COVID-19 vaccine progress

researcher at microscope

Last April, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops organized a petition drive to urge the federal Food and Drug Administration to make sure any COVID-19 vaccine be derived from ethical sources, not involving cell lines originating from fetuses killed by induced abortion. So what has happened since?

Some vaccines are in the testing stage already. Two, from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, have been much in the news over the past couple of weeks. In a recent EWTN interview, ethicist Joseph Meaney of the National Catholic Bioethics Center said that neither of those vaccines are developed or produced from human fetal cell lines. I’m happy to hear that, since those two vaccines will likely be the first to market.

As the bishops wrote in their petition last spring, “It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience.

No matter who’s in the White House or Congress or the FDA or a pharmaceutical company’s board, that’s a message that is going to need to be delivered over and over again.

Photo by Artem Podrez, Pexels.com

Open Book, November 2020

Basket of books, cup of tea

I’m indulging my love of politics and American history not by watching the news non-stop this election season, but by reading Author in Chief: the Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote, by Craig Fehrman. Fehrman shows that there’s more to the presidential genre than campaign biographies and memoirs. He puts each president’s work in historical context, and he offers a writer’s view of the relative merits of various books. He has sparked my curiosity about presidential works with which I’m unfamiliar, and perhaps there’s an #OpenBook post ahead mentioning some of them.

As a trail-loving New Englander, I’m loving Following Atticus. This is the true story of an out-of-shape Massachusetts journalist, Tom Ryan, who adopted a pint-sized schnauzer puppy named Atticus, and set out to hike New Hampshire’s “4000-footer” mountains with his little canine friend. This sounds like the makings of a comedy, but Ryan delivers something very different. Thoughtful musings on his life, work, and friends alternate with accounts of challenging hikes with his intrepid little dog.

I continue to make my way through The Gospel of Life by St. John Paul II. Perhaps because I’m older, or perhaps because I’m giving the words time to sink in, this has been very different from my earlier quick readings of the document a couple of decades ago. I’ve been reading a section at a time as lectio divina for each day.

The Open Book linkup is hosted by blogger Carolyn Astfalk and the team at CatholicMom.com

On Judge Barrett

gavel

As one Catholic woman to another, I send my best wishes to Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the U.S. Senate votes on her nomination to the Supreme Court.

I don’t know how she’d vote on a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and neither do you. Even so, I think every objection to her nomination comes down to one thing: the possibility that she might have even the teensiest reservation about abortion. Any objections to her faith I’ve encountered are all about that. It’s not that she’s Catholic; it’s that she might take Catholic teaching on the nature of abortion and conscience rights seriously.

That’s “might.” One may hope.

Note that in a buffer zone case in 2016, she voted with the majority to uphold a buffer zone law in Chicago that employed a “bubble zone.” That decision also pointed out that in light of SCOTUS’s McCullen decision, the Chicago case would be vulnerable on further appeal.

I believe it’s pure theater to say that she poses a threat to everyone’s health insurance, by means of a pending court challenge to the “Affordable Care Act,” better known as Obamacare.

Yes, theater. The ACA has no severability clause, thanks to the Senators (including one of my New Hampshire Senators, Jeanne Shaheen) who voted to pass it without one. If SCOTUS throws out the law because no single part of it can be separated from the rest, they’ll be following the path laid out for them by the House, Senate, and former president Obama in 2010. (But see this commentary from ScotusBlog outlining less extreme possibilities.)

I’ve asked my Senators to vote to confirm Judge Barrett, even though they have both declared their firm opposition to her, or perhaps only to her nomination. It’s hard to tell if they can distinguish the woman from the man who nominated her.

Will the result of this nomination be judicial recognition of the dignity and worth of each human being without exception? I have no idea. As I said, one may hope.