The Madness of Merck

I wish to thank you for noting in your Pro-Life Victories section that Human Life International and Children of God for Life had called a pharmaceutical behemoth on the carpet for its use of fetal tissue to develop its vaccines (“Pro-Life Purchase Power,” May 18-24).

I do need to offer an important correction, however. The piece said that Merck had used “fetal stem-cell lines” to produce its vaccines. In actual fact, Merck used the very flesh of aborted babies to develop a culture in which to grow some of its vaccines. It was complicit in the deaths of 27 babies to get the tissue samples that they were looking for, even naming their Rubella vaccine “RA 27/3,” indicating the third tissue sample from the 27th aborted (A) baby. These abortions took place in 1966, when abortion was still illegal in the United States.

This critical issue goes beyond the current stem-cell debate to the very heart of the culture of death and in which massive companies like Merck are mired. For more than 30 years Merck has profited from the destruction of innocent human life in a way that resembles Nazi experiments committed on humans in their concentration camps and the scandalous “profit” that they reaped from them. Laboratories and abortion clinics are the new scenes of crimes against humanity, and the destruction of innocent lives is only slightly less alarming than the destruction of souls that accompanies it.

A good example of this spiritual degradation was seen in Merck's corporate defense against our proposal to the Security and Exchange Commission. Merck did not deny that babies were killed to get the cell lines but claimed that what we were objecting to was part of “ordinary business operations.” This is a classic case of legal absolution of corporate unethical behavior.

A Human Life International donor gave us a small amount of Merck stock last year with the knowledge that we would bring this issue to the attention of their stockholders through a corporate resolution. We did that very thing at the annual stockholders meeting in April despite Merck's best efforts to suppress it. Since that time Merck has initiated punitive actions against Human Life International by removing us from its list of designated charities for its employee matching-gift program. Our acceptance of the generosity of Merck employees was an opportunity for us to save more babies. However, Merck does not seem to be in the business of saving babies but rather of punishing conscientious objection to its unethical actions. This practice is not a thing of the past, either; Merck recently used the retinal tissue of an 18-week baby to develop its highly-touted HIV experimental drug.

Now we are bringing the issue to a wider audience and calling for a boycott of Merck products. Interested persons can see the Web sites of the two organizations ( and or call (800) 549-LIFE for more details. We are also asking current Merck stockholders to join us in voting next year to hold Merck's giant feet of clay to the fire of truth.


Front Royal, Virginia

The writer is president of Human Life International.

Inspired to Act

Congratulations to Tim Drake for his welldeserved Bernardin-O'Connor Award for Pro- Life Journalism (“Register Wins Pro-Life Award,” Inbrief, June 8-14). His articles, however, don't just win awards — they inspire.

Seven months ago, I wrote this newspaper praising Drake's article on Catholic efforts to elect pro-life officials. I wrote that his article “inspired me to organize, or join, a group of Catholic grass-roots activists in California, and hopefully nationwide.” Wondrously, several others from all walks of life developed the same idea at almost exactly the same time. And now, it is consummated. Your Catholic Voice ( is officially online. With the motto “Cultivate Your Faith, Activate Your Voice,” the group is working toward the long-term goal of changing hearts and the short-term goal of influencing elections.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the inspiration — and thank you, Tim Drake, for passing it on.


San Francisco

Zygotic Ensoulment?

The title “Embryonic Ensoulment” (Letters, June 1-7) is misleading. We begin as a zygote, not as an embryo. God speaks the words: “Now let us make man” to that first cell, that single cell, that totipotent cell that is formed at the time of fertilization. We change the name form zygote to embryo at the time of fertilization. Being a retired professor of moral theology, I believe that we learn well when we distinguish well.

In his letter, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk cites correctly the Church document of 1974 — but this is 2003! Ever since 1992, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been teaching what Father Pacholczyk inexplicably ignores: “The human body shares in the dignity of the image of God: It is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit” (No. 364).

Note the teaching: If it is a human body, then it is a person, a temple of the Spirit. That should terminate musings about non-personal human beings. Pope John Paul II nailed the coffin shut when he said later: “The distinction … between “human being” and “human person” … is an artificial distinction with no scientific or philosophical foundation” (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Life, March 1, 2002).

What had the Church learned between 1974 and 2002? She learned from science that human life is one continuum whose beginning is fertilization. There is no evidence of a subsequent switch from being human to being a person. Science sees no such change. The Pontifical Academy of Life has been saying this at conventions held at the Vatican since its founding in 1994. There simply is no evidence of ensoulment at some time after a human life begins. See especially the 458-page book of the Proceedings of the Convention held in February 1997. The Church, not yet sure of itself in 1974, is now certain.

May I add my own reflection? The zygote has before it the task to build a human brain, with its 100 billion interacting neurons. It is a monumental [feat] of biotech engineering. The schedule is tight: about nine months. The Lord would not entrust the job to an amateur — to an animal soul, for example. We do not allow monkeys to pilot commercial airliners; nor do we begin our lives with animal souls.


Nagoya, Japan

The writer is a retired professor of moral theology. For more on the subject, see his Web site,

Editors Note: Father Tad Pacholczyk is writing a column-length response to reader's concerns.


In “House Okays Partial-Birth Ban; Will Courts?” (June 15-21), we wrote that Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, “remained confident the court would find this bill to be constitutional.” This statement was not accurate: Johnson said he couldn't predict what the Supreme Court would do.

Also: The Register Ratings for two movies were transposed in our June 1-7 edition of “Now Playing.” The correct ratings:

The Lizzie McGuire Movie

Register Ratings

V 0 P 4 N 0 S 0

Bend it Like Beckham

Register Ratings

V 4 P -1 N 4 S -1

President Donald Trump during his speech at a "Thank You" Tour rally held at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

President Trump: ‘Faith in God’ Helps Unite Nation

In an apparent reference to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and months of demonstrations and civil unrest across several U.S. cities over racial justice issues, Trump said that faith was an important support for civil and national unity.