Under the aspect of the good

The Rational Catholic blog has recently been cited in reference to the role of Theresa Deisher’s participation in the discussions regarding the videos newly released showing profoundly disturbing conversations between high level staff at Planned Parenthood and a potential buyer of fetal tissue.


These videos left many of us simply without words.  To see such nonchalance in describing the deliberate killing of a child in such a manner as to leave his or her organs in the best state for purchase is beyond what I could have imagined.  I am horrified for the children who were treated as convenient vehicles for the procurement of human organs.  I am horrified for the mothers who may have chosen abortion, who now have to wonder what exactly happened to the children they chose abortion for.  I am moved with pity for the doctors, the nurses and support staff who have performed or supported these procedures.  I am angry that this is the world in which I live, and raise my children: where a human child can be seen as having less intrinsic value than his dismembered body can fetch on the open market.


These videos depict evil, and evil almost always comes through good people who are acting with varying degrees of good intentions.  People don’t do things thinking that they are evil.  All things are done under the aspect of the good, in pursuit of the good, although what we perceive as good and what is actually good are not always the same.  This is what has happened when good doctors who have seen great suffering decide to provide as a service the deliberate destruction of human life at the request of the parents of the child to be disposed of.  It also happens when good people who oppose abortion are willing to find any possible, plausible sounding reasoning to use to make other people more pro-life, never mind the collateral damage caused.  We stand firmly in favor of good science and good ethics, and believe that both science and ethics lead to a pro-life and pro-vaccine position.


A pro-life position is pro-science position.  There can be absolutely no question that a human zygote, embryo or fetus is an individual member of the human species.  Toddler, teenager, senior… these are all positions on the continuum of personal development.  That spectrum doesn’t begin until conception, but it doesn’t begin after that point either, at an arbitrary number of weeks or faculty gained.  Any qualification concerning who counts as a human person beyond simple belonging to the human species is ultimately not a scientific one, and is often an utilitarian tool used to decide who has earned existence and who can be treated as less than human.  Artificial lines such as race, sex, infirmity, disability, sexual orientation and age have all been used as justifications to abuse and disenfranchise human persons throughout history.  And they have all been evil.  The doctors performing these abortions, by their own descriptions of how they perform these procedures, are well aware of what… of who they are crushing and turning into breech positions.


To be pro-life and to be pro-science is to be pro-vaccine.  Science tells us that vaccines work.  A pro-life conviction tells us that we have an obligation to ourselves to treat our bodies well (including preventing preventable diseases) and that the weakest among us have a particular claim to our defense.  This is particularly true in the case of vaccines, when so many of them protect the weak, including those babies who have not yet reached birth.


To the pro-vaccine community, I urge you to take seriously the concerns of those who are so deeply outraged by the treatment of fetal remains.  Immunization is an universal good, but it is something that requires that we all be able to walk together towards control or eradication of these diseases.  It is legitimate to be concerned about whether a child before birth can be so worthless as to be killed but their organs to have sufficient value for a doctor to crush their small bodies in the manner best for the purchaser of their tissue.  To belittle these concerns undercuts everything you work for, and it makes it difficult for people with pro-life convictions to trust in the ethics of the medical community at large.


To the pro-life community, I ask you to not allow your righteous anger, sadness and frustration to be placed on anything other than where it rightly belongs: the deliberate destruction of human life and the sale of bodies of children who have been killed.  Focusing on other issues will only make these legitimate evils seem like one in a laundry list of complaints by members of a minority position, and we lose all claim to respect when in our zeal to fight against abortion we are willing to endanger the lives of the innocent by taking as important a tool as immunization (acknowledging the moral issues with some vaccines) and lumping it in with the absolutely horrifying evils we have seen discussed in these videos.  


The actions described in these videos have no place in a just society.  They have no place in a compassionate society.  We can and must do better than this.



Of Catholics, Conscience and California

Recently the Facebook Page “Californians for Vaccine Choice” published a letter written by Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life, to California State Senator Joel Anderson.  Having been subject to a major measles outbreak just a few short months ago, the California legislature has been examining ways to prevent further outbreaks from occurring in the future, culminating with Senate Bill 277.  In her letter, Ms. Vinnedge talks about, among other things, the right of conscience and the lack of alternative vaccines carrying no taint of remote cooperation with evil for Californians who would otherwise immunize their children.

First of all, what is a vaccine mandate?  A vaccine mandate is not the same as compulsory vaccination.  In no state in the United States is any immunization compulsory.  There are no places where a child will be forcibly vaccinated over and against parental objections or legitimate medical contraindications.  This is not an edict imposed on the masses to ensure complete compliance of the population with a Big Brotherly demand that all children submit to medical procedures deemed necessary by the state.Read More »

Gnosticism and Alternative Health Practices

There is something in human nature that always looks for more, always reaching for the next rung or the sweeter fruit, whatever that appears to be.  Instead of observing, analyzing, consulting and revisiting, we grasp for what is not given to us, and the allure of the secret knowledge remains ever persistent.  Magic trumps the mundane, and we can so invisibly slide towards preferring the devil we don’t know to the doctor or doctrine we do. Read More »

Giving Tuesday

Today, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is Giving Tuesday, a day set aside to remember with our donations the charities that can benefit so much from our support during the Christmas season.  There are many worthwhile charities that preserve the dignity of the human person at so many various stages of life.  I invite our commenters to let us know about any other charities and non profit groups they are proud to support, and I will update this post accordingly.Read More »

Does the Kenyan UNICEF Tetanus Vaccine contain HCG and make women infertile?

This week alarming reports from the bishops of Kenya and as well as a Catholic medical association about a tetanus vaccine program broke across the Christian blogosphere.  Before saying anything else, I want to be extremely clear that if a known sterility inducing vaccine was administered to women without their knowledge or consent, whether as part of a clinical trial or as a population control measure, the human rights of the Kenyan people have been violated.  Such an action would be a monstrous sin against those living in poverty.  Further it would be, in the words of Confederation of Kenya Consumers (Cofek) Programme Officer David Kedode,  “unlawful, immoral and must be condemned. ”

That said, there are some reasons that I am very skeptical that what has been claimed by the bishops in Africa has happened, or even could happen.  Looking at the claims made, only a few options seem possible.Read More »

Christian Hope and Bucket Lists

Shane and his parents, from the Prayers for Shane Facebook Page.

This morning, in the early, still hours when most of America lies sleeping, a mother gave birth to a son.  His name is Shane, and he has anencephaly.  And before he was even born he had a bucket list.


Anencephaly is a type of neural tube defect in which part of the brain and skull do not develop.  Children with anencephaly are born with a devastating prognosis, with most children dying at best within hours or days of birth.  This is an extremely challenging diagnosis to receive, and many parents choose abortion after finding out about their children’s severe birth defect.  That knowledge that abortion may be presented as an option or perhaps as the only option is partially responsible for why many Christian parents opt out of prenatal testing.


Prenatal testing as a term can mean any number of things.  It can refer to ultrasounds at various points in gestation.  It can refer to blood tests for various biomarkers or for fetal DNA.  It can refer to amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.  These procedures run the gamut from risk free to carrying a risk of miscarriage.  They have different false positive and false negative rates, test for a variety of conditions, and in some cases (such as spina bifida) allow for treatment to occur before a child is even born.


Many times parents of faith reject some or all of these tests out of hand.  “I would love my child and want him or her regardless, so why would I want to have to explain to a doctor that abortion is not an option for me?”  “I would rather see a child before a diagnosis.”  “It won’t change anything, and sometimes the tests are wrong.  If the tests are wrong and I can’t change it anyways, what is the point?”


And yet, without prenatal diagnostics, Shane has no bucket list.  Prenatal diagnosis gave him and his parents the chance to love more fully instead of less, to love with heart and eyes wide open. The chance to run from such a hard and painful knowledge to hope.  To make a bucket list.  To celebrate life fully in the knowledge that our children are not our own, but merely entrusted to our care.


God gave them Shane, their irreplaceable child, in whose face they see the Risen Christ standing at the threshold.  Science gave them a diagnosis.  Faith and science informed by each other gave Shane a bucket list.   A list of memories.  A list of hope.  An authentic pro life witness in a time and place that says that some children are not worth the having, that some people are not worth the pain it will take to say goodbye.


Happy birthday, blessed boy.  And blessed be the parents who gave you life.  We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.


A later post will work through the pros/cons and some of the misconceptions of prenatal testing.  To follow along with Shane’s story and wish his parents well, please visit the Prayers for Shane Facebook page.


Edit:  Born on earth at 2:55am, baptized a Catholic, Shane died enrobed in love at 6:15 this morning.  Peace, hope and love to his parents.

Science, Superstition and the Duty to Vaccinate

In previous posts authors at the Rational Catholic have sought to argue that not only can the Catholic, pro-life parent vaccinate his or her children but also that they ought to do so.  The reasons that a parent should vaccinate come from both an interest in the wellbeing of one’s own child as well as a general obligation to the common good.


Understanding that this is a complicated, emotional issue with profound moral and spiritual ramifications, last week I sought guidance from the National Catholic Bioethics Center regarding whether there is an active duty to vaccinate one’s children.   The National Catholic Bioethics Center is a non profit organization whose mission centers on the protection and defense of human dignity through research, education, consultation and publication in the areas concerning health care and life sciences.   They offer free consultation to anyone seeking guidance regarding ethical questions, and were kind enough to answer mine.


Reproduced with permission from correspondence with Edward Furton, M.A., PhD, Ethicist and Director of Publications for the National Catholic Bioethics Center


Focusing in on your central question, there is indeed a moral duty to immunize one’s child and so help preserve the public good through the use of scientifically established and clearly beneficial programs of vaccination. The chickenpox vaccine may be an exception to this rule, as the risks resulting from this disease are not great. As for the rest, for example, measles, mumps, and rubella, these are important childhood vaccinations and parents have a special duty to care for and love their children. Children cannot make these decisions for themselves and so depend upon the prudential judgments of others.

Unfounded fears about possible adverse effects do not overcome the objective duty to make use of immunizations. To make a sound moral judgment, the individual Catholic must properly inform his or her conscience. That means that one must seek to determine whether fears are based in reason and fact, or they are instead merely — if I may put it this way — superstitions. A correctly formed conscience will come to the conclusion that immunization is a moral obligation.

For those who remain “invincibly ignorant,” and who refuse to acknowledge facts, they must follow their conscience even though it is ill formed.


There is no question, no debate to my mind that parents who refuse immunization of their children do so in the pursuit of what they see as good.  They do not do so from a desire to cause harm to their children or to their communities, but there is still a question of fundamental scientific ignorance in play that leads to vaccine denial.  Not malevolent ignorance, but ignorance none the less.  And ignorance should be met with education wherever possible.


There are excellent resources available to better understand the science of immunization.  I will make and keep up to date in this post a list of resources for those who seek to understand the science of immunization.  It is natural to have questions, concerns, fears and uncertainty about this topic especially given how pervasive myths are about vaccines.  But none of those fears nullify the obligation we have to our children, and to each other.


To close, and with my thanks to Dr. Furton for allowing me to share his words:

“We are rational creatures and science represents our best understanding of how to protect ourselves from the transmission of serious diseases….  In the final analysis, we must rely on what is presently known in order to shape our decisions. Guesswork and unsubstantiated beliefs are not good grounds for moral action.”


Note:  Dr. Furton makes the possible exception of the chicken pox vaccine due to his belief that chicken pox is generally a mild, and less dangerous disease than other diseases currently vaccinated against.  I disagree with this risk assessment and feel that the 100 annual deaths and 11,000 annual hospitalizations in the pre vaccine era, and in particular the risk to the pregnant, the immunocompromised such as children who have received organ transplants, the elderly and the medically at risk make the chicken pox vaccine very important to obtain even though it is grown in fetal cell culture.  

Vaccine Education Resources


Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Vaccines, Course at Coursera