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Where Do You Make Amends for Unjust Systems?
Modern life entangles us in material cooperation with evil
I’d still appreciate your responses to my survey on miscarriage and paid leave from work. I’m working on a piece for the Institute for Family Studies, but I’ll also share some highlights from your discussion this Thursday.
This weekend, I had a piece in the NYT trying to address the concerns of some vaccine-hesitant Catholics. I’ve gotten both my shots, and I hope everyone else will, too, but I think a number of hesitant people are raising questions in earnest, which deserve serious answers.
In this case, the issue is that the vaccines were developed or tested using cells sourced from children lost through abortions. And, to clarify two things up front: these are cell lines from abortions many years ago—the vaccines don’t depend on the continuation of abortion. And there is no tissue from these children in the vaccines themselves. But, understandably, that doesn’t resolve everyone’s concerns:
Although the Vatican has stated clearly that the vaccines approved in the United States are “morally licit” to receive, some Catholics are reluctant because these vaccines have been developed or tested using lab-replicated cells cultured from aborted fetuses. […]
When we reap the benefit of what we see as a past injustice, we are implicated in the original wrongdoing. We have to decide if our actions compound the original abuse and what kinds of reparations we must make.
The Jesuits of Georgetown University have been wrestling with a similar question of moral contamination. The order funded the school partly through the exploitation and sale of slaves. To make amends, the university has begun a fund-raising campaign to pay reparations to the descendants of those slaves. But a Georgetown professor still has to ask the same question as a someone rolling up his sleeve for the vaccine: Can I accept a benefit premised on someone else’s suffering?
Our lives are enmeshed in material cooperation with evil. It’s sometimes permissible, when we don’t will the evil, try to avoid deeper entanglement, and lack alternatives, but @pgepps has it pretty much right here.
I focused on vaccines and racial injustice in the United States, but one example of material cooperation with evil that I didn’t manage to incorporate in the piece is buying cotton sourced from Xinjiang, where China is carrying out a genocidal campaign against the Uighurs.