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Catholics and the vaccine debate

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This week Simcha Fisher steps into the Catholics-and-Vaccines Debate with her article at the Catholic Weekly. 

I've blogged about this before.  I'm old enough to have actually had the childhood diseases that are immunized against now. 

I wrote about how the presence of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines can present a dilemma to Catholics. 

And I wrote about what pro-vaccination proponents need to do when presenting a compelling argument to parents who have serious concerns about immunizations and vaccine safety. 


In her article, Fisher discusses her conversion from anti-vax to pro-vax. and not just for her and her family but her opinion that it is the Christian Duty of everyone who can be immunized to get immunized! Emphasis mine. 

Now I really have “done my homework,” which is the true work of all mankind. I’ve looked hard at the lives of other people, and can see very clearly that if I can help protect their health, I must. Like the Church, I’m thinking globally. My own convenience isn’t more important than other people’s health and lives. This is basic Christian behavior. If I’m healthy enough to get vaccinations, it’s my Christian duty to do so.



Here's where I think Fisher goes off the rails. It is NOT convenient to question, delay or refuse vaccinations for  your children. 
  • It makes you an object of suspicion whenever you go into the healthcare setting
  • Doctor's offices refuse to keep unvaccinated children in their practice.
  • You have to do extra paperwork and jump through more hoops to enroll your child in school, pre-school, camp or other activities. 
In my experience, most people who delay, question or refuse have questions and concerns such as: 

Anyone who has spent any time watching the We are Vaxxed page on Facebook can see that there are no easy answers to these questions!

Filmmakers are also asking some important questions. 

Further, it's misleading to suggest that Catholic Parents MUST vaccinate their children because of some mandate from the Vatican.  That's nonsense. 

In 2005 the Pontifical Academy for Life wrote:
  • there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;
  • as regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one's own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole - especially for pregnant women;
  • the lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an extrema ratio due to the necessity to provide for the good of one's children and of the people who come in contact with the children (pregnant women);
  • such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible.

Parents must not violate their own well-formed consciences.  There is nothing on this issue that says that they must vaccinate or that to not vaccinate is sinful. 

CCC 1176 “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he must obey…. 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.”

CCC 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...When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.”

CCC 1778 “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform. Conscience is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.”



It's fine if Mrs. Fisher wants to vaccinate her kids. It's great that she wants to protect the world at large from communicable diseases by vaccinating her own kids. But it is not sound or correct to suggest that parents who disagree with this stance are somehow less Catholic if they do not do the same. 

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