Recently, parishioners have inquired about the morality of receiving the Covid vaccine and any relationship to stem cells obtained from aborted fetuses. It is a very complex issue, and parishioners should be wary of accepting opinions or interpretations of Church moral teaching from those who are not really qualified or knowledgeable. Moral Theology is a discipline that requires many years of formal study under competent, responsible Church authorities. It is not for casual reading.
This question has been addressed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The National Catholic Bioethics Center, and Bishop Barres through a memorandum from the Rockville Centre Diocesan the Office of Human Life, Family & Bioethics. Those statements are quite comprehensive – and not always easy for the untrained reader to interpret. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome has issued a statement regarding the morality of receiving the vaccines. Some excerpts from the statement, which can be found in its entirety on the Vatican website:
• All vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that 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 CDF focuses on the moral aspects of receiving vaccines developed using cell lines from tissue obtained from two fetuses that were aborted in the 1960s.
• The Instruction Dignitas Personae, approved by Pope Benedict XVI, pointed out that “there exist differing degrees of responsibility”, because “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.”
• In such a case [the Covid-19 pandemic], all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that 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 Congregation recalls that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”
• The morality of vaccination, it notes, depends both on the duty to protect one’s own health and the pursuit 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.”
Be assured that the CDF affirms that the conscience of every Catholic must, in every case, be respected. The Church has also taught that good conscientious decisions should be guided by Church moral teaching. In these uncertain, anxious times, I hope this information, which is not personal opinion or interpretation but comes for the Church’s highest teaching authority, is of help, encouragement, and consolation. We continue to pray for one another and for our world.