Leaving Mass, I encountered a friend I hadn’t seen in months and we of course caught up on the successes of our children. His zinger was the shock encountered when his son’s fiancé shunned him as a vaccinated Catholic. She cited ties to aborted baby cells, and all vaccinated Catholics had essentially taken the Mark-of-the-Beast. She was resolute, and my friend now finds himself unwelcome at his son’s family functions.

Catholics struggle with the vaccination issue. I also have Catholic friends who refuse to vax. Reasons begin with personal freedom, even invoking the ironic phrase, “my body, my choice”, but their center remains the abortion taint. On the other side of the Catholic fence, some have lost patience with these recalcitrant moralists and believe that no religious exemption can apply to them – the complete Catholic leadership has come out hard for the vaccine.

I hosted Bishop Timothy Freyer on the OC Catholic Radio program when he acknowledged significant moral failure in the testing process. The Pfizer and Moderna varieties did use aborted embryo cells in the final testing of the finished product. However, while he condemned the decisions of the companies’ directors, no aborted cells were used in the development of the vaccines themselves. However, the J & J vaccine was developed using these tainted lines and is more problematic than Pfizer or Moderna.

Bishop Freyer reasoned that the companies had certainly failed morally, but their failure occurred after the vaccine was finished, and the tainted testing does not transfer backward to the development process. He stated that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that the moral failure was therefore too remote for vaccine recipients to incur moral taint. The situation deserves prayer and penance for those who conducted these horrible tests, but no sin incurred to receive the vaccine.

Bishop Vann has taken this same moral position, as have all Diocesan Bishops of California, and Pope Francis. The Church authorities agree the vaccines are morally permissible, and that carries great weight. However, that does not entirely settle the religious exemption issue. Abortion is a consuming issue for many, and the companies reap tremendous profit from worldwide vaccine distribution, which raises the morality of rewarding such companies.

The bishops acknowledge that if other effective options were available without any taint, then that option would be preferred. However, since the issues are literally life and death, denying profits to the offending companies is less important than saving lives. Not rewarding the vaccine companies (by not taking their product) does create a second horrible consequence: people will likely die.
So, does that settle the issue? Not entirely. New treatments such as monoclonal antibodies show promise. Certain disputed preventive measures may be more effective than originally reported. The vaccine effectivity declines over time. And anyone who survived the virus is apparently also well protected. All that must be weighed against the very real, rapid and deadly onset of the disease if contracted. So far, the Bishops side with the vaccine.

I am fully vaccinated, and I believe that the Bishops’ moral arguments are sound, though I am no moral theologian; yet, I am entitled to my opinion, and that is a core value to our faith. Our leaders have declared the vaccines morally permissible, yet informed Catholics of well-formed consciences are morally obligated NOT to violate their consciences, even if all other Catholic moral theologians disagree, even the Pope.

So where does this leave conscientious objections to vaccine mandates? A Catholic may refuse the vaccine on religious grounds IF they have fully formed consciences, and have thoroughly reflected on the issues. The rest of us “vaxers” have NOT taken the Mark-of-the-Beast. Those who conscientiously object, should be respected. However, the moral decision to take the vaccine is founded on good Catholic principles and saves lives.