Catholic Bishops Warn That Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Is Morally Problematic


Because the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was developed using cell lines that began with the tissue of an aborted baby, Catholic Bishops are urging Catholics to avoid getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if they have an option to receive a different vaccine.

In a joint statement issued on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the conference’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said there were ethical questions about the vaccine.

According to a report in The Guardian, the cells used to develop the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are in a line that began in 1985 from aborted fetal tissue.

The report noted that medical research often uses cells that can trace their origins to fetal tissue that came from an aborted child in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

Some Catholics have argued that because all vaccines have at least some connection to abortion through either testing or production, none meet the church’s standards.

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However, Rhoades and Naumann wrote that there is a difference.

“The approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the United States again raises questions about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines,” the statement said.

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“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.'”

“However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s,” the bishops wrote.

They said that their concerns do not mean Catholics should reject being vaccinated.

“While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good,” they wrote.

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In a previous statement issued in December, the same two church leaders noted that the Catholic church’s “Doctrine of the Faith explains that ‘in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision.’

“As for the moral responsibility of those who are merely the recipients of the vaccines, the Congregation affirms that a serious health danger could justify use of ‘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.'”

In addressing the connection of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to abortion, the bishops wrote that “while neither vaccine is completely free from any connection to morally compromised cell lines, in this case the connection is very remote from the initial evil of the abortion.”

“In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines.”

However, they wrote that the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in Britain is “more morally compromised” and urged Catholics that if they have a choice, to avoid the vaccine in preference for the ones developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

Rhoades and Naumann said that better ways of research are also needed.

“For our part, we bishops and all Catholics and men and women of good will must continue to do what we can to ensure the development, production, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine without any connection to abortion,” they wrote, “and to help change what has become the standard practice in much medical research.”

The bishops concluded by referring to the use of aborted fetal tissue in developing vaccines as “a practice in which certain morally compromised cell lines are routinely used as a matter of course, with no consideration of the moral question concerning the origins of those cell lines.”

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at
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