The Vatican on Monday declared that it is “morally acceptable” for Roman Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research that used fetal tissue from abortions.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s watchdog office for doctrinal orthodoxy, said it addressed the question after receiving several requests for “guidance” during recent months.
The doctrine office said that bishops, Catholic groups and experts have offered “diverse and sometimes conflicting pronouncements” on the matter.
Drawing on Vatican pronouncements in past years about developing vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted fetuses, the watchdog office issued a statement it said Pope Francis had examined last week and ordered to be made public.
The Catholic Church’s teaching says that abortion is a grave sin.
The Vatican concluded that “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses” in the research and production process when “ethically irreproachable” vaccines aren’t available to the public.
However, it stressed that the “licit” uses of such vaccines “does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses.”
The Catholic News Agency noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was among those determined to be “ethically uncontroversial” by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
The Moderna vaccine is also on the “ethically uncontroversial” list. Dr. John Brehany, director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that “while the company has some association with the use of cell lines from elective abortions, it is not responsible for that use, and its vaccine was not produced using those HEK-293 cells,” the Catholic News Agency said.
On the other hand, several other vaccines — including those developed by the University of Oxford and Astrazeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen, and the University of Pittsburgh — are the product of “unethical programs,” it said.
“The use of cells from electively aborted fetuses for vaccine production makes these five COVID-19 vaccine programs potentially controversial and could reduce willingness of some to use the vaccine,” the Lozier Institute said.
In its statement, the Vatican explained that obtaining vaccines that do not pose an ethical dilemma is not always possible.
It cited circumstances in countries “where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients” or where special storage or transport conditions make their distribution more difficult.
In reassuring faithful Catholics that getting a COVID-19 vaccine would not violate religious doctrine, the Vatican also noted that while various vaccines might be distributed in a country, “health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated.”
In those cases, it is morally acceptable to receive vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses, the Vatican said.
The Vatican said some of the vaccines used cell lines “drawn from tissue obtained from two abortions that occurred in the last century.”
The Vatican hasn’t said if or when Francis would be vaccinated nor which vaccine he might receive.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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