The Catholic Church and science must share one common principle, and that is truth. However, since March 2020, there has been a complete lack of scientific truth offered by our public health authorities regarding COVID-19. This, in turn, has impacted the indispensable function of the Church to administer the sacraments and allow Catholics their right to worship. But in light of scientific truth, Catholic churches needn't make second-class citizens of some of their faithful with overly paternalistic policies.
Several Catholic dioceses have policies denying parishioners full freedom of religious expression (i.e., the ability to attend church, sing in the choir or administer Holy Communion) unless they wear a mask or take an experimental vaccine. These policies are purportedly based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet the CDC is not an infallible public health organization. In fact, the CDC has repeatedly been wrong, contradictory, indecisive and frequently has had to retract its position on many issues of COVID that include diagnosis, masks, social distancing, lockdowns, herd immunity, infectious susceptibility and vaccines.
Whether intentional or not, edicts segregating the faithful are perceived as punishment to those who for personal or for medical reasons have chosen not to wear masks and/or take an experimental injection. Moreover, these policies have proven arbitrary because there has been no consistency among dioceses in how policies (such as optional masks) have been applied.
Operation Warp Speed supported eight experimental shots delivered in a rush by pharmaceutical companies under the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) emergency use authorization (EUA). All eight government-supported shots use a subunit vaccine approach — a non-traditional approach for respiratory viral infections in which a fragment of the virus (in this case the spike protein) is administered to elicit a neutralizing antibody to prevent infection. Among the eight shots, six are deploying an unprecedented gene therapy that includes the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson versions.
However, what the public is unaware of, and what is not communicated by our public health authorities, is that these same subunit vaccine approaches were deployed unsuccessfully after the 2002 SARS and 2012 MERS outbreaks and failed to achieve FDA approval. Moreover, mRNA technology — which is the basis for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and adenovirus gene therapy, which is the basis for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — has been largely unsuccessful in the past for treating other diseases. Clinical trials have been terminated either from lack of efficacy and/or safety concerns. Further, the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines use aborted fetal cells in either the design, manufacturing or testing stages of development.
According to Moderna’s reported data, its mRNA vaccine elicits humoral (body-fluid-based) immunity by producing neutralizing antibodies after the vaccine series is completed. However, these neutralizing antibodies decline by 50% after three months for patients between the ages of 55–70 and decline by 75% for those over the age of 70. And while T-cell immunity provides more long-lasting immunity, this type of protection has been documented only in healthy non-elderly individuals. People affected by long-term smoking, obesity, diabetes, and advanced age have reported impaired T-cell immunity or impairment in achieving T-cell immunity in response to vaccines. Thus, parishioners who possess any of these risk factors may never have achieved either type of immunity or will lose it after three months. Church policies recognizing them as "safe" to other Massgoers are inherently flawed.
The primary interest of COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials was a reduction in symptoms; they were not even evaluated for viral transmission. In fact, reports showed that viral particles were still present in respiratory secretions in animal studies to the mRNA vaccine and adenoviral vaccines. Taken together, the personal decision to take a COVID injection provides neither assurance to many parishioners who attend Mass that they are protected, nor will it prevent the transmission of the virus. As of early May, there are nearly 10,000 cases of reported breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals, and the possibility exists that there will be new breakthrough cases in the months ahead.
In contrast, those who recovered from a COVID-19 infection have greater natural immunity, in part, through respiratory mucosal immunity, which is not available from these EUA-approved shots. What's more, recovered individuals have developed redundant antibody and T-cell immunity to multiple viral antigens in contrast to the single antigen approach of current vaccines. So recovered individuals offer greater assurance of immune protection and viral transmission.
So while there is no diocesan guideline covering individuals who previously recovered from COVID-19, serious risk remains for the faithful urged to take a COVID shot. Because the shots can cause adverse reactions, life-impairing autoimmune injury or death, the faithful are not only being unfairly treated; their livelihoods and lives are being jeopardized in exchange for little to no benefit.
Notwithstanding the ethical and moral controversies regarding the shots' use of aborted fetal cells, there are numerous safety concerns. According to the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Monitoring System (VAERS), which is a passive reporting system that is said to report only a tiny percentage of the true incidence of adverse events, there have been over 15,472 deaths and 1.5 million injuries from the shots in Europe. In the United States, the shots have led to more than 6,113 deaths, 5,172 permanent disabilities, 6,435 life-threatening events and 51,558 ER visits.
In fact, the number of deaths associated with the COVID-19 shots exceeds the total number of deaths associated with all the FDA-approved vaccines administered over the past 30 years. By way of contrast, the RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, vaccine from the 1960s and swine flu vaccine from 1976 were withdrawn by the FDA after far fewer deaths. The death rate associated with COVID-19 gene therapies, according to VAERS, is 87 times greater than that reported for influenza vaccines. Additionally, there are serious side effects like heart attack, stroke, brain bleeding and blood clots, heart inflammation, liver failure and encephalitis. The risk of an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 shot alone is 10 times greater than the influenza vaccine. Thus, to punish parishioners who refuse an experimental vaccine posing significant health risk, disability and death represents an unjustified implicit coercion.
Many diocesan policies based on a lack of science assert that cloth masks are an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Yet there are no peer-reviewed articles that support the notion that cloth masks prevent viral transmission. A prior randomized controlled trial showed that cloth masks did not protect health care personnel working in medical wards with high concentration of respiratory viral infections. Thus, if a cloth mask will not protect health care personnel, it will not protect a person in a pew next to an infectious person.
According to a CDC statement, “The public should be educated about mask use because cloth masks may give users a false sense of protection because of their limited protection against acquiring infection.” A recent Dutch randomized controlled trial found that the risk of new COVID-19 cases was not statistically different between surgical mask wearers and non-mask wearers.
The COVID-19 virus ranges in size between 20–500nm, while cloth masks and surgical masks have pore sizes that are much larger. Thus, these masks are insufficient in protecting against viral transmission; only N95 masks may offer some benefit. The CDC does not wish the public to hoard the N95 masks meant for health care workers, so it has wrongly hyped the value of cloth and surgical masks.
What's more, some church policies make no accommodations for people with disabilities (e.g., heart disease), which may be visual to others or not, making mask-wearing a hardship. Whether their decisions are for medical or personal reasons, these individuals have no option but to remain at home. In this scenario, a person with a non-transmissible illness — heart disease — is pushed out of Mass while people who mistakenly think they are safe and pose no risk (whether by wearing masks or taking a short-lived shot) are welcomed into the pews.
Also to consider, according to current reports, the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in the United States is 17,000. Out of a population of 328 million, the probability that an individual will come in contact with an infectious individual is 0.07%. New cases of COVID-19 are unlikely transmitted by asymptomatic carriers because the viral loads are low.
Rather than dividing parishioners into mask wearers and non-mask wearers based on their vaccine status, a more prudent policy based on the science would be to encourage good hygiene and instruct parishioners to stay home if they are experiencing persistent respiratory or flu-like symptoms. Requiring unvaccinated parishioners to wear masks is subjecting them to a futile, uncomfortable and humiliating situation.
Catholic dioceses should be aware of the legal risks of implementing a policy that coerces parishioners (whether explicitly or implicitly) to accept an experimental vaccine that does not offer uniform benefit and risks to everyone. According to 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(e)(1)(A)(ii)(III) of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act regarding EUA treatments, the law clearly states that individuals must be informed “of the option to accept or refuse administration of the product, of the consequences, if any, of refusing administration of the product, and of the alternatives to the product that are available and of their benefits and risks.”
Also, the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) states that individuals are not required to disclose their medical information. This is being violated when a requirement to wear a mask during Mass identifies those who are visibly and publicly disclosing their vaccine status. While some institutions are exempt from following HIPAA regulations, places of worship are not.
Also, the National Research Act of 1974 provides protection for human subjects from harm, undue injustice and coercion by requiring complete informed consent with experimental treatments. As a practicing physician, I have found that all my patients who received vaccines outside of my participation did not receive adequate informed consent of these experimental shots. Churches are morally culpable if they push parishioners into this unjust position, which, sadly, is the norm.
Lastly, the department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stated that institutions that mandate vaccines are subject to required reporting of adverse events and are subject to liability. Keep in mind that the pharmaceutical industry is indemnified from vaccine injuries, and historically, getting government compensation for vaccine injury has been challenging. The limit of federal compensation and absence of liability for drug companies places churches at risk for costly liability if vaccine mandates are imposed.
The 2005 Pontifical Council of Life statement on vaccines represents the Vatican’s position on injections that have been morally tainted with aborted fetal cells. Accordingly, there are four requirements that must be satisfied for a Catholic to take such a shot:
Taken together, I recommend a more scientifically grounded and straightforward policy for Catholic dioceses to mitigate infection transmission. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith (CCC 1324) and as such, every effort should be made to allow people to fully participate in Mass.
My recommended policies are concise and straightforward: