Father Michael Copenhagen
Testimony at NJ Senate Hearing—12/12/2019
My name is Father Michael Copenhagen, a Catholic priest who leads a church in NYS and teaches or has taught philosophy, theology, latin, biology, chemistry, and history in high school. I also have a family where six children are not allowed to attend the religious school where I teach because I refuse to violate the moral law...not just religious sentiment or rights, but the moral law that binds us all. Consider one such moral issue: various vaccine products, such as MMR, for which there is no ethical alternative are produced in live cell cultures from aborted fetal remains and even after filtering, significant amounts of sub-cellular DNA and protein from the child remain in the final dose. You can refer to Dr. Theresa Deisher’s affidavit for the science on that. Applying a thorough moral analysis, many Catholics and conscientious people see clear immediate forced cooperation in the intrinsic evils of theft, desecration, experimentation and trafficking of human remains obtained through violence to produce the product. And this is one of a number of complex moral issues, including STD vaccines, and those which constitute extraordinary means, defined as those where there is no moral obligation to receive them.
While the Church is not opposed to vaccination in principle, informed consent by the patient, free of coercion, is a fundamental pillar of the Catholic bioethical tradition and any humane medical ethic. Coercion absolutely undermines informed consent and the most basic tenet of the Hippocratic Oath, to do no harm, because to violate the conscience of the patient by overriding their refusal of a procedure is violence against the body and the soul. It is the most basic harm. It contradicts and undermines all legitimate public health; it abandons the physician’s duty to care for the patient rather than become their master. There is little more hard-lined forceful method of coercion than to ban an entire segment of the population from public life: from school, daycare, and the standard means of association with peers. Consent means nothing if there is no right of refusal, and you would make the price of refusal a permanent state of segregation, isolation, and banishment when there is not even a temporary claimed (public health or infectious disease) crisis. You would make the forfeiture of consent the price of citizenship, which by that fact ceases to be citizenship but in principle becomes slavery. Your measure not only strikes religious freedom, it undermines the common good generally—of which public health is one part—by establishing the principle of state ownership of the citizens in their persons, it dissolves the common good by dissolving the autonomy which is the very essence of citizenship. Among the logical consequences: if mass data is collected from such inoculations, you are engaged in forced human experimentation; if people are injured, you are engaged in forced harm, and those who profit have no liability or accountability.
In the Catholic tradition and every good and free society, parents are the natural God given primary educators and guardians of their children: not the state.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2229, parents “have the right to choose a school for [their children] which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental...Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.”
These are not only principles of faith, or even ethics, these are principles of sanity. If you pass this measure, you bear for all time the full weight and moral responsibility for outlawing the full public practice of the Catholic Faith, for coercion which fundamentally subverts the moral law and rights of citizens, and undermines the very nature of your own elected office, which is to preserve the good, not to dissolve it.