Professor to Catholic College President: Don’t Expel Students Who Refuse Abortion-Tainted Vaccines

By John Zmirak Published on June 28, 2021

As The Stream has documented, every commercially available COVID vaccine in the US was either developed or tested using cells stolen from aborted (not miscarried) babies. So those vaccines are morally similar to the fruits of Nazi research on Holocaust victims. (Except that the Holocaust is long over, while abortion prowls our country like a raging lion, and baby parts get sold by federally funded Planned Parenthood.)

The Vatican has taken a lax attitude toward this callous abuse of the dead, as have too many Christian institutions and citizens. But prophetic voices emerge, as some believers take stances of conscience in the face of a burgeoning public health dictatorship, and blithely complicit clergy.

In the letter below, a distinguished Catholic professor challenges the president of his Jesuit University, Creighton. The professor defends students who wish to follow their consciences and refuse the abortion-tainted vaccine. But they face expulsion from Creighton for doing so. The note is reprinted with the permission of the author.


Trampling Students’ Consciences



(Via Email)
Father Daniel Hendrickson, S.J.
President, Creighton University

Dear Father Hendrickson:

I write to express an important concern about the vaccine mandate that is being imposed on our students. In particular, I ask that you address the absence of any conscientious and/or religious objections to the vaccine, which are currently missing from our policy. As discussed below, the rejection of conscience protections stands in stark contrast to the teachings of the Church, and even to the secular authorities in Nebraska who recognize vaccine exemptions for conscientious and religious beliefs.

A small change here could send a very positive message about our commitment to being a Catholic university. In contrast, I see potential significant harm from persisting in a coercive policy that essentially expels students with sincere and legitimate moral objections in this matter.

Students’ and Parents’ Complaints Suppressed

Students and parents have contacted me about their concerns, expressing both fear and disbelief about the coercive policy being embraced. Some attempted to express their concerns via social media, but their concerns were suppressed on the social media platform. (Whether this was done by Creighton or the platform is unclear.) Parents have expressed difficulty in connecting with others who share their concerns, but they are finding ways to overcome those barriers. Students are also beginning to connect with others in their social networks. One tells me that she has 15-20 other Catholic students who are interested in this issue. We don’t know the total number of students with concerns in this area, but the number may be greater than we think. Even if the number is small, we should not dismiss their claims without due consideration.

Based on these contacts, I have observed respect for the institution and its concerns alongside competing concerns about their own health and wellbeing, including the threat that this policy presents to their life goals and their pursuit of a Creighton education. But even more important to them is their desire to follow a moral path, the path of a pilgrim. They love and serve God and want to follow our Lord wherever that leads them. I am hearing deep convictions and some outrage about overreaching and dissonance in the messages we profess as a university. Some have stated they are willing to leave the university if this policy is not modified. If that occurs, it will be a great loss for all of us and a wound for our university. As I hope you will agree, we should avoid that outcome.

Is the Vaccine Really Necessary, or Even Safe?

Prudential reasons support hesitation to embrace an experimental vaccine, which has not been adequately tested and which leaves many unanswered questions about future health effects. I am personally familiar with health professionals who will not embrace the vaccine for their own use or recommend it to patients. Anecdotal evidence supports concern, including reported cases about the disruption of menstrual cycles in female patients following the vaccine. We simply do not know many things about the vaccines and the risks they present. Federal law requires disclosure and precludes medical coercion — and with good reason.

On the other hand, we do know that the virus is treatable. Healthy young people face low risks of serious long-term impacts. There is a risk-reward calculus here, which is similar to other things we choose to do in life (such as driving a car, playing sports, or even mingling with other humans). There is no safe route through this world that insulates us (and others around us) from all risks. Nevertheless, the university has chosen to embrace an experimental vaccine for all students — including those who may already have immunity from contracting the virus — thereby coercing all students to accept these unknown risks.

Pressuring the Vulnerable

I note that this policy affects only students, who are not only economically vulnerable through having invested in pursuing the path toward a Creighton degree, but also legally vulnerable in the sense they do not enjoy the protections that Federal law accords to employees, including faculty and staff. Employer mandates to employees present significant legal risks, which the university has judiciously chosen to avoid. (As you note in your letter to the campus community, some 95 percent of faculty and staff are already vaccinated, making a mandate unnecessary in that regard.) The EEOC recently issued guidance, suggesting that employers should even carefully scrutinize incentives for vaccination to avoid legal jeopardy. But protections for students are less robust, particularly in a private school setting.

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Accordingly, the university faces a low-cost choice in imposing a mandate upon students while assuming limited risks of legal liability. Although you may not have intended this result, such a decision arguably reflects a craven self-interest, rather than attentiveness to the good of all students. The university gets a significant economic benefit from coercing the student body to be vaccinated, as it reduces risks associated with lockdowns and the loss of important experiences that add value to a Creighton education. But there are potential costs imposed on those students, including individuals who may have adverse reactions or long-term health consequences from an experimental vaccine. I doubt that the university is willing to internalize those costs by agreeing to indemnify students.

Instead, it seems to be exploiting legal vulnerability in order to add security to its position in the marketplace.

It is unbecoming to an institution that professes cura personalis to employ a coercive policy without regard for the good of each individual student. Administrators who bear no risks from imposing the vaccines, but who stand to reap the rewards from coercion, are not in the right position to be making those judgments. These matters should instead be left for students and their parents, guided by healthcare professionals and others who have their interests in mind.

A Pro-Life Question of Conscience

The coercive policy offends another even more significant interest: conscientious and religious concerns about the origins of these vaccines. You have undoubtedly studied the various pronouncements by authorities within the Church, which ultimately conclude that it is morally licit to take the vaccines despite clear moral condemnation of research methods in deriving and/or testing them. These pronouncements conclude that the use of tissues from aborted children are sufficiently remote from use, thereby avoiding the matter of formal cooperation with evil, which cannot be allowed. However, they also are quite clear in respecting the conscientious decisions of individuals, effectively allowing individual Catholics to embrace a higher standard by refusing to take the vaccine. In other words, there is no moral responsibility to become vaccinated, and good reasons exist to pursue a moral path that does not embrace the vaccine.


Current policies allow Catholics to use vaccines tainted by morally illicit research involving the tissue of aborted children. The Church clearly rejects this research as immoral,

Father Kevin Flannery, S.J., who held our Waite Chair this past year, delivered a lecture on the subject in April. I attach separately for you the text of his paper, “Avoiding Illicit Involvement With Evil”. Father Flannery agrees that persons may take the vaccines without formally cooperating with evil, but he is also quite clear that vaccine participation should be voluntary, not coerced. He also recognizes strong religious reasons exist to resist using the vaccines.

A Scandalous Compromise with the Culture of Death?

One such reason involves the avoidance of scandal associated with their use. Consider the effects of the current policies, which allow Catholics to use vaccines tainted by morally illicit research involving the tissue of aborted children. The Church clearly rejects this research as immoral, but that designation causes no financial penalty for engaging in illicit practices. As long as the Church permits vaccinations despite the moral taint of the underlying research, there is no reduction of the market demand for the vaccines — and no reduction in the profits from pursuing those illicit means. At best, only a few of the faithful will likely go the extra mile and forego the vaccine — not enough to make a difference where it counts, in the pocketbook.

As you may have noticed, research with human body parts from aborted children has developed newfound support under the Biden Administration. The unethical combination of human and animal tissues is now so common that the term “chimera” has been invented to describe these hybrid combinations. We are facing horrific possibilities. The emerging secular moral framework seems inadequate to prevent further incursions into the realm of the dignity and sanctity of life. We need more persons with a moral framework infused with respect for life — and the courage to act upon their beliefs. But Creighton’s policy will ensure that at least some of those persons will likely be excluded from our campus community, effectively expelled and ostracized for their beliefs. Somehow, I think they will still prevail because their cause is just.

But shouldn’t our university be supporting them, rather than hindering their efforts?

Respect for the Dead

Father Flannery also identifies another serious reason to avoid the vaccines — the need to respect the dead. In his paper, he notes: “But if respect might reasonably be shown to a possession of a beloved deceased, respect might reasonably be shown also to the cells derived from the cells of a fetus whom we know to be the ultimate source of cells currently being used in order to produce or test vaccines.” (See page 9, attached). While he tends to find the benefits outweighing the harms and seems to agree with the conclusion that vaccines ought to be recommended, he also recognizes that “some faithful Catholics … might object to using the vaccines and that these decisions in conscience must be respected … .” (See page 10, attached).

This protection of conscience accords with the teaching of the Church on such matters, as you are well aware.

Jesuits Showing Less Respect for Religious Conscience Than the State of Nebraska

Ironically, the secular authorities in the State of Nebraska also agree that conscience protections are important — even more important than universal vaccination. State law grants an exemption from all vaccine requirements not only for health, but also if “that immunization conflicts with the personal and sincerely followed religious beliefs of the student.” Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-221(2). Thus, a student at a public school in Nebraska has greater protection from the secular authorities of the state than a student who chooses to place himself under the authority of the Catholic administration of Creighton University.

Indeed, the Creighton Student handbook states unequivocally: “Exemptions to the University immunization requirements are considered for students who have a documented medical contraindication to receiving immunizations. Religious exemptions are not accepted.” (Page 77, emphasis supplied).

You Are Not Welcome

The Student Handbook sends a strong message indeed: you are not welcome if your beliefs differ from those of the administration. That is a far cry from the mantra of equity and inclusion, which we bandy about so handily. This is a remarkable deficiency for a Catholic university that professes to uphold the
dignity of the person and to support the spiritual and moral wellbeing of its students. It is scandalous that we would turn a blind eye to the conscientiously held beliefs of our students in this area. While I have not done a comprehensive comparison of other Jesuit universities, I note that Marquette just announced an exemption along with its vaccine policy.

Also, news coverage of mandatory vaccine policies states that “almost all” institutions have religious exemptions. Query, why would we want to be among the exceptions?

Expelling the Most Conscientious Students on Campus?

As noted above, the persons with whom I have spoken about vaccine concerns may be small in number, but they are persons with great faith, integrity, and conviction. Some have told me they are willing to leave the university over this issue. This is not a cost-free act on their part. Some of them have already completed significant portions of their education. Leaving Creighton means leaving behind friends and faculty mentors for what may well be a less rigorous educational environment. But their faith means that much to them.

I admire their conviction and willingness to sacrifice. I also believe these individuals will become highly impactful and influential alumni. I want them to stay in the Creighton family, to see their positive influence among the other lives they will touch as they bring a faith-filled, courageous, and respectful attitude into the world around them. Moreover, consider the impact on student morale in our community when others learn that these students had to leave the university for choosing to follow their consciences. That does not reflect well on our Catholic identity.

I recognize that you are trying to balance many competing interests. I offer these comments in a spirit of good will and respect, with the sincere hope that they may prove helpful in allowing you to see this issue in a different light. Of course, I will welcome further dialogue.




Edward A. Morse


 John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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