Invoking Moral Conscience on Vaccines – Bishop Robert F. Vasa

Invoking Moral Conscience – On The Issue of Using Vaccines Derived From Abortion
Most Reverend Robert F. Vasa
Diocese of Baker
May 22, 2003

If the Church has clear teaching, e.g. abortion is murder and may not be done, then there is NO room for conscience to make a “personal judgment” about the rightness or wrongness of this abortion for me here and now.  It is precisely where things are not clear that a well formed conscience can and must extrapolate from the principles to an application in a concrete case.  If someone tells me to kick a dog I do not need a “Magisterial teaching” about the appropriateness of kicking a dog to be able to apply proper principles and determine that such a thing ought not be done by me or anyone else.

There is an abundance of respect life material (beginning with the Catechism of the Catholic Church) to support someone’s ‘conscientious’ decision to avoid and preclude any semblance of cooperation with or benefit from abortion. Conscience does not decide that this behavior is evil and proscribed for all people for all time but only that this behavior (in the intimacy of my own conscience) is proscribed for me here and now.

The right to make this conscience decision and to have it respected is protected by the clear teaching of the Church and in some instances by the civil law as well. Sometimes clearly, consciences are so delicate or ‘scrupulous’ that the judgment is unsound but that is not the case here.  Nor are we talking about a case where a person’s conscience seems to dictate that they do something totally contrary to the clear teaching of the Church.

Some Catholic Americans may ‘conscientiously object’ to going to war and society needs to accept that conscientious objection despite the fact that there is no clear doctrinal prohibition forbidding a Catholic from participating in a just war! His conscience must decide the issue and his conscience must be respected. For their children, a parent’s conscience must decide and that conscience needs to be respected.  If there is clear and present danger to the child then other factors would come into play (e.g. seatbelt laws) but these have no opposing moral content.

For me it is a question between acknowledging some risk to children to develop diseases (I experienced chicken pox, mumps and measles as did many of my peers with little more than discomfort) and the moral risk of continuing down the slippery slope of more and more tolerance of abortion and its so-called ‘related benefits’.  Any ‘benefit’ of any type derived from abortion or abortion related industries should be taboo for conscientious Catholics.  I do not believe we should penalize those Catholics who have chosen this higher ground, this stricter application of the principles. They should instead be lauded for their thorough understanding of the issue and for their willingness to take a minority stand. How sad that conscientious parents – serious about life – are victimized by the very Catholic Church whose principles and tenets they uphold so solidly.

Catholic Church Doctrine on Conscience

Updated: 5-16-06: Moral Conscience and the PAFL Document