First, do no harm.” —A phrase summing up the essence of the much longer Hippocratic oath, sworn in ancient Greece, and also up until recent times in the West, by all new doctors as they took up the profession, or the vocation, of healing

    According to the Hippocratic Corpus, Hippocratic medicine recommended a healthy diet and physical exercise as a remedy for most ailments. If this did not reduce sickness, some type of medication was recommended. Plants were processed for their medicinal elements.” —from a biography of Hippocrates, the Greek doctor and teacher who is regarded as the founder of all modern medicine almost 2,500 years ago. Hippocrates lived from 460-370 B.C., and his students collected 60 volumes of his teachings, published as the Hippocratic Corpus, considered the oldest writings on medicine (link)

    I swear… that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this contract:… I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan… So long as I maintain this Oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of all men for all time. However, should I transgress this Oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.—The Hippocratic Oath, taken for centuries by all doctors (link)

    If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to keep it, because He will surely require it of you.” —Deuteronomy, 23:21

    Again, you have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘You must not break your oath, but you must keep your oaths to the Lord.'” —Jesus speaking in the Gospel of Matthew 5:33

    The bottom line: The fact is that when difficult, real-time decisions must be made, it’s hard to apply the ‘first, do no harm’ dictum because estimates of risk and benefit are so uncertain and prone to error. But it is a reminder that we need high-quality research to help us better understand the balance of risk and benefit for the tests and treatments we recommend. Ultimately, it is also a reminder that doctors should neither overestimate their capacity to heal, nor underestimate their capacity to cause harm.” Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing, in a June 22, 2020 article which explores the complexity and difficulty of carrying out the Hippocratic admonition to “first, do no harm” (link)   

    Cardinal Burke and “vaccine hesitancy” or “vaccine skepticism”

    In the accounts of the illness of Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, 73, dozens of accounts speak of the “hesitancy” of the cardinal with regard to the various “vaccines” being used today to fight the COVID virus.

    (For a debate over whether the vaccines are “vaccines” or “gene therapies” see here, where the doctor concludes they are vaccines… but of an unprecedented type.)

    In this screen shot below, brought up with a search for “Cardinal Burke,” two of the articles are titled in this way: “Cardinal Raymond Burke, a Vaccine Skeptic, Remains in Serious Condition” (Newsweek) and “Antigay, Anti-Vax Cardinal Raymond Burke Has COVID, on Ventilator.” (Yahoo!News).

    And, on the internet, there are literally dozens of titles that are similar or identical, all referring to 1) Cardinal Burke, 2) his alleged “anti-vax” position, and 3) the irony that he himself should now have fallen ill and is on a ventilator.

    That is the way this story is being told to the world.

    So, one may draw two conclusions from these news titles:

    1) Cardinal Burke is now being identified — the middle article refers to this when it says Burke is being “caricatured” (National Review) — as a “vaccine skeptic” as if this is the key, and very wrong, characteristic of his mind and heart and being and

    2) Cardinal Burke’s illness is being presented as clear evidence that he is indeed wrong in being a “vaccine skeptic,” because he is now paying a heavy (but, it is insinuated, deserved) price for his alleged skepticism — he is ill with the virus and in danger of death.

    Here is the screen-shot:

    For the media, Burke is “the reactionary Cardinal Burke”

    Here below is a quotation which sums up the allegations being made about Cardinal Burke, not on three or four articles, but in dozens and hundreds of articles.

    The articles present the allegations in different ways, but this paragraph from is typical:

    “Back in May of 2020, the reactionary Cardinal Burke spoke out about vaccinations, saying, “it must be clear that vaccination itself cannot be imposed, in a totalitarian manner, on citizens.” He also derided wholesale calls for a vaccine against the current pandemic, saying derisively that “there is a certain movement to insist that now everyone must be vaccinated against the coronavirus.” During the virtual Rome Life Forum, the Cardinal also did a bit of conservative misinformation peddling, saying the old some people say “a kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person, so that at any moment he or she can be controlled by the State regarding health and about other matters which we can only imagine.”

    So, “the reactionary Cardinal Burke” is accused and mocked and condemned for saying three things:

    1) that imposing vaccinations on citizens in a totalitarian manner is wrong

    2) that imposing vaccinations on everyone is wrong

    3) that we should be aware of, and perhaps concerned about, the fact that “some people” — yes, there are “some” such people; see here (CBS News, June 22, 2016) and here (USA TODAY, Aug. 9, 2017, which refers to a company in Wisconsin, where Burke was raised, which “chipped” all of its employees, so that is where he may have heard about this fact), and here (60 Minutes, April 11, 2021) — that “some people” propose as a good thing that entire populations should receive “a kind of microchip” in order — it is said — to bring greater order and happiness to human life. (So, in a sense, the third point has already been responded to here, by noting the examples of “some people” who do wish to implant microchips in people.)

    These are the accusations against Burke.

    Preliminary reflections and a preliminary response

    One interesting thing to me is that every single article on the internet (or almost) seems to contain most or all of these points.

    So the very first impression that one receives is of an information distribution system that is entirely homogeneous. Newspapers and news agencies may be in different countries, or cities, or owned by different companies, but they all (seemingly) write the same story, and make the same points, about Cardinal Burke, and his mind, and his illness.

    The second thing that strikes me is that, in this matter, old ideas and principles of human dignity and freedom seem to be set aside carelessly as if they have no value whatsoever anymore.

    In other words, Cardinal Burke says something like “vaccination itself cannot be imposed in a totalitarian manner.”

    One would normally expect everyone to agree with him!

    After all, what he is saying is that it should not be imposed in the manner of a Hitler, or a Stalin, or a Mussolini, that is in the manner of a totalitarian whose every command is followed without hesitation even if the command is wrong…

    In the past, maybe a few years ago, maybe a few decades ago now, no one would have criticized someone like Burke for saying “vaccination (or anything else) cannot be imposed on citizens in a totalitarian manner.”

    And people would not have criticized because it would have been obvious that Burke was right.

    Back then, everyone believed that a democracy, a free country, a free world, acts based on reason, on science, on facts, on what would be the best thing to do for the common good.

    Only a totalitarian, a Hitler, a Stalin, would short-circuit this free, democratic, scientific process.

    Yet it seems that, in our media today, there cannot be found more than an isolated voice, or two, to say, “Come on now, you guys. Burke is right! The vaccine should not be imposed in a totalitarian manner.”

    We all remember Dr. Mengele, the German concentration camp doctor who served the totalitarian Hitler, and who — among other experiments, he engaged in for the sake of gaining scientific knowledge despite the suffering and death of individuals — injected vaccines into prisoners, against their will, without asking for their opinion. After the war, Dr. Mengele was tried for crimes against humanity, convicted, then hanged by the Allies for having done what he did. And under the Nuremberg Laws, it remains an international crime against humanity still today to inject individuals with untested vaccines against their will (here is an article on this topic.)

    But when Cardinal Burke speaks out against “a totalitarian way” of “imposing” something, the entire chattering class of the world media condemns him.

    As for the second point, the imposing vaccinations on everyone, there are a number of logical questions to be asked, and all of them boil down to one, simple question, in keeping with the Hippocratic oath, the basis of all medicine: might the vaccine do harm?

    We might, logically, answer that question in one of three ways:

    1) No, no chance; it cannot do any harm; none at all…

    2) Yes, in fact, you may be right to be hesitant, Cardinal Burke, because it might do some harm… especially in certain special cases (for example, in the case of a pregnant woman who might consequently be more prone to having a miscarriage (this article says there is no such danger, and this article says there is no such danger but that many are fearful there could be); or, for example, in the case of someone who definitely has already had a case of the virus, and came through it, and now has natural antibodies or immunities as a result, so does not need the shot; or, for example, in the case of someone who tends to have serious autoimmune problems, and fears being exposed to any substance which might produce a powerful auto-immune reaction… just to give three examples)… but, still, we are persuaded that it won’t do as much harm as the COVID virus;

    3) Actually, yes, it might do harm (as some on the internet are rather excitedly claiming)… and we admit that because, now that you ask the question, we really don’t yet know. We are still waiting to see how it all works out. So the question cannot be answered yet, because the facts aren’t yet available to answer it with certainty.

    I suppose there are many, perhaps most, who will say it is wrong, harmful, to even suggest that Point #3 is a possible response. But there are serious doctors who have written articles and given interviews maintaining that #3 is a real possibility that thoughtful members of society ought to consider, with very great care indeed.


    I myself, of my own knowledge, not being a biochemist, or virologist, or doctor, do not have any professional credentials for making any judgment in this matter.

    And perhaps that applies to the cardinal — and to other Churchmen — as well. (I think it does.)

    But, as a citizen, as a reader of hundreds and hundreds of articles on the internet (so, as someone relatively more informed, arguably, than someone who reads no articles at all) and as one more human being who is attempting to distinguish between facts, suppositions, opinions, proven and baseless claims, on the basis of simple reason and logic, always seeking what would be the most conducive to the common good and the least harm, I am not offended by Cardinal Burke’s “hesitation” to support the imposition of the vaccine “in a totalitarian way.”

    In fact, I think he is courageous, and, in a certain way, heroic, in this present environment, to speak as he has spoken.

    And I think his attitude just might be the type of attitude that could ward off quite dangerous and even disastrous decisions, which may otherwise be taken.

    In fact, I think our own leadership, in America, in Europe, in the world, and in the Church, could benefit from taking seriously for a moment the concerns the cardinal has expressed.

    And I pray that he pulls through this terrible challenge, as he lies in hospital, sedated, struggling to breathe.

    May God be with him.   

Note to readers: The following is a request to readers for support for our own initiative to help Christians in the Middle East. I believe this has the chance to become an important effort, but it requires some financial support to develop and accomplish its mission —Robert Moynihan


The people of Beirut and all of Lebanon are in need of our assistance.

We have spoken with our friends, the Maronite Monks, about how we can help.

You can make a tax deductible donation here.

    These donations are restricted to our “Friends of Lebanon” project. These funds are used to develop a precise and effective way to carry out to 2 goals:

    1) Short Term Help: to assist those who need immediate assistance – daily needs like food and water, electricity and other essential household items.

    2) Long Term Hope: to support projects which will help those most in need to become stable, to become self reliant, to receive education and to stay in Lebanon.

As a donor, you will have an opportunity to join the conversation on a monthly virtual video calls with those who are on the ground in Lebanon, helping those in need.  

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