By Tony DeGol
Bishop Mark Bartchak is joining other bishops in the United States in clarifying recent confusion regarding the “moral permissibility” of vaccines for COVID-19.
According to Bishop Kevin Rhoades and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna did not involve the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue from an aborted baby.
Bishop Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, is the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine. Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City is the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The two went on to say that the vaccines are not completely free from any connection to abortion since Pfizer and Moderna used a tainted cell line for a confirmatory lab test.
“There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote,” Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann explained. “Some are asserting that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines then it is immoral to be vaccinated with them. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching.”
The bishops referred to studies by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2017, as well as a 2008 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding bioethical questions.
“These documents all point to the immorality of using tissue taken from an aborted child for creating cell lines,” they stated. “They also make distinctions in terms of the moral responsibility of the various actors involved, from those in designing and producing a vaccine to those receiving the vaccine. Most importantly, they all make it clear that, at the level of the recipient, it is morally permissible to accept vaccination when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health.”
Bishop Mark echoed the message from Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann.
“Church teaching prohibits the direct use of cells taken from aborted babies, but that is not the issue here,” the Bishop said. “I am confident in advising people that based on research by qualified experts in moral theology and bioethics that the vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna appear to be acceptable for use by Catholics according to official Church teaching.”
In recent days, the Catholic Health Association has also stated that it finds nothing morally prohibitive with the vaccines and encourages Catholic health organizations to distribute the vaccines developed by Pfizer, BioNTech (Pfizer’s German partner), and Moderna.
“CHA applauds the work of the scientists who have developed these vaccines in a manner consistent with human dignity and will work to support efforts to educate the public about the importance of getting vaccinated,” commented Sister Mary Haddad, RSM, President and Chief Executive Officer.
Locally, Attorney Tom Forr of the Blair County chapter of Citizens Concerned for Human Life is not opposed to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“Most pro-life organizations do not have a problem with these vaccines,” Forr said. “I haven’t seen any direct criticism of these two.”
As vaccines become available in the near future, Bishop Mark expressed confidence that any additional moral questions will be answered by the appropriate USCCB office and the Vatican.
He also urged his fellow Catholics to remain vigilant.
“We must always continue to advocate for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, and the faithful should make known to researchers and pharmaceutical companies to observe this fundamental principle concerning human life and not use cells from aborted babies,” Bishop Mark urged.
Editor’s Note: Bishop Mark will join Tony DeGol for a discussion about COVID-19 vaccines on Proclaim! TV on December 6 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.