Measles, mumps, rubella, oh my

| March 11, 2015 | 6 Comments

Within the vaccination controversy are Catholics who oppose the practice on moral grounds. When it comes to inoculations, what does the Church say about health, bioethics and the public good?

Doctor-Vaccinating-BabyAlthough most experts agree it’s unfounded, fear of a link between vaccines and the autism disorder spectrum has been cited as one of the reasons parents choose not to vaccinate their children. Lesser known is another basis for opposition, one rooted in moral objections to some vaccines’ ties to abortion.

The moral quandary has gained new attention in light of the January outbreak of measles linked to Disneyland in California.

Dr. Mary Ann Kish, who recently retired after 30 years as an infectious disease specialist, said that because most people, including doctors, haven’t seen the effects of measles — thanks to the use of the vaccine — some fears have become downplayed.

“People aren’t used to understanding measles as a bad disease, and when you don’t understand measles as a bad disease, you’re not going to take vaccination seriously,” said Kish, a parishioner of St. William in Fridley who also has theology degrees from St. John’s University in Collegeville.

Complications of the disease range from the relatively mild such as ear infection and croup to those more severe — encephalitis, an infection of the brain, and death.

Until about 2008, measles cases were down to between 20 and 60 per year, Kish said. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 27, 2015, 170 people from across the U.S. (one from Minnesota) were reported to have measles.

The measles vaccination is part of the MMR trifecta, which also includes vaccines against mumps and rubella. It’s typically administered to a child at 12 to 15 months of age, according to the CDC, which also states that in the U.S. there is only one licensed MMR vaccine. It is manufactured by the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck.

Vaccination origins

It is a point of fact, although not widely known, that some common vaccines are derived from cells of fetuses aborted five decades ago.

Paul Wojda, associate theology professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and past chairman of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Biomedical Ethics Commission, explained that pharmaceutical companies continued to culture and cultivate the cells to develop some vaccines.

In 2003, the Florida-based Children of God for Life sent an official inquiry to the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith seeking clarification on parents’ right to oppose those vaccines, when mandated by state law. The CDC commissioned the Pontifical Academy for Life to study the issue of “tainted” vaccines. Its findings, published in English in 2005, found that there were two cell lines “originally prepared from tissues of aborted fetuses (in 1964 and 1970) and are used for the preparation of vaccines based on life attenuated virus.” These cell lines were used in nine vaccines against rubella and six vaccines against other diseases including hepatitis A, rabies and smallpox.

The study’s findings identified the brand names of the vaccines.

“Morally, that’s important,” Wojda said. “For those individuals who for in [good] conscience want to avoid any cooperation with original acts of abortion, the information the Vatican provided is very helpful. Parents can ask their [health care] provider what the brand name is” for the scheduled vaccine.

Kish noted that parents can receive information from their pediatricians, state and public health departments and the CDC website.

“Catholics have a responsibility to educate themselves about vaccines,” she said. Kish has two adult sons.

In good conscience

With this knowledge, may a Catholic parent in good conscience have their child vaccinated, even if the vaccine available has a link to the aborted fetuses?

The Vatican document says yes.

In the 2005 statement, the Pontifical Academy for Life asserted that one may use these products, despite their distant association with abortion, at least until new vaccines become available. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concurs. “The recipient of the vaccine took no part in decisions to base the vaccine on this morally unacceptable source, but is coping with the results of immoral decisions made by others,” its website states.

Wojda explained how the Pontifical Academy for Life applied the “principle of cooperation” to come to its conclusion, the central concept being distance — how close a person is to the original “morally wicked deed” that was performed. In this case, the abortion.

“In the Catholic moral tradition, it’s long been understood that we live in a morally complex society,” said Wojda, himself a father who attends St. Mark in St. Paul. “Certainly, if I have my child vaccinated with the measles vaccine, that in no way suggests that I approve of those abortions. We can benefit from the consequences of an original evil deed without affirming that deed.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, Pa., guides parents in no uncertain terms: “One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion.” The reason, it states, is because the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine.

“This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them,” its website states.

Wojda said the Vatican document stresses that inoculating children in no way implicates parents. Furthermore, he said, there are other issues at stake, namely, the health and well-being of all children, and a moral obligation to protect and not unnecessarily endanger the lives of the larger community.

“A fundamental principle of the Catholic faith is the dedication to the common good. Catholics are for public health,” added Wojda, who also has served as an ethics consultant to Catholic Health Initiatives, the country’s largest Catholic health care provider, as well as on the perinatal bioethics committee of Hennepin County Medical Center.

However, caveats exist. The Pontifical Academy for Life stresses that “the faithful and citizens of upright conscience” even while they vaccinate, should “oppose, even by making an objection of conscience, the ever more widespread attacks against life and the ‘culture of death’ which underlies them. . . . [Catholics] 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.”

Kish said that because there aren’t a lot of vaccine manufacturers, there aren’t a lot of vaccine alternatives. Merck’s MMR, for example, uses a cell line derived from an aborted fetus. Some ethical-vaccine advocates are petitioning them to develop a new, “clean” MMR vaccine, or to separate measles, mumps and rubella into single-dose vaccines, a practice it ended in 2008.

Wojda suggested the following language for a conversation with pediatricians: “My duty to my child and the entire population requires me to strongly encourage you to seek alternatives to this vaccine.”

“We can all do a little bit in terms of raising that protest,” he said.

Wojda compared the situation to animal rights advocates calling for people to change their eating habits.

“The idea is, if you’re buying food that was factory-farmed, you’re somehow complicit,” Wojda said. “But maybe you can’t afford to buy free-range chickens and grass-fed beef.”

Ultimately, Wojda said, the issue comes down to the benefits outweighing the risks.

“Respect for vaccinating is a pro-life cause,” he said. “Principles of cooperation have been applied. We are complicit, but in such a remote way that using the vaccines is morally justifiable. We benefit in countless ways in a society that tolerates a lot of this, so none of us really lives with entirely ‘clean hands.’ It’s almost impossible.”

He added, “Now more than ever, people need to be informed about where their medicines come from.”

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  • Terry

    Well written article on this topic by Jessica. Kudos. Unfortunately all too rare these days. I am a parishioner at St Anne’s in Hamel and a close volunteer associate of both the visionary Stanford educated Scientist Dr Theresa Deisher of Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute and Debi Vinnedge, founder of Children of God for Life. As such, I’ve immersed myself in the realm of morality and safety of vaccines and arranged for landmark testimony by Dr Deisher before a Minnesota House Committee in 2012. Feel free to email me for more information at

  • Terry

    One important element Jessica did miss is educating Catholic parents, and all parents, on derivation and possible moral alternatives. Sadly, big pharma has removed moral alternatives in recent years to MMR II (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)

    Recommending that the readers visit Children of God for Life website for the latest ‘grid’ on Vaccines, which has been most helpful to parents and others concerned. It’s founder, Debi Vinnedge, was just awarded an annual honor from the Catholic Medical Association for her valiant and long running efforts for good here.

  • PJ Carroll

    The opening sentence of this article sounds like a typical “cut and paste” we see all too often these days. Certainly “experts” like Paul Offit (who has earned millions of dollars selling vaccines) will tell you that the link between autism and vaccines is unfounded. But true experts – the ones who actually treat and heal children who have been harmed by vaccines – will tell you just the opposite.
    The US government has quietly conceded and compensated dozens of claims unearthed so far where vaccine-induced encephalopathy or seizure disorder have resulted in autism. A peer reviewed paper published in 2011 showed that of the compensated NVCIP claims of vaccine-induced brain damage, nearly one out of every two of these children have autism.
    Dr. Deisher has compelling evidence showing that the rate of autism increased dramatically when the method of culturing some vaccines like the MMR was switched to using aborted human fetal cells. But the ethical dilemma of injecting the DNA of another human being into our bodies is only the tip of the iceberg.
    The vaccine manufacturers have NO liability when their products injure or kill people. Since congress granted them this liability shield, the number of “recommended” vaccines tripled in the US, and the autism epidemic was born. We now have a system where God’s perfect creations are being injected from cradle to grave with toxins, adjuvants, live viruses, human DNA, stabilizers, preservatives, etc.
    Since the government refuses to do a simple study comparing the long-term health outcomes of fully vaccinated vs. never vaccinated children, they (and no one else) can make the statement that vaccines are helping more than they are harming. So when I read a statement like “Catholics are for public health” it means nothing. What is true “health”? Autism – a devastating, lifelong neurological disorder – is now at 1 in 68 American kids. Asthma, diabetes, ADD, autoimmune disorders, life-threatening allergies and learning disorders are so common now that people have come to accept this as “normal”.
    Yes, we don’t see measles much anymore. But deaths from measles were very rare in this country long before a vaccine was ever invented for it. In the past 24 years, more people have been killed by the measles VACCINE in the state of Minnesota than have died from the measles.
    Paul Wojda stated “Now more than ever people need to be informed about where their medicines come from.” I could not agree more.

  • Laura Hayes

    I live in CA where there is currently a bill before the CA legislature to remove all non-medical exemptions to vaccines, SB 277. I, and many others, are working around the clock to defeat this bill, which seeks to eliminate parental rights, religious freedom, and medical choice freedom. To that end, I wrote an open letter to religious leaders in CA, which is pertinent to the discussion here. The content of my letter is applicable to legislation that is being proposed across the country, in many states, and at the federal level (where vaccine mandates for adults are being proposed).

    My letter was reprinted on a blog, so I will post a link to that versus reprinting the entire letter here. Please note that at the end of the letter, there are additional resources listed which might be of interest to readers here.

  • Laura Hayes

    One more comment I thought I’d share. As part of my advocacy efforts against SB 277 here in CA, I also wrote this article regarding measles to share with legislators and beyond. No link for this one, so it’s going to be rather lengthy for the comments section, but I hope helpful.

    Measles: an acute (i.e. short-lived, not chronic), contagious viral disease, usually occurring in childhood and characterized by red spots on the skin, fever, and cold-like symptoms.

    Question: Is this the description of a disease that all America should be in a fearful frenzy about? In America, we have been taught to fear the diseases for which there is a vaccine. Furthermore, the word “epidemic” is used far more loosely when there is a vaccine for a disease than when there isn’t.

    This frenzy has been media-created, and we must ask why. Our media has become dependent on advertising dollars from pharmaceutical companies, and therefore, their primary focus now appears to be to do the bidding of pharmaceutical companies, or risk going out of business.

    Fact: Merck, the maker of the MMR vaccine, is in serious legal and public relations trouble at the moment (i.e. multiple lawsuits regarding lying about its MMR vaccine; a doctor from the CDC was recently granted official whistleblower status so he can safely disclose the fraud perpetrated by the CDC and other government officials with regards to both the MMR-Autism link that was discovered then carefully covered up, and about the thimerosal-tic-Autism link, that was also discovered then carefully covered up; and it is now common knowledge that Merck’s HPV vaccine, Gardasil, has caused thousands of severe adverse reactions, including 220 deaths as of Jan., 2015). Could it be that this Disneyland measles hype might not be completely legitimate (as many cases of purported measles have not been lab-confirmed)? Is it possible that a relatively minuscule number of cases of measles has been immediately capitalized on by the very company who could turn it into a huge profit for themselves, while at the same time potentially quieting all of the allegations against them? Our legislators must ask this question and do their research.

    Fact: For the past 2+ decades, the measles vaccine has been responsible for far more deaths in the U.S. than the actual disease. In well-nourished children, measles is not only not a threat (it is quite benign), it actually confers many important benefits for the child, including: lifetime immunity; the elimination of acquiring measles later in life when it will be far more serious; the ability for females to pass on measles immunity later in life to their children via breastfeeding (a highly overlooked point, and a benefit of acquiring natural measles that our nation’s vaccine program doesn’t take into account, which now leaves infants in a vulnerable state with regards to measles…and that vulnerability can be blamed on our government regulators); and we are learning more everyday about how acquiring natural measles in childhood protects against many types of cancers later in life, and against leukemia in childhood (thus, by vaccinating children with the MMR, we are forcing them to forfeit, for life, the anti-cancer protection of naturally-acquired measles).

    Fact: During the same timeframe this year that slightly more than 100 cases of measles supposedly occurred in the U.S. (only a fraction of the 140 were lab-confirmed), more than 13,000 cases of Autism were diagnosed based on CDC’s reported 1 in 50 statistic. Which is of a true epidemic nature, and which should we be far more concerned about?

    Fact: Vaccines have a long history of injuries, deaths, and failures. Furthermore, we know that there is vast underreporting in all three of these areas. Even the FDA and CDC admit that, at best, 1-10% of all adverse vaccine reactions, including death, ever get reported. Vaccine failures also are largely underreported as doctors are loathe to admit them, and are also prone to misdiagnosing patients based on their vaccine status (e.g. if they’ve had the vaccine for polio, then this paralysis or respiratory failure can’t possibly be polio; or, if they’ve had the MMR vaccine, then this rash can’t possibly be measles). There is no system in place that is properly monitoring what vaccines are doing to the health and development of our children…none. Furthermore, our government continues to refuse to do the one study that would settle parents’ questions once and for all: a comparison study of both the short- and long-term health and development outcomes of vaccinated children versus unvaccinated children. You need to ask yourself why that it is, and what they surmise those results would conclusively reveal to the public.

    Final Fact, and perhaps the most important: Parents who have taken the time to educate themselves about vaccines (which are “safety tested” not against placebos, but against other vaccines, combinations of vaccines, or against adjuvants, which are the ingredients in vaccines most likely to cause adverse reactions), about vaccine ingredients (a long, disturbing list of known neurotoxins, including mercury and aluminum; known and potential carcinogens, including formaldehyde and anti-freeze; and other ingredients which have no business ever entering the human body, much less an infant’s muscle tissues, bloodstream, and brain, such as polysorbate 80, aborted fetal materials, animal viruses, etc.), about our nation’s vaccine program (which has never been studied as it is recommended to be administered), and about the fraud and corruption which underlie the unholy trifecta that exists among pharmaceutical companies, government regulatory agencies, and medical lobbyists and trade industry groups…in addition to parents who have witnessed vaccine injury firsthand in their own children, themselves, and/or others…these parents will NOT allow, under any circumstances, their children to be vaccinated with all of the recommended vaccines, and for many parents, they will allow NONE.

    Are you, as a California legislator, willing to forcibly remove children from their parents if their parents have come to the careful decision to not vaccinate their children? Are you willing to jail their parents? Are you willing to inject someone else’s child with 69 pharmaceutical products, each of which carries myriad risks, including permanent disability, chronic illness, and death? Are you willing to have children then placed in foster care as their parents serve jail time for not complying with vaccine mandates? Are you willing to break up families like this?

    Are you willing to do what has been done under fascist regimes of the past, specifically, force risk-laden, potentially-fatal, medical procedures and treatments on others, in this case children, without prior, voluntary, and informed consent from their parents? If you are, then you are no different from the fascist rulers of earlier times. You would willfully be violating The Nuremberg Code, to which the U.S. signed post-WWII, which was written to FOREVER AVOID forced medical experimentation on others as happened in Nazi Germany. Think about that, long and hard. Is this what you really want to do? Is this the legacy you want to leave?

    PLEASE VOTE NO ON SB 277. Vaccine choice is a fundamental human right. Please uphold prior, voluntary, and informed medical consent in the state of California.

    *Also, here is a previous article I wrote soon after the Disneyland measles hype began, in case it might be of help, too.

    “Disney, Measles, and the Fantasyland of Vaccine Perfection”

  • CSheapard

    Here we are in 2015, and with all the saturated corruption in our Governments and all the controlled narratives in our mainstream media outlets, it does not surprise me that this issue is now a controlled narrative through the Government. Especially when we now have a pope who is telling Catholics to not obsess on Abortion so much, Or going around with our Communist in Chief preaching Global warming and Global Government — something that JPII warned against emphatically. Maybe when Obama said he would transform this country (which means to UnDo) he was also including the New World Church. Let’s face it, if there is going to be a One world Government, there must be a one world Church. If the Catholic Church wants to position for this position, then it must Transform. So now abortion ain’t so bad, heavy metal/toxic vaccines won’t hurt you, trust us, we’re the government /Church. Planned parenthood is selling Fetal parts and keeping whole babies alive while they disect the “line items ” one by one? Well let’s not question PP for it’s butchering of babies, let’s question the too awake young man and his too awake organization and they’re activism ethics. It’s not the vaccines causing your baby not to wake up, it’s just sudden infant death syndrome. GO BACK TO SLEEP NOW, while we make billions.