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WESTMINSTER, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishops of England and Wales (CBCEW) are urging Catholics to accept a COVID-19 vaccine based on the British government's assurance that "no new human fetal tissue will be used in making the vaccine." [emphasis added]
The bishops fail to assure Catholics that a potential vaccine will not use fetal tissue from babies aborted in the past while exhorting individuals to "welcome the vaccine not only for the sake of their own health but also out of solidarity with others, especially the most vulnerable."
The bishops are also overlooking financial interests in the development of a vaccine despite revelations that the United Kingdom's chief scientific adviser has a £600,000 shareholding in a pharmaceutical giant contracted to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
In a statement published Thursday by the CBCEW's Department for Social Justice, bishops acknowledge "concern" about vaccines "developed in cell lines which have their origin in tissues taken from human fetal tissue."
The statement names the highly publicized Oxford University vaccine using kidney tissue cell lines (HEK 293) from a baby girl aborted in 1972 and a second vaccine sourced from the retinal tissue of an 18-week old baby aborted in 1985 (PER C6).
Pope Francis has called for a successful and safe COVID-19 vaccine to be "universal for everyone," the bishops stress, asking Catholics "to pray ... for the discovery of an ethically sourced effective vaccine."
"But the pontiff has so far failed to provide any leadership on this, insisting only on universal access to the vaccine," Dcn. Nick Donnelly told Church Militant.
The popular writer and commentator also noted that "the duration of time makes no difference to the intrinsic evil of the act. The bishops need to tell the faithful that we cannot benefit from an evil act no matter how long ago it was perpetrated."
"Further, they also need to spell out the truth that at least two vaccines use cells from murdered babies and that there are no circumstances where it is morally permissible to use it," Donnelly emphasized.
The bishops, however, note that if an ethically sourced vaccine is "not achievable and widely available for all people, the Church recognizes that there may be 'grave reasons' for using a vaccine which is developed from cell lines associated with the unethical exploitation of the human remains of an aborted child in the past."
This exception is permitted even when the Church "recognizes moral complicity in the use of tissue and cells from aborted fetuses for research and is opposed to such use."
"The Church teaches that there must be no complicity in direct abortion and the risk of scandal should be avoided," they clarify, and "each Catholic needs to educate his or her conscience on this matter in the light of the above principles."
Donnelly contends that "it is not good enough for the bishops to leave it to individual consciences over this moral issue. They need to take a lead by clearly spelling out the immorality of using the body parts of babies murdered by abortion."
"After 60 years of extremely weak catechesis and heretical teaching from some pulpits and schools, many Catholics are so poorly formed in the Faith that their consciences are deformed by ignorance and sin. But as the Catechism clearly states, such ignorance is personally culpable," Donnelly observes.
Bishop John Sherrington, the CBCEW explains, wrote to the parliamentary undersecretary of state for health, seeking "reassurance that the department will promote research into a vaccine derived from a source which would not be ethically problematic for Catholics and which does not involve moral complicity in abortion."
The Department for Health and Social Care replied to Bp. Sherrington, assuring him that "no new human fetal tissue will be used in making the vaccine, although cell lines developed from the remains of aborted fetuses in the past are being researched by some institutions."
"The department has also given assurances that any vaccine which is developed will be safe and effective," notes Sherrington, who has responsibility for life issues.
Meanwhile, the bishops also fail to pay heed to warnings over ethical concerns regarding the financial conflict of interests in the development of a vaccine.
On Wednesday, The Telegraph reported that Sir Patrick Vallance, who leads the government's advisory panel on vaccines, holds shares worth £600,000 in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Britain has contracted GSK and drugs giant Sanofi to supply it with up to 60 million doses of a Wuhan virus vaccine. The U.S. government has struck a similar deal for an initial 100 million doses and has already provided £1.65 billion to GSK-Sanofi for the development of the vaccine.
The U.K. Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has refuted any allegation of conflicts of interest and insists that "any suggestion" Vallance was "doing anything other than his level best to try and tackle this virus" is "wrong."
"Vaccine manufacturers, health officials and medical journals may have financial and bureaucratic reasons for not wanting to acknowledge the risks of vaccines," the paper observes.
"Much research is sponsored by vaccine manufacturers and public health bodies who have financial and bureaucratic interests that could impede the objective study of vaccine safety," it warns.
A previous CBCEW statement insisted that Catholics had "a prima facie duty" and a "moral obligation" to be vaccinated even if the COVID-19 vaccine was developed using tissue derived from aborted fetuses, Church Militant reported.
Trials on the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine made from the cell lines of an aborted baby girl were suspended in September after a volunteer displayed symptoms of transverse myelitis (TM) — a rare condition affecting the spinal cord.
In stark contrast to the CBCEW, three Sydney archbishops wrote to Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, condemning the country's opting for the Oxford vaccine and warning against making it mandatory.
Catholic archbishop Anthony Fisher, Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies and Greek Orthodox archbishop Makarios asked the Australian government for assurances that no one would be forced to use or prescribe an "ethically tainted" vaccine against "their conscientious religious or moral beliefs."
Nearly one in six Britons will refuse a Wuhan virus vaccine and a similar number are unsure whether they will get one, according to a July YouGov poll.
According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), more than 150 anti-vaccination groups on social media have collected about 8 million more followers since the beginning of the Wuhan pandemic, with 400 anti-vaccination groups having a combined 55 million followers.