In The New York Times, I made the case for pro-life Catholics to get covid vaccines, despite their dependence on cell lines derived from aborted children. Even people who are comfortable with the vaccines need to grapple with the question of how we make amends for our material cooperation with evil.
I’ve gotten both my shots and I strongly believe other Catholics should get vaccinated, too. But I don’t think those qualms are entirely misguided, and they’re not limited to vaccinations. 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?