THE POPE IS RIGHT

Misguided Advice from the Church

We’ve seen politics and medicine in conflict during this pandemic and now we are seeing a troubling gap between church and medicine. Is the boss being ignored here? No, not Bruce Springsteen, I am referring to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who said in a January 10 interview, “I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine. It is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.” He added that he had already made an appointment with the Vatican’s health service for his own inoculation while lamenting that some people are saying they will not take the vaccine.

Okay, let’s start with the Pope’s good advice. God didn’t want people to die in the 15th and 16th centuries plagues and he certainly doesn’t want anyone to die unnecessarily in the 21st century. I was amazed when I read this on the website of KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, “The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh says it agrees with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which raised moral concerns over the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because it’s produced using a cell line derived from an aborted fetus.” Should they have a choice, the Diocese is recommending Pittsburgh Catholics go with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and not the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Full disclosure, I am from Pittsburgh, but I am not a Catholic.

I suppose Johnson & Johnson could sue the Church and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but what good would that do? There are millions of people who will line up to get any vaccine. The controversy in this case hinges on the use of certain cells in the development of a vaccine to conquer the Covid-19 virus.

None of the three currently available vaccines involve stem cells from aborted fetuses. According to Health.com, “Stem cells are cells that can differentiate (develop) into many different types of other cells or tissues,” Brianne Barker, PhD, associate professor of biology at Drew University in New Jersey, tells Health.com, “The first type of stem cells that were found were embryonic stem cells coming from embryos. Scientists have now figured out how to make other cells into stem cells (called iPS or ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’), meaning that embryos do not have to be used.” Yes, the orgin of the method started with human cells, but then scientists learned how to create new non-human sourced cells in a chemical way. Think of it as a surgeon placing a plastic value in someone’s heart to give them more time on the planet.

Eating a tomato that was grown in soil fertilized by cow manure doesn’t mean you are eating bovine dung. Pfizer, Moderna and J&J used chemicals in the development of their vaccines. These proteins and fake proteins, or mRNA, are far removed from human sources and the statements from the bishops are not only misleading but raise a potential for harm.

This pandemic has seen an ever-growing disease of non-medical authorities making confounding, unscientific statements. These well-intentioned but misguided minds are not qualified to make therapeutic decisions and bad things can happen if their “guidance” is heeded.

Donald Trump created a large number of anti-mask, anti-science people in the US. These statements by religious leaders have the potential to reduce the number of vaccinations that will be administered. Should that happen, we increase the potential for a longer or more serious fight with Covid-19.

It’s unconscionable that church leaders are advising against a vaccine that could stop the virus from killing more people. I keep thinking of the Biblical verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Okay, that sounds good, but what part of “everlasting life” includes death by Covid-19?

I am a Jeffersonian thinker with respect to the importance of separating church and state. The Frist Amendment says it best, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That makes sense. The government cannot tell us what to believe in but they also can do nothing to stop a church or religious leader from attaching dogma or edicts to public matters. For example, churches have been known to promote political candidates. They also urge their parishioners at times to vote against certain state mandates or amendments they feel break the laws of God. This not only lowers their status but it has a long term effect on some parishioners that cause them to leave the church.

Multiple conceptions can occur in the womb and there are times when one fetus gains power and overtakes the other, thereby absorbing another future person. The winner takes all the proteins, and substances to grow bigger, stronger and live. Does that make the survivor a murderer and sinner? We are thought to be born without sin, but what happens chemically can be batted away with 2,000-year-old logic. We can simply say, “It is God’s will.” Is a forty-year human effort to develop a lifesaving vaccine not doing the work of God?

Here’s a suggestion. I know the Pope is in Iraq right now but we need a statement to clear things up. We need vaccines to get this virus behind us. Here is my personal plea to his holiness. We are your “lambs,” so please help us gain herd immunity with good advice and a reasoned approach to modern faith healing.

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One thought on “THE POPE IS RIGHT

  1. The strongest point you make in this is that there are far too many people without medical degrees making “medical” decisions about how to move forward in the pandemic. The advice to “trust the science” is in danger of being co-oped by people who can’t even spell science, but it remains good advice. You hate to mention this because it will encourage some other “expert” to make yet another pronouncement on the vaccines, but the J&J vaccine is not the ONLY covid vaccine developed with derivatives of fetal cells harvested more than 50 years ago. And, in fact, other vaccines, such as those for shingles, are made that way, too. The hardest pill for some Catholics to swallow in all this — and I am one of them — is that elevating this unrelated and not quite honest issue into this discussion of how to end a pandemic that has claimed more than half a million lives in this country alone makes my church look, once again, to be anti-science — and I know the Catholic Church is not.

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