Conscience  and  Vaccines


Ethical considerations surrounding vaccines is not a new issue. However, it is a pressing one with the Covid-19 vaccines- many of which use stem cells from aborted babies.

 Father Ambrose answers essential questions on this important topic.



Q. Is it true that these vaccines are created using organs of aborted infants?


A. When we heard about the experimentation on human embryos and foetuses many years ago, most of us were incredulous. Some still are. It is difficult to imagine the perversion of the human heart which justifies the use of vital organs of infants- even if the intention is to help others.

Let’s stop for a moment and consider that word use. We use lifeless objects to serve our needs. We use stones by cutting them to fit them into our houses. We use trees by cutting them down to keep us warm. We use vegetables and animals by growing and raising them for food. All these activities designate human dominion over the rest of creation. This is indeed part of God’s plan: we are meant to have dominion over creatures, to use them in a reasonable way. This is true for the simple reason that human life transcends other forms of being and life. We are made for God; they are made for us.


What then can it mean when we use another human being? It is nothing less than to instrumentalise that person, to turn them into an object to be used by others, to be used and discarded like a dirty rag. This is a grave thing to do to anyone, but the sin is compounded and increases in gravity when that person is innocent and defenceless. Even if this had happened only once, it would be a crime of the gravest proportions. Even if we had used the body of only one infant that was spontaneously aborted, it would be a grave injustice.

The current available COVID-19 vaccines utilise foetal stem cells (a parent cell that can keep reproducing) in either their production (by using them as a container to culture the viruses) and/or in their testing (the vaccines are then tested on these cells to elicit safety and response on a cellular level). The majority of foetal stem cells are of the HEK-293 cell line. HEK stands for Human Embryonic Kidney. The number 293 indicates the number of experiments required prior to the successful isolation of the cell line.


To grasp the gravity of the use of aborted fetal cells in the medical field it is necessary to look at the whole picture and the steps required to arrive at a ‘successful’ outcome. The sanitized idea that the development of the cells came from one female infant in 1973 in a wholly isolated incident is misleading.


The nature of the scientific method involves performing experiments repeatedly until a successful outcome is achieved. In the 1960s Eugenics was rife and the organ harvestation on live foetus’ aged 3-4 months was commonplace. 1 There was no uniform standard for recording data. The workbook of the scientist for HEK—293 is not public so the true number of foetus’ used has not been confirmed. It is thought to be close to 100 when compared to similar cell lines. For example, there were dozens of foetuses used in the extraction of the cell line denoted by the number -38 (WI-38) 2 and 9 foetus’ in the leadup to the development of a cell line denoted by the number -2.3  


Another misconception is that organs are salvaged after the abortion. Although this is in itself a heinous crime, the harvesting of organs for medical research is far more premeditated. The following is an excerpt from a 2015 publication in a medical journal regarding the development of a new foetal cell line: “The fetal material was provided by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Yunnan Hospital, with legal and ethical agreements from the donator. Before the study, we made strict and comprehensive inclusion criteria in order to guarantee a high quality cell strain: 1) gestational age 2 to 4 months; 2) induction of labor with the water bag method; 3) the parents career should not involve contact with chemicals and radiation; 4) both parents are in good health without neoplastic and genetic diseases, and with no history of human tissue or organ transplantation in the families traced for 3 generations; and 5) no infectious diseases. The tissues from the freshly aborted fetuses were immediately sent to the laboratory for the preparation of the cells.”[1]3

 In simple language: 9 infants of a gestational age of 2-4 months were screened, picked for their gender, race and pristine medical history. The date of the abortion is chosen, labour is induced, organs are extracted while the child is alive (denoted by the word fresh) then transported. The methods remain virtually unchanged from descriptions from 1952. 4 The cause of death is the removal of the organs by vivisection.


In a university application for $2.3 million funding for fetal harvestation in 2016, the method used to guarantee the ‘freshness’ of foetal kidneys are described. .[2] Labour induction will be used to obtain the tissue. We record the warm ischemic time on our samples and take steps to keep it at a minimum to ensure the highest quality biological specimens. We get feedback from our users and utilize this feedback to tailor our collection processes on a case-by-case basis to maximize the needs of investigators.” 5


The term ‘warm ischaemia time’ refers to the time that the organ remains at body temperature after its blood supply has been cut.6 In simple language, this refers to the foetus being delivered alive, and the organs extracted with no anaesthesia while the heart is beating and blood is circulating. This part is crucial to ensure viability of the organs.


In any court of law, a crime that used such methods would be called pre-meditated mass murder and torture. It cries to Heaven for vengeance. It is so grave that no reason whatsoever can ever justify it.  Up to here, it is to be hoped that all those who bear the name of Christian will be in agreement. It is a clear violation of the Fifth Commandment, Thou shalt not kill.

What’s more, Church teaching has consistently and systemically condemned abortion, in all its forms - whether therapeutic or for science. Pope Pius XII, in his famous address to midwives, left no doubt about the matter: “The life of an innocent person is sacrosanct, and any direct attempt or aggression against it is a violation of one of the fundamental laws without which secure human society is impossible. ... Never forget this: there rises above every human law and above every ‘indication’ the faultless law of God”[3].7


Q. That is immoral. But the baby was going to be aborted anyway. Once it’s dead, can’t we use its body?


There is only one moral thing to do with all these body remains, and that is to bury them with dignity and honour as having been the body of an immortal soul. Any use of these remains, for any reason whatsoever, is a grave violation of the moral law. It is not permissible to perform any kind of experiment on these remains, even under the pretext of saving other lives. It is grievously offensive to God to allow the performance of any such experiment for such a sin is comparable to cannibalism, which is the use of human flesh for the purpose of nourishing other human flesh.


Pope John Paul II made it clear that experimentation on human beings is wrong: “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church. This evaluation of the morality of abortion is to be applied also to the recent forms of intervention on human embryos which, although carried out for purposes legitimate in themselves, inevitably involve the killing of those embryos. This is the case with experimentation on embryos, which is becoming increasingly widespread in the field of biomedical research and is legally permitted in some countries…. [T]he use of human embryos or foetuses as an object of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person. This moral condemnation also regards procedures that exploit living human embryos and foetuses – sometimes specifically ‘produced’ for this purpose by in vitro fertilisation - either to be used as ‘biological material’ or as providers of organs or tissue for transplants in the treatment of certain diseases. The killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act”.[4]8


Q. But isn’t the situation different with the medicines and vaccines that have already been produced from those stem cells, after the fact? Is it still wrong?


The Holy See has addressed this question on a number of occasions. In 2005 the Pontifical Academy for Life issued some “Moral Reflections on vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted human foetuses”. In 2008 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed itself on the question in the Instruction Dignitas Personae. In 2017, the Pontifical Academy for Life again returned to the topic. Finally in December 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took up the matter once  more in the “Note on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines” (hereafter referred to simply as “Note”). This Note being the most relevant to our topic, we will content ourselves with examining its teaching.

Basing itself on the principle that such an action would not be a participation in the sin of abortion, but only a form of cooperation that is passive, material and remote, the Note gives an overall favourable reply to the question, namely that one may use such vaccines. It is the judgment of the Congregation that such cooperation is licit, on certain conditions. This last point of conditional approval is very important and as we shall see has been largely overlooked if not completely ignored.


Q. What are the conditions required to make the use of COVID-19 vaccines (and other abortion tainted products) morally permisable?


A.  A careful reading of the Note reveals no less than seven conditions for the licit use of the COVID-19 vaccines:


1) there must be a grave danger that requires recourse to the vaccines;

2) there must be no other effective means of dealing with the virus;

3) there must be no ethical vaccines available;

4) the vaccines must be safe;

5) the vaccines must be effective;

6) one must voice one's opposition to the procedure by which the vaccine was made possible;

7) it must be voluntary.

Let’s see if all these conditions are fulfilled. As we do so, we need to keep in mind that the same conditions apply for any medicine or food that is made from or tested on foetal cells. If one has knowledge of the use of aborted tainted products, there is a moral obligation to refrain from using them under the same conditions. If any one of these conditions is absent, then the recourse to these vaccines (or products) is illicit.


Condition 1 - Grave Danger - The gravity of COVID-19 has been overstated on every continent, and lockdowns have been excessive, harmful and with little scientific basis. (9) The initial fears and repressive measures have given many the impression that we were dealing with a true pandemic with the potential to wipe out all of humanity. This was a major factor in the Holy See’s decision to allow the use of the vaccines. The situation is not and has never been as serious as it is made out to be with a

consistent median infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.05% in the general population globally”[5]10


Condition 2 - Lack of Alternatives – There are many highly effective treatment protocols of COVID-19, 11backed up by robust data, published by leading professors, doctors and scientists around the world12. If these treatments were not suppressed there would have been virtually no deaths at all from the virus as evidenced by a state in India of 20 million people having a vaccination rate of 5% and 100 cases in total, compared to first world countries such as Israel with a vaccination rate of 85% and an estimated daily count of 5000 cases and 30 deaths.

Medical Professionals globally are decrying the suppression of highly effective treatments in Western countries as a violation of human rights 13 and are highlighting that the driving force behind the vaccine mandates is the profits of pharmaceutical companies. 14


Condition 3 - Lack of Ethical Vaccines - A number of ethically produced vaccines are being developed. Unfortunately, almost all governments have favoured the development of those which use foetal cell lines. There seem to be some major financial interests here. Once again, follow the money, and you will find the culprits. We must also ask whether a disease that has a global medium survival rate of 99.95% requires a vaccine at all, particularly when much of the evidence points to excellent treatment outcomes with existing medication.


Condition 4 - Safety - Up to now, the vaccines have been demonstrably unsafe with a disproportionate risk of death. In the US alone since the start of the vaccinations, there have been over 17,000 reported deaths and 1 million adverse events.[6]15 In Australia, the deaths in 2021 in 10 months attributed to vaccines outnumber the deaths by COVID-19. The rollout among young adults is notably having pericarditis/myocarditis (inflammation of the heart that can lead to heart failure and life-long dependence on medication or death) at an incidence of almost 50 cases per day in Australia. Previous vaccines have been withdrawn after a total of 50 deaths worldwide.


 Condition 5 -  Efficacy of Vaccines - It is impossible to ascertain concretely at this stage the effectiveness of the vaccines given the vaccinations remain entirely experimental and constitute an active clinical trial. 16However, a recent study across 68 countries concludes that present vaccination is not effective in reducing COVID-19 cases and that public health measures need to be reviewed. 17


Condition 6 - Public Opposition - It is a sad fact that one almost never hears of any such voice being raised, especially from the Holy See and the Bishops’ Conferences. Given the enormity of the crime involved in harvesting and exploiting organs from infants, even if all the other conditions had been fulfilled, we have every right to expect from our Bishops a united, consistent and strong demand that ethical alternatives be promptly made available, and that an end be put to the trafficking of human lives. The Pontifical Academy for Life, in the aforementioned 2005 document, regarding the duty of resistance even when one comes to the conclusion that cooperation is permissible, affirmed: “Doctors and fathers of families have a duty to take recourse to alternative vaccines (if they exist), putting pressure on the political authorities and health systems so that other vaccines without moral problems become available. They should take recourse, if necessary, to the use of conscientious objection with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human foetal origin. Equally, they should oppose by all means (in writing, through the various associations, mass media, etc.) the vaccines which do not yet have morally acceptable alternatives, creating pressure so that alternative vaccines are prepared, which are not connected with the abortion of a human foetus, and requesting rigorous legal control of the pharmaceutical industry producers… In any case, there remains a moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically.”


Some have also argued, and in my opinion quite convincingly, that the Holy See’s permission to use these vaccines has actually increased world-wide the demand for more experimentation on foetal tissue and thereby encouraging the ongoing industrialization of human remains.

This demand is demonstrably visible in medical journals advocating the use of testing of new COVID-19 vaccines not just on the HEK-293 cell lines but also on “humanised mice” and ‘lung only mice’.18 This term refers to a laboratory mice onto which have been grafted organs harvested from foetuses aged 2-5 months (according to the method of extraction described above). These ‘humanized mice’ have already been extensively funded and official documents state that the babies, some up to 6 months old, were bought for $12,000 per box. Most of the purchases were for intact thymuses and livers to graft to these mice and shipped “fresh; on wet ice”.” 19.


When we imagine what effect a strong “No” from the Holy See and the Bishops could have had, we are led to ask some very troubling questions about who was really behind this decision and why our hierarchy has been so culpably cowardly.


Condition 7 - No Mandates or Coercion – The draconian measures to mandate vaccines that are still in a clinical trial by governments globally are in direct contravention of international agreements and indeed of the most fundamental principles of the Natural Law. Unfortunately, many Doctors themselves seem to have set aside the most fundamental principle of guaranteeing their patients the right to informed consent. There are however thousands of doctors who are protesting this and are publicly calling out the current events in the medical field as “crimes against humanity”. (13). These voices are being categorically censored.

On this topic, the Nuremberg Code stipulates that for human experimentation20 “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision”. Any coercion to receive a vaccine not fully tested violates this code. This is something that all health care professionals should consider very carefully, for during the Nuremberg trials, it was made clear that no one may refer a decision of conscience to any superior. When human life is at stake, each person has the grave obligation to find out the facts for himself and to obey the Natural Law at all times. We fear that many of our present-day leaders, both in the state and in the Church, are guilty of complicity that may be condemned in the not-too-distant future. History never forgets nor does it pardon this sort of crime.

Given all this, we can safely conclude that the conditions laid out by the Congregation in its Note having not been met, it is not licit to receive the presently available COVID-19 vaccines.


Q. But, the Holy See’s position is unassailable, right?


The principle of material, passive, remote cooperation is well-known in moral theology and stands up to scrutiny. What is very debatable is whether or not it applies in this case. Such is often the case in moral theology, for moral judgments do not have the rigour of mathematics. One can certainly argue, without prejudice to the prerogatives of the Holy See, that the Note does not properly apply the principle. There are two main reasons for this. The first is the exceptional gravity of the matter: the absolute inviolability of the human body and the necessary, even if remote, connection with the gravely immoral use of another human to create the vaccine. The second is the circumstances. By giving its blessing to the use of the vaccine in certain cases, it has opened the door to the proliferation of foetal experimentation. The very least one can say is that the Note was seriously imprudent.


Q. So strictly speaking the Holy See gave a right judgment that was probably imprudent, and has been abused. Does that mean that those who have received the vaccine have committed a mortal sin?


Anyone who has received a vaccine that was made possible thanks to the abuse of an innocent infant will always be marked in their flesh by the abuse of that infant, regardless of their intentions. This being said, even if in itself it is gravely immoral to have recourse to such vaccines, due to the social pressure and the encouragements of the hierarchy, it would seem that in most cases, moral culpability for the average lay person is diminished if not removed altogether.

This being said, those who have received the vaccine should examine their conscience and ask themselves what exactly they knew at the time.

If they knew nothing about the ethical issues, was this for lack of having taking the trouble of finding out? Ignorance is sometimes culpable; in those who have a duty to know (priests, doctors, government officials, judges…), it is always culpable.

Those who have already received one or more doses need to refrain from receiving any “boosters”.


Q. So, in the end, we must obey our conscience and refuse? Even if our priests or doctors encourage us?   


On the duty to obey conscience there is ample matter in the Church’s tradition. St John Henry Newman has been, in modern times, the best known defender of the rights and duties of conscience: “Conscience,” he writes (in a letter to the Duke of Norfolk), “is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway”.[7] The reason for this, St Bonaventure teaches, is that “conscience is like God’s herald and messenger; it does not command things on its own authority, but commands them as coming from God’s authority, like a herald when he proclaims the edict of the king. This is why conscience has binding force” (In II Librum Sentent, dist. 39, a. 1, q. 3). 


This point is of such great importance that I believe it my duty to remind everyone, especially bishops, priests, politicians and doctors, that they are in grave spiritual danger if they encourage the reception of these vaccines, for in doing so, not only are they running the terrible risk of having deaths and injuries on their conscience, but they are also abusing the consciences of those who have every right to look to them to take their defence. It remains for me, gravely scandalous, that, to this day, very few pastors have taken the public defence of the rights of conscience in this matter, and I call upon them today to do so. “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1790).


A final word to my confrere priests and moral theologians: In the days of Paul VI and John Paul II, many of you rejected their teachings on abortion and contraception in the name of a false notion of the autonomy of conscience. Today, you are telling us that we cannot put conscience forwards as a valid reason for refusing vaccines, but we must embrace the vision of Pope Francis! You should not be surprised that so many Catholics will have nothing to do with your rhetoric, and instead choose to follow their reason, their conscience and their sensus fidei. You need to know that many of these Catholics feel betrayed when they see so many of the clergy appearing to side with the agenda of a force that is actively promoting the industrialisation of the human body through desecration and murder of the innocent – either by direct complicity, wilful blindness or their silence.


The final words go to the Bishops of Kazakstan: “More than ever, we need the spirit of the confessors and martyrs who avoided the slightest suspicion of collaboration with the evil of their own age. Some churchmen in our day reassure the faithful by affirming that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine derived from the cell lines of an aborted child is morally licit if an alternative is not available. They justify their assertion on the basis of ‘material and remote cooperation’ with evil. Such affirmations are extremely anti-pastoral and counterproductive, especially when one considers the increasingly apocalyptic character of the abortion industry, and the inhuman nature of some biomedical research and embryonic technology. Now more than ever, Catholics categorically cannot encourage and promote the sin of abortion, even in the slightest, by accepting these vaccines. Therefore, as Successors of the Apostles and Shepherds responsible for the eternal salvation of souls, we consider it impossible to be silent and maintain an ambiguous attitude regarding our duty to resist with ‘maximum of determination’ (Pope John Paul II) against the ‘unspeakable crime’ (II Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 51)  of abortion.



Father Ambrose


Father Ambrose is the pen name of a Catholic theologian. He can be reached at



[1]Dr. Robert Schwartz, chief of pediatrics at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, goes to Finland for a similar purpose. After a fetus is delivered, while it is still linked to its mother by the umbilical cord, he takes a blood sample. Then, after the cord is severed, he ‘as quickly as possible,’ operates on this aborted being to remove other tissues and organs.’ San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 1973, entitled “Operations on Live Fetuses:”

2. “One of my duties in the laboratory in Stockholm was to dissect human fetuses from legal abortions and send organs to the Wistar Institute. Such material was the source of many important studies of cell lines at the Institute, such as Hayflick’s study of WI-38 cells.” Erling Norrby,: Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 44.2 (Spring 2001): 304–306; “


4. Human embryos of two and one-half to five months gestation were placed in a sterile container and promptly transported to the virus laboratory of the adjacent Hospital for Sick Children. No macerated specimens were used and in many of the embryos the heart was still beating at the time of receipt in the virus laboratory.” 1952-06; Thicke et al; Cultivation of Poliomyelitis Virus in Tissue Culture; Growth of the Lansing Strain in Human Embryonic Tissue, Canadian Journal of Medical Science, Vol. 30, p231-245;

5. page 62, page 73


 7. Pope Pius XII, Allocution to midwives, October 29, 1951.

8. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 25 March 1995, no. 62-63.








14.  Dr. Tess Lawrie (Former WHO advisor)

16. The Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt actually went on record as saying, at the very time the vaccines were being rolled out: “The world is engaged in the largest clinical trial, the largest global vaccination trial ever” (Interview with David Speers, 21 February 2021).