The Road to Emmaus by Duccio di Buoninsegna
Tempera on wood, 51 x 57 cm
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena
This image represents the passage from Luke’s Gospel (24:13-35), in which Jesus joins two of his unknowing and demoralized disciples making their way from Jerusalem not long after the crucifixion. This passage is a perfect example of Divine Revelation, since it is Jesus–the Eternal Word–revealing the truths of Sacred Scripture (Liturgy of the Word) on his way to breaking bread with his co-travelers (Liturgy of the Eucharist). This passage exemplifies so much about Christ and his love for us, such that he is–once again–willing to humble himself to our level so that he can accompany us and ease our confusion, sadness and suffering. One overarching theme from this passage is “Good from evil.”
Christ’s passion, death, resurrection and ascension (the “Paschal Mystery”) gives us much fodder for spirited conversations, something that countless numbers of people have had over the past 2,000 years. I want to put this theme (the Paschal Mystery as good from evil) into the context of today’s covid pandemic and the three vaccines.
Awhile back, a friend, fellow parishioner and overall good guy sent me information to support his opposition to the covid vaccine, concluding with his assertion that neither he nor his large family would ever take it. The main reason that he and many of my fellow Catholics have cited for this opposition is the association of the vaccines with an abortion that occurred in 1970. The secondary reasons he expressed included distrust in both “Big Government” and “Big Tech” about the vaccines (maybe in cahoots in a conspiracy?), and that the disease was essentially a flu and is 99% survivable.
- Life and dignity of each human person
- Call to family, community and participation (“We are one body; so when one suffers, we all suffer.”)
- Rights (to life, health care, etc) and responsibilities (to help others protect those God-given rights)
- Option for the poor and vulnerable
- The dignity of work and the rights of workers
- Solidarity (for justice)
- Care for God’s creation (as stewards and trustees)
Opposing the vaccines because of their link to an abortion 50 years ago makes me wonder how those in opposition could continue to use cotton products or ride a train, since both resulted from the evil of enslaved and brutalized peoples. Bringing it even closer to home, many products we use every day in our kitchens and bathrooms have also been tested with the same immortal cell line from that abortion. Both examples have a direct line from human suffering to the product. So, to be intellectually consistent, you had better get out the large garbage bags, empty out much of your homes and then prepare to live very differently.
What of the massive suffering of people who either do not know Jesus Christ or who do not believe in him? Do Christians want to assign all Hindus, Buddhists, atheists etc to an early grave? They, too, are God’s children. I’m sure some of those who have a literal interpretation of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (“no salvation outside the Church” Catechism 846-848) believe that. And what about the many non-Christians who infect Christians?
I went on to explain the following about the immortalized HEK293 fetal cell line, as outlined by Pro-Life Catholic Scholars of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and others:
- the (probable) elective abortion was not done to make the vaccine. We therefore don’t endorse the 1970 abortion.
- There is no ongoing use of aborted tissue to generate new HEK293 cell lines.
- The vaccine does not cause or incentivize more abortions
- Many if not most medications sold in the U.S. have ingredients tested using the HEK293 cell line, as this article in “Through Catholic Lenses” makes clear. Researcher Lisa Gilbert, MD summarized her findings, “I believe all the Top Twenty medications prescribed in the U.S. are tested on HEK293…Every medication I’ve researched so far appears to have some connection HEK.” So if you opposed the covid vaccines because of its link, however remote, with the HEK cell line, then throw out your Tylenol, Aspirin, Ibuprofen. Sudafed, Claritin, Robitussin, Mucinex, Tums, Lidocaine, Synthroid, Prilosec, Albuterol, Zithromax, etc, etc. Among the greatest ironies is the use by anti-vaxers of Ivermectin as treatment for the covid virus, despite its linkage with HEK293.
- Much of biomedical research and ensuing procedures developed from it involved testing using the HEK293 cell line
- No fetal body parts are present in the cell lines, therefore, we do not disrespect the remains of the baby