don’t let this thing in sign on. It is kind of like another step, so for us, taking it, it’s kind of doubly or triply remote in that sense. I think one of the things that if your listeners are not from the U.S., both the UK and Australia have put forward a vaccine that does have ethical issues, so it would be a big deal for any listeners there to lobby for a more ethical vaccine, such as one of these ones that uses artificially-produced RNA. They’ve gone forward with one, Oxford something or other, and they do use HEK-293 in the development, in the growth of the vaccine itself.

Trent Horn:
That’s right. I would recommend then, for our listeners, I’m going to put a link on the description for the podcast you can go and check out. If you want to search for it, there’s a list here on the Charlotte Lozier Institute’s website by David Prentice, COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates and Abortion-Derived Cell Lines. It lists probably about two dozen candidates and shows the vaccines produced in China are produced from monkey cells, not from aborted fetuses, but the AstraZeneca one is produced from the HEK-293 cell line which came from that abortion in 1972, which you could tolerate if there were no other alternative candidates, but we have a lot, including Moderna and Pfizer, which you see on here, they just were involved in information from those HEK-293 trials. They don’t use the cell lines from that abortion at all. I’ll include that on the podcast for people to be able to go and check out. It’s good.

Just everyone pray that as we pray to combat this pandemic so that we can return to normalcy, return to mass attendance. The book of Sirach, I love in the book of Sirach it says, “Give the physician credit where it is due,” or it says, “Sometimes health lies in the hands of the physician.” The book of Sirach makes it clear sometimes it’s up to doctors gifted with wisdom and intelligence from God to develop these tools to help to treat and prevent disease. Pray that they’ll be able to do that.

Father Matthew, I’m so grateful you came on. I think this will clear up a lot for people. Is there anything else you’d like to close us out on or tie anything up with?

Father Matthew Schneider:
No, I think that that’s really good. I think both of us are pretty well versed in this. It was great to have your expertise here too. If people want to follow me, it’s frmatthewlc on almost any platform on the internet. I’m biggest on Twitter, but I’m also on Facebook, Instagram, et cetera.

Trent Horn:
Be sure to check him out, and he’s got a wonderful blog at … do you still blog at Patheos?

Father Matthew Schneider:
Yeah. It’s called Through Catholic Lenses at Patheos. It’s usually just a link. If you go to the social media, it’s probably the easier way to find it.

Trent Horn:
Very good. I’ll include that link as well in the description of the episode. Thank you so much, Father, and I hope you have a very blessed day.

Father Matthew Schneider:
God bless you.

Trent Horn:
Very good. I hope you all have a very blessed day as well. Take care everybody.

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