A Catholic nun was so distressed by the abortion of an unnamed fetus that she made arrangements to give it a funeral and a name. That sounds nice, except that it is also extremely creepy.
With permission to proceed granted, she began making arrangements for his memorial service by first giving this child a name. A beautiful small wooden urn would be engraved– but what name should she choose, she wanted to know? I gently suggested “Victor”, in honor of her mother, Victoria who had passed away two days earlier and she happily agreed. The middle name would come to her in an equally tender way as she told me of a conversation with a young woman she had met the previous day.
This woman had confessed to Sister that she had aborted her baby, an action she deeply regretted. But she could never give her little girl a proper burial since the remains were lost, and this deep sorrow haunted the mother’s memory. But when Sister told her about her plans for Victor and that she could include her baby’s name, Marie, with his, it greatly consoled her.
And so the service was held on Thursday May 2, 2013 – the same day Sister’s mother was buried miles and miles away. A fellow nun, a lay associate, two deacons, a priest and a bereaved family mourning the recent loss of their own stillborn child gathered around the altar for Holy Mass with little Victor Marie in their center.
I don’t have a picture of Victor Marie, but I can kind of guess what he looked like. Like this:
Yep. They gave a full Catholic funeral to…a medicine bottle. Why? Because they had learned that many medications are made using cultured human cells, some of which were originally extracted from fetal tissue. This particular medication was made using the WI-26 cell line, a venerable product of the Hayflick lab, first isolated back in 1961. The work was described in this rather important paper:
Hayflick L, Moorhead PS (1961) The serial cultivation of human diploid cell strains. Exp Cell Res.25:585-621.
Look it up. They describe and evaluate a number of cell lines that were created for ethical medical uses.
This raises the question of the use of diploid human cell strains for the production of killed or attenuated human virus vaccines: and in particular poliovirus vaccines. The objections raised against using heteroploid cell lines in the production of human virus vaccines have been pointed out by Westwood: “It is the fear of malignancy more than any other single factor which precludes the cell lines at present available from use in the production of virus vaccines.” In view ￼ of the filtration procedures used in making oral polio vaccines the question of feeding live cells can be discounted. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼As pointed out further by Westwood: “The risk lies in the possibility of inducing malignant changes in the cells of the human subject by the introduction of an, as yet hypothetical, virus or non-living transforming principle analogous to that inducing change of type in the pneumococcus.”
In order to make vaccines using attenuated or dead viruses, one needs to first grow them in something — and cultured cell lines are a safer source than, for instance, growing them in live human volunteers. Furthermore, there were concerns that cell lines that exhibited strong cytopathologies, such as gross chromosomal abnormalities, might also be infected with other viruses, and so might act as a vector for other diseases. Hayflick and Moorhead created a set of diploid cell lines that could more safely be used in the production of vaccines. These same cell lines are also used in other kinds of research.
But here’s the thing: there isn’t a baby in that bottle. It’s not clear what kind of medication they were burying, but if it were a vaccine, for instance, there isn’t even a remote descendant of fetal cells in the bottle: it would be a collection of viral proteins, dead bits of a virus, which had once upon a time grown on human-derived cells.
Which means that if Catholic rituals actually worked, they just sent a virus to Heaven.
I’m also thinking the priests are going to be very busy having funerals for millions of petri dishes and discarded 96 well plates and old bottles, on the illusion that they are all objects of Jesus’ concern.