Author John Zmirak takes a satirical look at the recent moral interpretation of the U.S. bishops concerning abortion-tainted vaccines.
In a bold act of moral courage, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a statement March 2 encouraging Catholics to avoid eating human flesh, if supermarkets and restaurants offer alternatives.
In Thursday's statement, Bp. Kevin Rhoades, chairman of the conference's Committee on Doctrine, and Abp. Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the conference's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, recommended Catholics eat at Chick-Fil-A, Wendy's or Chipotle over fast-food restaurants that admit they serve human flesh obtained from Planned Parenthood.
"The approval of 'Li'l Snackers Mystery Veal' for sale in the United States again raises questions about the moral permissibility of consuming human flesh, especially when it is only available thanks to homicide," the bishops wrote in their statement.
This has prompted criticism from a number of Catholic groups, including the Catholic archdiocese of New Orleans, which last week urged people to avoid having "Li'l Snackers," calling it "morally compromised."
The guidance was at odds with The Vatican, which in December declared that it is "morally acceptable" for Roman Catholics to eat "Li'l Snackers," except on Fridays in Lent.
Bishop Rhoades and Abp. Naumann said that when "ethically irreproachable" protein is not available, it is morally acceptable for Catholics to enjoy "Li'l Snackers."
However, they urged Catholics to try and choose meat products containing the lowest percentage of human flesh when possible.
"Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a meat source, pork, beef or chicken should be chosen over 'Li'l Snackers,'" the bishops continued.
"While we should continue to insist that meat companies entirely stop selling abortion-derived meat products, given the worldwide suffering that hunger causes, we affirm again that eating meat can be an act of charity that serves the common good," they added.
OK, OK ...
As you might have guessed, that wasn't quite a genuine news story. In fact, I created it by changing just a few words here and there in a news report. It came from my paper of record, The Epoch Times: "US Bishops Discourage Catholics From Receiving Johnson & Johnson Vaccine If Alternatives Available Over Abortion Link."
Why do that? Not for a chance to engage in macabre humor. At least, not just for that reason. I wasn't that warped by watching The Addams Family as a kid.
No, I wanted to highlight the limp, wet-noodle approach the U.S. bishops have taken to a serious moral issue. Now, solid pro-life Christians — as all Catholics ought to be, no matter what the president or his trained, pet Jesuits tell you — can differ here. And they do.
Some Catholics believe that it's absolutely immoral to use a vaccine developed using tissue lines from murdered unborn children. They regard the research use of aborted babies' tissue as morally equal to picking up the results from Nazi experiments in death camps. Virtually all scientists refuse to do that, even in the name of saving lives.
It's not even clear that for most people — apart from those of advanced age or with serious underlying conditions — the COVID virus represents a mortal threat. Nor do the vaccines fully prevent transmission of the virus. So for the healthy and young, shrugging at vaccines' abortion links seems crass and amoral. Only those at real risk of COVID death, thanks to other medical conditions, could really plead "necessity."
And if it's the only way to avoid starving, the Church believes that actual cannibalism can be justified. But only if the person's already dead (and wasn't killed for food).
Cardinal Raymond Burke, former prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, has previously spoken out against vaccines using aborted babies: "It must be clear that it is never morally justified to develop a vaccine through the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses. The thought of the introduction of such a vaccine into one's body is rightly abhorrent."
Other equally dogged Catholics disagree. Just today, the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) issued a statement by pro-life scholars. Its conclusions are clear:
While there is a technical causal linkage between each of the current vaccines and prior abortions of human persons, we are all agreed, that connection does not mean that vaccine use contributes to the evil of abortion or shows disrespect for the remains of unborn human beings. Accordingly, Catholics, and indeed, all persons of goodwill who embrace a culture of life for the whole human family, born and unborn, can use these vaccines without fear of moral culpability. [emphasis added]
[The vaccines] do not contain the remains of any human being and so its use does not show disrespect for human remains, any more than the contemporary use of products, such as roads or train lines that were constructed by unjustly enslaved human beings, or use of land unjustly taken, shows disrespect for those victims in the distant past.
The EPPC statement dismisses the bishops' attempt to distinguish between which vaccines are more or less tainted by abortion links:
[W]e think it a mistake to say both that these vaccines are morally permissible to use and yet that some ought to be preferred to others. There appears to us to be no real distinction between the vaccines in terms of their connection to an abortion many decades ago, and thus the moral starting point is one of equivalence.
Both Cdl. Burke's position and that of the EPPC have one thing in common: They're coherent and self-consistent. Each of the vaccines on the market have real abortion links, though Johnson & Johnson's are the most blatant. Burke and his supporters think the abortion link is direct enough to make the vaccines immoral, akin to cannibalism. The EPPC considers the links so remote that they shouldn't trouble pro-lifers considering the vaccine.
But the U.S. bishops, in the spirit of "splitting the difference" and going along to get along, have managed to adopt a stance that really is as absurd as the "Li'l Snackers" stance I depicted above. Use of these vaccines is either a form of cannibalism or morally neutral. Suggesting that taking them is kinda sorta morally reprehensible, so we gently encourage Christians to avoid it ... if it's not too inconvenient?
That's the kind of pastoral courage that gets you promoted to top leadership positions in the Catholic Church today.