Allow me to take your challenge up: “If you disagree, great, let’s hear your arguments – but I mean arguments, not ad hominem attacks or other rantings. For another thing we need, now more than ever is calm, dispassionate thinking and charitable debate. “
Unfortunately, exceptionally, this time, as Catholic Apostolic and Roman, I cannot follow your reasoning elaborated in your article titled “The Catholic middle ground on Covid-19 vaccination“, not because it is wrong per se, but, essentially, because I do not agree with some of your premises.
In the following comments, I will, therefore, only focus on your explicit and implicit premises and not on your consequent reasonings which are perfectly coherent with them.
[Your premise N° 1] “The Church herself has officially endorsed this reasoning in at least three documents. She did so in a 2005 document prepared during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, and in a 2008 document issued during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. The third and most recent document simply applies to the Covid-19 vaccines the principles already applied in the earlier documents to other vaccines remotely connected to past abortions. As far as I know, most of the people expressing skepticism about the most recent document raised no objections to the earlier ones at the time they appeared, even though the principles are the same.”
This is sheerly false: there is, indeed, a very clear solution of continuity between the Magisterium until 2008 and the one that appeared in 2019 and 2020, which explains your two final observations:
(a) that no Roman Catholic has ever expressed any objection against the previous teachings before the ones published under the Holy Father Francis,
(b) why these new teaching cannot be considered part of the Authentic Magisterium of the Church as in logical contradiction with what has always been taught previously.
The 2020’s document of the CDF (“Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines“) states in its first article the following: “As the Instruction, Dignitas Personae states, in cases where cells from aborted fetuses are employed to create cell lines for use in scientific research, “there exist differing degrees of responsibility” of cooperation in evil. For example, “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 those who have no voice in such a decision”.
But “forgets” to mention the following magisterial teaching included in the same Dignitas Personae and preceding these two sentences out of their context (Instruction Dignitas Personae (8th December 2008), n. 35; AAS (100), 884.):
(i)“The moral requirements must be safeguarded that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and that the risk of scandal is avoided”.
(ii)“In this regard, the criterion of independence as it has been formulated by some ethics committees is not sufficient.”
(iii)“It is necessary to distance oneself from the evil aspects of that system in order not to give the impression of a certain toleration or tacit acceptance of actions which are gravely unjust. Any appearance of acceptance would, in fact, contribute to the growing indifference to, if not the approval of, such actions in certain medical and political circles.”
(iv)“Therefore, it needs to be stated that there is a duty to refuse to use such “biological material” even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centers in which the artificial fertilization took place.”
We see that the meaning of the 2020’s citations is totally changed when put in their context and cannot lead to consider its second article as being universally valid: “Art2. In this sense, when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”:
This is a major caesura with what taught by the Authentic Magisterium: “Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such “biological material”. 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…” These “grave” reasons must be expressed clearly which is not done in the last CDF documents, which is a further voluntary omission which further tries to twist the Authentic Magisterium.
In the same vein, when art. 3 states that ” The fundamental reason for considering the use of these vaccines morally licit is that the kind of cooperation in evil (passive material cooperation) in the procured abortion from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote. “, there is an obvious frontal collision with the point (iv) here above.
The Authentic Teaching of the Holy Church cannot be self-contradictory: if a “new” teaching enters in collision with the past ones under the same aspect of the considered object, this means simply that the new teaching is false and cannot be considered as Authentic Magisterium. The only other remaining logical possibility is that the Church’s teachings in matters related to ethics and morality are fallible and that the Church could be wrong or could lead us to error, which is a heretic statement.
Hence, all this invalidates your premise 1.
[Your premise N° 2] “For example, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were tested using cells that are very distantly descended from cells that were taken decades ago from a fetus that appears to have been aborted. But that does not make the vaccines themselves, and the taking of them, evil. “
This assumption is false as it has been recalled in the Authentic Magisterium, the one cited in the (iv) here above: “…there is a duty to refuse to use such “biological material” even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion…”
And this is even recalled in this last infamous document of the CDF in their art 4: “In fact, the licit use of such vaccines do not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses….”
So, the fact that these vaccines invented and /or tested and/or produced with material issued from abortion are “evil” is confirmed even in this document, and, as an end does not justify the means, their usage stays evil.
The only ethical dilemma left, in this case, is not to know what is better, but what is a lesser evil: but this will always be evil.
[Your implicit premise n°2bis] “using cells that are very distantly descended from cells that were taken decades ago from a fetus that appears to have been aborted….” Would make the vaccines not evil. The premise of yours, that you probably deduct from the Art.3:” The fundamental reason for considering the use of these vaccines morally licit is that the kind of cooperation in evil (passive material cooperation) in the procured abortion from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote”
This is wrong also from a philosophical causality point of view: indeed, time proximity/remoteness of an instrumental cause has nothing to do with the formal and/or material causality proximity/remoteness. E.g., as you well know, the cause of your existence today, even though remote from a time perspective as this happened decades ago and, maybe, already not anymore alive, is actually very much proximate from a causality perspective.
The question is, hence, to understand if these currently sold vaccines could have existed without their development and/or test and/or production without abortions products: the answer being obviously no, we cannot consider these abortions as “remote” causes for their existence.
[Your premise N°3] Citing countless “authorities” in defense of your thesis should be seen as proof of reasoning’s solidity: but this is a fallacy. Unfortunately, popularly admitted points of view, even sustained by competent people, do not make any specific statement becoming true: you should know that, as we are living in this era of constructivism, fanciful gender theories, transhumanism, and other “woke-isms”.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that all the people, and documents, which you cite do only analyze one aspect of causality: which is the instrumental one and the participation to the evil only from this time-depending perspective. While wisdom would suggest analyzing the problem also from a first and final causality perspective. This is something that people who think about the issues involved in business ethics consideration have more the habit to do and will not swallow a camel while filtering mosquitos: the participation to the success of a business model based on evil doings, in this case, abortion, is never remote. Hence, in this context, the categories of material passive and remote cooperation do not apply, as participation to the causa prima/final is always formal.
[Your premise N°4] Your implicit understanding of the Common Good seems, oddly and surprisingly coming from you, restricted to a Utilitarian approach.
I would like to stress again something that you know as well if not better than me: that there is a huge difference between the concept of Greater Good and the one of Common Good.
A Greater Good is a typical utilitarian conception of societies’ morality which just looks after a numerical advantage of people who benefit from it, but which is in total contrast with the notion of Common Good, which is understood as good to which everybody does participate and from which everybody does benefit without any exclusion.
As Catholics we pursue the Common Good, we avoid considering a specific single human being as expendable for the benefit of a majority: any act which would sacrifice as collateral damage a single human or, even worse, as a sacrificial lamb for the best sake of the rest of the society, is pursuing a Greater Good but not a Common Good.
Reconsidering all your analysis from this perspective you should come to the following conclusions: it is not possible to accept experimental vaccines not tested enough simply because the benefits would exceed the negative outcomes impacting innocents, this would be utilitarian but not catholic; it is not possible to call for a universal draft in case of a war which is not aimed to defend the nations’ existence or values, the opposite would also be utilitarian, hence, inhuman thinking; firing Vatican’s employees and Swiss Guards because they did not want to be jabbed, condemns people to practical starvation especially in Italy where the unemployment is large and endemic, doing that is utilitarian and not catholic.
We have seen the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and their theologian and moralists lose completely common sense and perspective coming to the point to advise and, in some cases, even to oblige the pew to participate with the evil of a business system which pushes for abortion as an economic paradigm, missing a historic opportunity to durably influence the pharma industry to get rid of these intrinsically unethical practices.