Covid-19 Vaccines Draw Warnings From Some Catholic Bishops--Update
By Ian Lovett
At least two Catholic bishops in the U.S. are advising their
parishioners to avoid certain Covid-19 vaccines, potentially
putting them in conflict with the Vatican and complicating efforts
to speed inoculations.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans last week released a statement
advising Catholics that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is
"morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in
development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing,"
and advising them to opt for a Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. vaccine,
The warning is the latest salvo in a long-running debate among
Catholics over the ethics of vaccines linked to abortion. J & J
developed its vaccine with a cell line that, according to a 2003
publication by its subsidiary Crucell, contains human embryonic
retinal cells. A spokesman for the pharmaceutical company said it
manufactures vaccine doses using "our engineered cell-line system"
and didn't comment on the archdiocese's statement.
In December, the Vatican issued a statement deeming it "morally
acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines
from aborted fetuses in their research and production process" when
no "ethically irreproachable" vaccines were available. The
statement didn't mention specific vaccines.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has weighed in favorably
on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, saying their connection to
aborted tissue was remote and therefore their use was justified.
However, they deemed the AstraZeneca vaccine, which hasn't been
approved for use in the U.S., morally compromised, and advised
Catholics to avoid it if possible. They didn't weigh in on the J
& J vaccine.
Representatives for Pfizer and Moderna didn't immediately
respond to requests for comment.
Cell lines derived from fetal tissue that was aborted, often
decades ago, are often used in medical research, and have played a
role in the development of vaccines against polio, chickenpox,
hepatitis A and shingles.
Anticipating a conflict over this issue, a group of religious
leaders, including some Catholic bishops, last year sent a letter
to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ask that vaccines
without any connection to abortion be made available to
Catholic ethicists say the concerns with the J & J vaccine
are more serious, because it uses cell lines from fetal tissue in
its production, while Pfizer and Moderna used such cells during lab
Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, an ethicist at the National Catholics
Bioethics Center, which the New Orleans archdiocese said it
consulted for guidance, said there were circumstances when it could
be acceptable to take the J & J vaccine.
"Importantly, the Catholic Church does not condemn the J & J
vaccine or any other vaccine," Fr. Pacholczyk said. "Someone with a
sufficiently serious reason, such as a threat to one's health,
could use any of the three Covid-19 vaccines."
The New Orleans archdiocese, led by Archbishop Gregory Aymond,
said taking the vaccine was ultimately "a decision of individual
conscience." About one third of New Orleans' 390,000 residents are
Catholic. Roughly 150,000 people in southeastern Louisiana, where
the city is located, have received at least one shot of a Covid-19
vaccine, according to the state department of health.
Some Catholic officials have criticized other vaccines as well.
Bishop Joseph Strickland, of Tyler, Texas, wrote on Twitter late
last year that the Moderna vaccine was "not morally produced"
because of its connection to abortion and Catholics should
therefore reject it. Last month, he tweeted, "The fact remains that
ANY vaccine available today involves using murdered children before
they could even be born. I renew my pledge...I will not extend my
life by USING murdered children."
Ashish Jha, a health-policy professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan
School of Public Health, said the problem with advising members of
a religious group to receive one vaccine instead of another is
that, at least for now, people don't get to pick which one they
"I do worry if large swathes of the population start deciding
that one vaccine is unacceptable, it will cause those areas to have
higher rates of Covid," Dr. Jha said. "If you're a religious
leader, is it better for your parishioners to go unvaccinated and
therefore be at risk for getting sick and dying?"
Write to Ian Lovett at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 02, 2021 18:12 ET (23:12 GMT)
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