Note: "As a medical professional in clinical practice, I find it difficult to avoid aborted fetal cell-line-derived products, especially vaccines (both childhood and adult ones). In fact, many of our food additives, processed food, chewing gum, cosmetics, perfumes, even certain coffee creamers were produced with the usage of such cell lines at least in the research or testing phase.
I am not saying that a father treating his child with Pulmozyme for cystic fibrosis should stop using the product or be guilty of sin. Nor am I saying that despite all risk-benefit ratios, usage of such tainted products constitutes sin. This is a highly complex ethical matter, and all types of usages of fetal cell-line-derived products are not equal or similar. I can avoid or choose another soda if I know that one is tainted or tested with such cell lines. But when it comes to medical treatment, things can get emotionally charged as sometimes lives are at stake.
The following is just another perspective of the issue at hand. I am fully aware that many ethicists view the usage of vaccines tested with such cell lines as remote and mediate material cooperation. I believe that whatever convictions are held by Christians - be it mediate or immediate material cooperation - we can move away from products tested with such cell lines in order to discourage the future manufacturing of similar products and to encourage more ethical and less suspicious means of production."
Both Dr Mohler and several other evangelical and Reformed pastors will likely argue that, as a recipient of the Covid-19 vaccine, the recipient’s act of being vaccinated with aborted fetal cell-lines-derived vaccines is regarded as mediate and remote material cooperation with the original intrinsically evil act of abortion. Therefore, it is morally acceptable for us to use such vaccines.
In the pastoral letter by the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore where he encouraged “all the faithful to get vaccinated for the greater good of the community,” he likewise stated that “the connection of today’s [SARS-CoV-2] vaccines to the original abortions is fairly remote.” Again, in his letter, he wrote that the recipient’s “connection with the past wrongdoing of abortion is so distant that it is morally acceptable for us to use such vaccines if no other ethically-obtained vaccines are available, and if we have sufficiently serious or grave reasons.” Here, the word "distant" should refer to the concept of "remoteness" as well.
But what is this concept of remoteness within the context of mediate material cooperation? In proximate mediate material cooperation, there is little causal distance from the immoral action, as when a pharmacy technician delivers the abortion pill, RU-486, to a patient’s room. In remote mediate material cooperation, there is significant causal distance from the immoral action, as when a janitor cleans the laboratory where he knows that in vitro fertilization takes place. Hence, with regard to proximity and remoteness in cooperation, we are more concerned with the moral concept of causal distance rather than the time of the original acts of intrinsic evil – in this case, the actual abortions.
If we only consider the original intrinsically evil act of abortion of the fetuses where the cell-lines were derived, it is difficult to see why some of us are intuitively uncomfortable with the usage of aborted fetal cell-lines-derived vaccines. We may perhaps only consider the possibility of scandal.
However, in order to produce viable fetal cell-lines, fetal cadavers, tissues, or body parts have to be obtained. Let us now consider the act of procurement of these fetal cadavers, body parts, and tissues. According to the 3 fonts of morality, this act has:
1) Evil intention – The purpose or intended goal of this act is likely to be that of financial expediency through scientific research using fetal body parts and tissues, and the production of viable and lucrative cell-lines. The agent of this act is at the very least implicitly agreeing that the act of abortion is beneficial for his own purpose – that of procuring fetal cadavers and body parts, and subsequent profits from appropriate research and development. This intention is evil because the procurement of fetal parts generates a market for abortionists to sell the cadavers of aborted babies, and finances the abortionists. It provides an attractive incentive for abortionists to perpetuate abortion as the medical procedure itself is not only profitable from the perspective of a medical service provider, but also highly lucrative from the perspective of a fetal body-parts supplier.
2) Evil moral object - Formal cooperation occurs when the
act of the cooperator has the moral object of assisting the principal agent in
attaining the moral object of his intrinsically evil act. By providing a
profitable market for the sale of fetal cadavers for abortionists, and the
further motivation for abortionists to deliver their abortion services and to
subsequently sell fetal body tissues to the relevant buyers, the procurer of
fetal tissue is either in:
I. Explicit or at least implicit formal cooperation with the intrinsically evil act of abortion or,
II. Immediate material cooperation because either
a. the moral object of the act of procurement assists the principal agent in achieving the moral object of his act of abortion or,
b. the consequences (hence, circumstance) of the act of procurement assists the principal agent in achieving the consequences of his evil act.
Immediate material cooperation is an intrinsically evil act and many theologians would agree that it is morally equivalent to implicit formal cooperation. Either way, the procurement of fetal cadavers and tissues is an intrinsically evil act.
3) Evil circumstance - The act of procurement provides the motivation and the market for the sales of fetal products derived from abortions. In other words, this act of procurement fails on all three fonts of morality.
It is notable that even the Catholic Archbishop of Singapore acknowledges that “the original production of these cell-lines involved a grave moral wrongdoing.” As explained above, the act of procurement of these fetal cadavers, body parts and tissues is an intrinsically evil act.
If we support this act of fetal tissue procurement by indiscreetly using vaccines developed from fetal cell-lines thereby providing the market for and supporting the purpose or consequence of the original intrinsically evil act of fetal tissue procurement, we are not merely culpable of mediate material cooperation - which can always be argued as being remote and having proportionately serious reasons for the cooperation while avoiding the danger of scandal.
With full informed consent and knowledge, we will be at least guilty of immediate material cooperation because the available market for such products is essential for the original intrinsically evil act of procurement of fetal parts to take place. Without this financial incentive and market for sales of developed products, there is no longer intent for the original procurement act. Neither does this lack of market and buyers supports the consequences (or circumstance) of the original intrinsically evil act of the procuring agent.
I believe both my Protestant and Catholic friends will agree with me that our immediate material cooperation with the intrinsically evil act of procurement of fetal parts would be morally abhorrent and blameworthy. At the very least, "the consequence of the use of fetal tissue from elective abortions is desensitization of beneficiaries to the original illicit act of abortion thereby obscuring the value of all human life and potentially leading to scandal." (1)
I hereby appeal to fellow Christian ethicists to reconsider their endorsement of vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell-lines.
1. Kyle Christopher Mckenna, "Use of Aborted Fetal Tissue in Vaccines and Medical Research Obscures the Value of All Human Life," The Linacre Quarterly 85, No 1 (2018): 13-17.