I love to totally stump [those who say the Church is against Science] by asking them to present me with the name of one - just one - scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists - like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa - and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.
Long quote. But one of my favorites. I've digressed. Sorry.
Because I love science, I was curious as to how the new Covid shots would work. And I had time to do so, after all, since Covid had cancelled everything.
And the long-and-short of it was that the delivery system of the new Covid shot was not in the way I had expected. Instead of using some kind of material from the Covid virus (as the measles vaccine uses material from the virus that causes measles, to take one example from many), the Covid shot uses a person's mRNA. Now, I'm not initially against that.
But even as recently as October 2019-- one year before Pfizer's Covid announcement-- the respected scientific journal, "Nature," described the technology as "emerging," and that, as of 2018, only one such therapy had been granted larger approval. The article ends with a good timeline that leads to some excitement about the possibilities ahead. And it ends on a note that lauds the accomplishments made in the past two decades-- but the note is one that alerts me to the importance of getting mRNA therapies right: "The biggest barrier to RNA therapy has long been delivering RNA to the correct place in the correct cell."
Because, you know, what if it goes to the wrong place in the wrong cell?
That is what clinical trials are for. And the clinical trials for the Covid shots have been proving successful thus far.
But, here's the thing: we have little information on possible long-term side effects. We have info on the short-term side-effects. But the technology is so new and, specifically, the Covid shot came out in "warp speed," that I have to pause and ask: did we get it right? and what happens if we didn't? and since, by the very fact that we have not had time pass to know what, if any, long-term side-effects may be, are we not taking... a risk?
I mean, I'm not thinking we're heading to an I Am Legend scenario (a dated movie reference?), but I do have to recognize that there is some unknown risk if only because the pharmaceutical companies are asking me to recognize risk when, before getting the shot, I am asked to sign a form giving my consent and acknowledging that I am participating in an ongoing scientific experiment and waiving any claim to hold them responsible for any "undesired outcomes."
So, here's the deal: we need to weigh risk.
If you are 65 years and older, you need to weigh the risk of becoming sick with the virus vs. the risk of taking the shot with its yet-unknown long-term side effects.
What does that weighing look like?
If are 65 years old and over and you come down with the virus, there is a good risk of you developing some pretty bad symptoms that may become long-lasting (e.g. lung damage) and which could result in death. That's real stuff. I've had a couple of funerals because of that.
Weigh that with any possible long-term and yet-unknown side-effects from the shot.
You may judge, therefore, that the risk of coming down with the virus is higher than the risk of getting the shot and its long-term side-effects. At which point, you could rightly sign that waiver form and be fine. Great. You can (and maybe even should) get the shot.
But for a late 30-year-old, the risks of the virus doing long-term damage or proving fatal are incredibly small. Some may say the long-term risks of the shot are equally small-- but they don't know.
And if they are wrong and there are long-term side-effects, then that 30-year-old may have to live with those long-term side-effects for another 30, 40 years. That seems like a pretty big risk to prevent against what is a, for a healthy 30-year-old, small-risk virus. Could that 30-something be wrong? Sure. But what if he is right? I know of a least a couple of parents who quickly gave their teens the HPV shot first came out and long-term side-effects weren't well known. Those teens came down with long-term side-effects that they will be living with forever. That personal knowledge gives me pause.
So, from a scientific side of things and the weighing of risk, I as a healthy 30-something want to see more of the long-term effects before I consent.
2. Because Religion
I firmly believe the words of Jesus when He says, "Do not fear the one who can kill the body, but the one who can send the soul into the fires of hell" (Mark 10:28). So, even if there is a great good to benefit the health of the body, I must ask: "But is it good for my soul?"
There has been some talk about whether the Covid shots were developed by killing babies in the past year. The quick answer is: No, babies were not killed last year to roll out the Pfizer and Moderna Covid shots.
The long answer, however, is that in the 1970s, there were a few women who had "elective abortions"-- that is, they did not have a miscarriage, but they did actively chose to kill their babies-- and the babies' kidney cells were used to develop a cell line that would act as a kind of scientific control for research and testing. No fake news there-- Nebraska Medicine and others say as such.
Were the Pfizer and/or Moderna Covid shots developed from this cell line (known as HEK 293)? No. The AztraZeneca one, unfortunately, was.
Where Pfizer and Moderna muddied the waters is that they did use that line of cells from the aborted baby not in the developmental phase, but in the testing phase. Disappointing. That didn't have to be done. But they did.
As an aside, I find it unfortunate that, in an effort to avoid fear (and really, in a move that betrays the thought that the lay faithful are not very smart), I have seen some priests shy away from using such direct language as "cell lines from aborted babies" and instead use euphemistic language like "testing material gained from a deceased fetus." We can do better, priest brothers and bishops!
That said, can a serious Catholic take the Covid shot that was tested on cells that came from an aborted baby in the 1970s?
At face value, it would seem that, for those who believe the most-basic moral maxim that you "cannot do an evil so that good may result," then no. But Pope Francis has said-- and other bishops have said-- that you can. Are they just dismissing Catholic teaching? Or, is something else going on?
The clearest and most-efficient way I can put it is like this. You pay your taxes. Some of your taxes are funneled to support abortions at Planned Parenthood (and now, sadly, throughout the world because of President Biden's recent Executive Order, a.k.a, the Mexico City Policy). So, you pay your taxes and some of that money leads to the death of children and the destruction of women's (and men's) lives.
Are you guilty of that death and destruction? Well, provided that you aren't desiring the death of babies, then no, you are not guilty as an individual. When you go before Jesus at your judgment, Jesus isn't going to say, "You're going to hell because you paid your taxes." You gave to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, after all-- and you probably did so under protest.
This is what is theologically called "Remote Material Cooperation in Evil."
You did not desire to do the evil (killing babies), but you did give material (your taxes), but there were many other steps and many other people involved and in-between your giving of taxes and their killing of children (thus, you are remote and not near). Therefore, your culpability (that is, being guilty) is minimal and, if it was under protest or force, your culpability is not at all.
I like to think of this by using the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Let's say you give money to someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Kevin Bacon. And let's say you give that money knowing that someone, way down the line, may use that money for killing Kevin Bacon (even though you like Kevin Bacon). Are you guilty of killing Kevin Bacon? No. You are so far removed-- six degrees removed-- from it that you are no longer responsible for it.
But you would be responsible if you gave money to someone who then immediately turned and used that money to kill Kevin Bacon, because you would be proximate, near, a degree removed from the evil. And in such a case, you would be responsible. A clearer example: the Post Office delivery man who sorts mail heading to Planned Parenthood is in a much different place than the Planned Parenthood attendant who is in the room handing the so-called doctor (butcher) a knife. The mailman is far from the evil, whereas the attendant with the knife is quite close. And thus the varying degree of their responsibility for the evil done there. The Post Man is not at all responsible, whereas the attendant with the knife is. The attendant is what is called "proximate."
What I'm getting at is this: remote cooperation is allowed, whereas proximate cooperation is not.
Proximate cooperation in evil must always be avoided.
Remote cooperation, if it can can be avoided, should be. But sometimes it can't be avoided (like with taxes).
What does this all mean?
Since we are dealing with a Covid shot that was tested on cell lines that were developed from a baby that was killed in the 1970s, we are dealing with a remote situation.
Practically speaking, therefore, a person can take the shot even though they know it is remote cooperation in evil. (So Pope Francis is correct).
But, the question de jour is: should they?
That depends on whether it can be avoided.
In the case of those 65 or so and older, taking the shot may be unavoidable. Like paying taxes (you are kinda forced to pay taxes). Or if the person is in a nursing home or in another area of high risk. For the sake of the high-risk community, the remote cooperation can be done.
But in the case of the 30-something, it would seem like it could be avoided. (After all, one doesn't have to cooperate in remote evil if they can help it.)
Which brings me to the "Yet" of my article's title.