Twisting the Truth in Dignitas Personae–Part III

By Debi Vinnedge

Part 3 of 4 (continued from yesterday)

Note from author: Because it may be confusing to follow the quotes of the various writers when compared to the actual text of the Church documents, all citations from Church teaching are highlighted in red font.

Here is the sentence from Dignitas Personae, which immediately follows why these “grave reasons may be morally proportionate”: “Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available. Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision.”

Note, the “responsibility of those who make the decision to use them” applies to the researchers, whereas “those who have no voice in such a decision” are the parents and physicians who use the vaccines produced from cell lines of illicit origin.

Without question, there is no “exception” anywhere in Dignitas Personae for researchers as it states: “Therefore, it needs to be stated that there is a duty to refuse to use such ‘biological material’ even when there is no close connection between the researcher and the actions of those who performed the artificial fertilization or the abortion, or when there was no prior agreement with the centers in which the artificial fertilization took place.”

While this portion in and of itself is enough to explain the Vatican’s position on researchers using these cell lines, Brugger and May continue to act very mystified and confused as to what the Church says on using these cell lines, opining, “But the Instruction, following the 2005 Pontifical Academy for Life text, Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses, only mentions parents consenting for grave reasons to their children’s immunization. Where does this leave morally conscientious researchers?”

Now certainly both May and Brugger read the documents in their entirety didn’t they? Then why act as though additional clarity is still needed? But just in case anyone still has any doubts after all that has been presented here from these Vatican documents, this is what “morally conscientious researchers” are left to consider according to the PAFL: “However, there is another aspect to be considered, and that is the form of passive material cooperation which would be carried out by the producers of these vaccines, if they do not denounce and reject publicly the original immoral act (the voluntary abortion), and if they do not dedicate themselves together to research and promote alternative ways, exempt from moral evil, for the production of vaccines for the same infections. Such passive material cooperation, if it should occur, is equally illicit.” (Page 6)

Regardless of Brugger and May’s personal opinions, neither the PAFL dissertation nor Dignitas Personae left any wiggle room for the researchers.

But May seems to think otherwise, concluding that the “exceptions” in Dignitas Personae for parents must also apply to the researchers. Further, May contends solid pro-life researchers could tolerate the evils involved since using the cell lines could provide great benefits to the unborn as he writes, “I think that if the research is the kind that reasonably promises to provide a great benefit to unborn human subjects who are vulnerable to specific kinds of pathologies from which the research will protect them, as was the case of the research to which Brugger refers, then the kind of exception allowed for by Dignitas Personae, (No. 35) is present.

Here May seems to forget that, without question, the end does not justify the means! As Pope Paul VI noted in Humanae Vitae, part II, citing Rom.3:8, “It is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom.” And for the casual reader who may not know the history of the aborted fetal cell lines in question, those abortions were performed in conjunction with the researchers for the sole purpose of viral vaccine production, as noted by the scientists involved. (See

In addition, a previous writing from the Pontifical Academy for Life was cited by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the use of embryonic cell lines in response to President Bush’s August 2001 decision to only provide Federal Funding for those cell lines in which embryos had already been destroyed.

In that document, Declaration on the Production and the Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells (Pontifical Academy for Life, 2000), the question was asked: “Is it morally licit to use ES [embryonic stem] cells, and the differentiated cells obtained from them, which are supplied by other researchers or are commercially obtainable? The answer is negative, since: Prescinding from the participation—formal or otherwise—in the morally illicit intention of the principal agent, the case in question entails a proximate material cooperation in the production and manipulation of human embryos on the part of those producing or supplying them” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 17).

While the PAFL does not set doctrine as would a papal encyclical or an official instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clearly both the bishops in the U.S. and the Vatican made it implicitly clear that using these cell lines for research is illicit. Dignitas Personae simply codified that.

Please read tomorrow for the final part of Debi Vinnedge’s article.

Debi Vinnedge is the executive director of Children of God for Life, a non-profit, pro-life organization focused on the bioethic issues of human cloning, embryonic and fetal tissue research. In addition, she serves as a member of the Vaccine Advisory Board for Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute. Ms. Vinnedge is a nationally recognized author and speaker and has provided written testimony for Congressional hearings on embryonic stem cell research. She is considered the foremost authority on the use of aborted fetal cell lines in medical products and vaccines. Her organization’s Campaign for Ethical Vaccines has gained the backing of over 630,000 supporters nationwide including numerous medical professionals, pro-life organizations, religious and political groups. 

This article has been reprinted with the author’s permission and can be found at