This topic is very simple — not complicated. To promote Catholic culture, we must have a healthy Catholic population from which to fulfill Our Lord's first command: "But increase you and multiply, and go upon the earth, and fill it" (Genesis 9:7).
It is in this spirit, which justice demands, that we address the big question that concerned Catholics are asking about the COVID-19 vaccine(s): Is the COVID-19 experimental vaccine project ethically or morally correct?
Unbelievably, this is a courageous question to ask in our society today — for many reasons — but it must be asked. Ethics regarding vaccines goes well beyond whether fetal tissues are used in any way in this experimental vaccine development, testing or manufacture.
As Catholics, we must always look to seek truth, beauty and goodness that will bring us to what is moral and ethical. This COVID-19 experimental vaccine inquiry raises other unavoidable issues which Catholics have, perhaps, scarcely considered heretofore, and it breaks down to four simpler questions that make up its premise:
Such a vaccine may indeed be moral and ethical if it meets certain criteria.
Traditionally, Catholics are concerned with vaccines being completely devoid of any involvement with aborted fetal cells in its development, testing or manufacture; unfortunately, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have this type of aborted fetal cell relationship.
There are other unavoidable aspects of this experimental vaccine to consider when looking at ethics. We must also speak to the necessity of these experimental vaccines, including the significance of the threat that it is intended to remedy. With successful, readily available effective treatments for COVID-19 as well as a relatively low mortality rate, its use might well be called into question and the discussion moot.
Lastly, regarding our assessing these experimental COVID-19 vaccines, we must ask ourselves this question: As children of God, is it ethical for us to not use our critical thinking skills as we are able, gathering information from all sources, including independent media, physicians and scientists? The answer may seem obvious but again, this is one that takes courage to ask.
Ethical considerations are key in the fast track Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) allowing for usage of unapproved medical products. This may happen when there is no treatment for a serious or life-threatening disease or condition. However, again, as indicated above, there is successful treatment for COVID-19.
Ethics mandate that the criteria for the EUA are: "FDA may allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved and available alternatives."
From an ethical viewpoint, in light of the question of necessity of the COVID-19 experimental vaccines (explained in #1 above), it seems as though, perhaps, a vaccine does not need to be fast-tracked.
Ethics also have us looking at the key issue of potential conflict of interest (safety vs. speed) and ethical considerations of Pfizer, Moderna and other mRNA vaccine injections (genetic material). Their new mRNA technology allowed rapid manufacturing, enabling their vaccines to be rushed, first to market. Because of the genetic material, this mRNA injection is unlike any vaccine formerly given to man.
The ethical question is raised as these vaccines have skipped any standard, all-important animal trials so as to expedite the delivery of the product. Humans are serving this purpose of the investigation in order to fast-track the vaccines.
Ethics also obviously come into play with the widespread injection of this genetic material into humans. Such a project has never before been undertaken; it is difficult to understand and so discuss the possible far-reaching results in terms of health outcomes or even moral and ethical concerns and consequences. Potential results of these investigational trials are unknown; they may well be more extensive than we might imagine. Since this project is seemingly well underway, our only option may be to wait in order to find out as more becomes realized and known. It is thought that these experimental vaccine trials will continue for at least two years.
Justice seems to insist we take a careful look at the rights of the individual being trampled upon for the sake of the whole. In other words, ethically, it does not feel "okay" for businesses or any entity, including government, to mandate, coerce or even entice us to accept any infringement on our person without our medical informed consent, freely given for ourselves and for our children.
When it comes to the ethical issues regarding these COVID-19 vaccines or, indeed, any medical treatment, a number of questions naturally present themselves:
Other sources, even some Catholic websites or writers, may, for whatever reason, seem confused on the COVID-19 vaccine ethics topic, but some solid and theologically sound clergy, individually, are not confused.
Cardinal Raymond Burke is clear on the topic. Last month, he rebuked many in the Church by saying: "Now we are supposed to find in a disease and its prevention the way to understand and direct our lives rather than in God and in His plan for our salvation."
"So many in the Church seem to have no understanding of how Christ continues His saving work in times of plague and of other disasters," he added.
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas has also spoken clearly on the matter, vowing he is "not going to accept a vaccine that has the DNA of aborted children in it."
Additionally, Bp. Joseph Brennan of Fresno, California has reminded Catholics they must "always and only pursue vaccines that are ethical and morally acceptable," adding that from a moral perspective, "there's some serious problem with a number of the vaccines."
Regarding the USCCB, in spite of all that has been written to the contrary — as much as it seems to be going along with the crowd — it effectively does not promote such a vaccine, as revealed in America magazine. The publication references a recent USCCB memo that reminded bishops that "Church teaching allows for even the widespread use of vaccines whose origins are considered ethically unsound, when other treatments are unavailable." Again, at first glance of the USCCB position, many may have the opposite "takeaway" message!
This qualifying phrase, "when other treatments are unavailable" seems to be the opposite of other USCCB commentary on the topic, or it may seem to be a loophole. It is, however, particularly clear and negates other USCCB comments, which seem pro-vaccine.
So the USCCB does not say we may take the COVID-19 vaccine — that is, if you read the article fully and carefully. You may know, reading the writings of bishops has traditionally been ambiguous and, as some say, even a little "tricky." Their writings, as a general rule, contain their highly valued nuanced speech and so must be read with a high degree of critical thinking. We know, in our hearts, our bishops would never promote evil.
Bishop Strickland, in fact, states: "I will refuse the vaccine ... I will not kill children to live."
First published by CREDO of the Catholic Laity, St. Louis, Missouri.