EWTN Catholic Q&A
Immunization Follow-up Question
Question from allison on 08-05-2002:

I went to the Children of God for Life website and was devastated by the information contained there. I read virtually every page, and I have a moral question I am having a problem with.

I printed the list of alternative vaccines and feel very comfortable going to my kids pediatricians and insisting that these alternative vaccines be used. I read the Catholic exemption, and understand that I can refused medical treatment on religious grounds for the vaccines that are NOT available yet that do not use aborted babies in their creation.

Hepatitis is one of the diseases that does not have an alternative vaccine. As a practicing and faithful Catholic, should I refuse this vaccine for my children? I completely support the use of immunizations for children because I believe they do far more good than harm, but now that I have this information, I'm torn.

From my reading of the Catholic exemption, it is morally acceptable to use the vaccine when there is no alternative. Am I reading this right? Still, it's almost as if we're saying, "OK, when it's convenient (because the vaccine is available), use the alternative, but when it's not convenience (not available), don't worry about it, why suffer?"

I hope I'm explaining myself and my dilemma properly. Thank you for the information ... and God bless your work.

Answer by Judie Brown on 08-06-2002:

Dear Allison

I checked with Children of God for Life to make sure that you received a proper response to your question. Here it is:

"The Magisterium of the Church has never ruled one way or another on whether it is morally acceptable to use vaccines derived from aborted fetal tissue. What the Church has done is instruct Catholics to follow her teaching on Moral Conscience. There is a duty to protect both body and soul but how one determines which duty is more compelling can only be answered in prayer and a deep examination of one's conscience. If your heart tells you something is wrong, it most likely is. To re-quote from the Catechism:

1776 Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment ... For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God ... His conscience is man's most secret core and sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.

1777 Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking. (end of Catechism quotes)

One must examine the benefits of vaccination vs. the risks of vaccination and whether the use of "tainted" vaccines will contribute to the Culture of Death. As society accepts these products will it encourage further fetal tissue research? Will it actually encourage future abortions? We know that the present vaccines have contributed to more and more products using aborted fetal tissue in production as evidenced by the new smallpox, HIV and Ebola vaccines under development. Not only do these use exisitng fetal cell lines but now a new aborted fetal cell line is being used in the HIV and Ebola vaccines - evidencing the need for new fetal tissue, more abortions. Certainly there is a duty as Christians to protect both our children and society from harm, but as Dr. Edward Furton, National Catholic Bioethics Center, states, "The development of widespread public opposition to tainted vaccines might lead to an eradication of the present dilemma for future generations." Is this not a Catholic responsibility too? When one asks is this duty more compelling than the duty to follow own's conscience if we discover in our hearts it is morally wrong? Father Anthony Zimmerman sums it up this way: "One duty must be weighed against another duty, and often one is free to choose even the lesser good. The duty to vaccinate is questionable and slight at best, because the vaccine is tainted, because the danger of infection is remote, because the danger of being harmed by the vaccine is not absent, the pain and inconvenience are deterrents. No clear duty to vaccinate is present."

We are grateful to Debi Vinnedge, Children of God for Life, for this response.

Judie Brown