Dear Friends in Christ,

Recently I was asked by a couple of you about the appropriateness of the COVID vaccines, and if it is ok to get vaccinated.  The question of moral rectitude stems from reports that the vaccines, or at least some of them, are in some way connected to the abortion process.  This is understandably a very serious concern, and certainly potentially morally problematic.  To the end then of easing your minds and hearts on this matter, I’d like to briefly address it here.  In doing so I will be referencing an excellent article published in the Catholic periodical Marian Helpers entitled simply “The Vaccines.”  I will include several Church document references from the article that are most helpful in forming and easing our consciences.

First, understand that not all the vaccines are the same in their relative connection to the abortion process.  As stated in the article:

“Unlike the corona virus vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca, in use elsewhere in the world, neither the Pfizer-BioNTech nor the Moderna vaccines were designed, developed, or produced using abortion-derived cell lines.  However…… to validate the effectiveness of the vaccines, they reportedly were tested using fetal cell lines from decades ago.”

Therefore Pfizer and Moderna are very remotely connected with the abortion process.  Still, it could be unsettling for many people of good faith in considering whether or not to receive these vaccines.  Therefore let’s consider what the Church has stated on the issue.

From a December 8, 2020 statement from the National Catholic Bioethics Center(NCBC):

“The Catholic Church neither requires nor forbids the use of ethically problematic vaccines, but instead urges people to discern what decision to make after having carefully formed their consciences about the moral and prudential issues surrounding the vaccines that become available.”

Neither requires nor forbids.  This is a critical point.  Nevertheless the concern may persist with some.  Consider then these words from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF), in a statement on December 21, 2020:

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.  In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.”

Therefore if anyone refuses a vaccine as a “conscientious objection”, he or she must do so while considering the health of others, especially the most vulnerable around them, and not just themselves.  Furthermore, in that same statement, the CDF addresses the issue of the common good:

“In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”

May recommend, especially protecting the weakest.  Does the Commandment to “Love thy Neighbor” come to mind?  The Church is urging us to look at the bigger picture here. In a December 14, 2020 statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Church goes so far to say that vaccination is a “moral responsibility for the common good.”

Again, however, the question remains if it is wrong to create such abortion-derived cell lines, even for such vaccination purposes.  The Marian article answers that question this way:

“Absolutely correct.  But the Church judges that receiving vaccinations related to these wrongly created cell lines is remote material cooperation with evil, permitted in order to secure the common good in the face of historic threats to innocent human life and well-being.”

                 Permitted in order to secure the common good in the face of historic threats.  Allowed.  Acceptable.  That should ease our consciences.

There have however been objections from some Catholic Bishops, to which many may agree.  In a December 12, 2020 combined statement:

“Any link to the abortion process, even the most remote and implicit, will cast a shadow over the Church’s duty to bear unwavering witness to the truth that abortion must be utterly rejected.  The ends cannot justify the means.”

 In response to this objection, we can reference the Holy See’s (Rome’s) document Dignitatis Personae (Dignity of the Human Person), paragraph 35:

 “Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such ‘biological material.’  Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.  Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision.”

Also, in the aforementioned December 21 statement from the CDF, and a little more succinctly:

 “The use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.”

The act of procuring an abortion, the act of creating abortion-derived cell lines, and the act of receiving a vaccine developed or tested with such cell lines are separate moral acts.  For example, one who receives such a vaccine is not thereby condoning the act of abortion, or even the act of creating the cell lines.  He or she may in truth be strongly opposed to those acts.  Therefore, as stated above by the Church, receiving a morally questionable vaccine is NOT formal cooperation with any other moral acts connected with the vaccine.  In fact, as is assumed, the recipient consents to be given the vaccine in good faith that the vaccine will do some good for him or her, and also help to protect others.  Still, one may attempt to argue that the reception of a vaccine that is even remotely tied to the abortion process might in some way encourage the practice of abortion or at the very least result in complacency regarding the gravity of it.  The CDF’s December 21 statement answers that concern thusly:

“It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimizing, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.”

Furthermore, for a Catholic who receives a morally problematic vaccine, the NCBC actually offers this call to action:

“A person who discerns in conscience that he or she can take such a vaccine has an obligation to make known his or her opposition to abortion and the use of abortion derived cell lines.”

                 Therefore we cannot remain silent to the grave issue of abortion.  The current issue surrounding these vaccines reminds us of our ongoing mission to protect and defend innocent human life.  The NCBC continues in its statement:

“We should redouble our efforts to create alternatives to vaccines that utilize abortion-derived cell lines.  Together, with courageous witness and hard work, we can help build a culture of life.”

The building of the Culture of Life is an ongoing work that necessitates constant diligence and vigilance.

Finally, regarding the COVID vaccines, and vaccines in general, the USCCB in its December 14 statement emphasized the grave need and importance of receiving them:

“First, at least at present, there is no available alternative vaccine that has absolutely no connection to abortion.  Second, the risk to public health is very serious, as evidenced by the millions of infections worldwide and hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone.  Third, in many cases the most important effect of vaccination may not be the protection it offers to the person who receives the vaccination, who may be of relatively robust health and unlikely to be seriously affected by the disease.  Rather, the more important effect may be the protection it offers to those who are much more likely to be seriously stricken by the disease if they were to contract it through exposure to those infected.”

As a final thought, the USCCB states very firmly that getting vaccinated can be considered “an act of self-love and of charity toward others.” It is ultimately from the point of view of charity that we ought to view the vaccination question.  And the Golden Rule.

And maybe, just maybe, some of the souls of the aborted children are cheering from Heaven, “You took our lives, but now we are saving yours.”

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

                 I hope this explanation helps to alleviate any concerns you may have had.

In God We Trust,

Fr. David


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