SANTIAGO, Chile (ChurchMilitant.com) - As part of an international conference, Cdl. Sean O'Malley, a prominent member of the Catholic Church's doctrinal body, has put the Church's moral muscle behind the COVID jab.
The online event, held Jan. 19, was dubbed "Christians Face COVID Vaccines." It sought to answer some common questions of the faithful:
O'Malley, who serves on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was joined by Dr. Katarina Le Blanc, a stem-cell researcher and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and Cdl. Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico in vocally supporting the COVID jab. Listening in were cardinals Celestino Aós of Chile and Baltazar Porras of Venezuela.
Líderes Católicos co-founder José Antonio Rosas said that the approximately 10,000 online participants, including 42 bishops, hailed from 14 countries worldwide.
Cardinal Retes addressed what he said are "regrettable" theories by those who claim that the various COVID vaccines seek to "alter human DNA and thus reduce the population growth rate," as well as "theories that some of the vaccines contain tissues from aborted babies and that by accepting [the shots] they would be participating in that crime ..." as well as theories that the injections "seek to implant microchip trackers to spy on each one of us."
He affirmed: "These are really serious, baseless theories that need to be unmasked." The conference, he said, sought to "clarify the importance of the vaccine" and "its legitimate use to overcome the coronavirus pandemic." The cardinal said he was confident that "experts" would validate the Dec. 21 declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which noted:
As the Instruction Dignitas Personae states, in cases where cells from aborted fetuses are employed to create cell lines for use in scientific research, "there exist differing degrees of responsibility" of cooperation in evil. For example, "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."
The declaration said that when "ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available ... or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process."
Cardinal O'Malley leads the congregation that drafted the statement. It notes that accepting the jab is strictly voluntary.
On Twitter, the Pontifical Academy of Life quoted Pope Francis' endorsement of injections to fight COVID, while also noting that Abp. Vincenzo Paglia and Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, respectively president and chancellor of the Academy, received their shots on Jan. 20.
The Vatican's COVID-19 Commission published online on Dec. 29 its position that "it can be considered 'morally acceptable', under precise conditions, 'to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.'" This was proffered in concert with the Academy and quoting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Cardinal O'Malley said that in the debate among Catholics, the "Church is observing the ethical implications with great care." He said: "The decision to be vaccinated is an ethical decision. We must encourage people to make use of this important weapon in the fight against the pandemic."
"Pope Francis has told us clearly that God has put us on this earth to take care of one another," O'Malley said, saying that this means "turning the other cheek and going the extra mile" for our brothers and sisters. "If we don’t take care of each other well, the patient will die,"he said, "and the planet will die."
O'Malley said the pope wants the world to know that getting the jab is a choice, but it is a "choice that affects not only the individual but also more broadly among our most vulnerable neighbors."
Pope Francis himself said on Jan. 9: "It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others," O'Malley noted. He said that Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have set examples by accepting the COVID jab.
When co-founder of Líderes Católicos José Antonio Rosas asked why the Church should opine on scientific matters, Cdl. O'Malley said: "Since the beginning, the Church has been very involved in the care of the sick and in promoting science and universities ... The contradiction would be if the Church were not interested in this part of its mission that is so important."
Doctor Le Blanc recommended the COVID injection but said that it is "everybody's own choice." A slide she used in her talk noted: "Fetal tissue has been used to generate genetically modified cell lines." She explained that the fetal cells obtained from abortion have been genetically engineered to "live forever," and that "the abortions were not performed for the purpose of vaccine development. There are no body parts and no fetal tissue left, just the genetically modified cells. And very importantly, accepting these vaccines will not mean consenting to future abortions nor will it lead to future abortions."
"The Vatican," Le Blanc said, "has been clear that accepting the vaccine is very far from actively participating in abortion, and therefore morally acceptable given the large benefits vaccines have." She said that people should trust "authorities and the regulatory systems" regarding side effects. Dr. Le Blanc said, "I think for our own sake, and for the sakes of those around us, I would strongly encourage people to be vaccinated so that we can stop the pandemic."
Others who advocate the use of vaccination include Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, who holds a doctorate in neuroscience and serves as director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. In an op-ed, he cited the 2008 instruction Dignitas Personae from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Pacholczyk wrote: "For a serious reason, therefore, Catholics may receive a COVID-19 vaccine having an association with abortion, and a serious reason could include a threat to one's health and well-being."
Vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer ... do not rely on cell lines from abortions in the manufacturing process. As such, they appear to be good candidates for Catholics to use. There is a problem that a cell line from a 1972 abortion was used to carry out some ancillary testing of those vaccines, but the fact that zero material derived from any cell line from an abortion is present in these vaccines, that is to say, inside the syringe which actually jabs the patient, is sufficient in the minds of most to assuage any concern over using them, even if problematic laboratory testing may have taken place along the way.
In December, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that vaccination should be understood as "an act of charity." Vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, read the statement, are morally acceptable, even though they have a "remote connection to morally compromised cell lines." The vaccine made by AstraZeneca is, however, "more morally compromised," and should be avoided, it said. Supporters of the shots also cite a 2005 statement by the Pontifical Academy for Life, "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses."
Among those doubting the morality of the vaccine are former Vatican diplomat Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, Abp. Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, and bishops Joseph Strickland of Texas and Joseph Brennan of California. Archbishop Schneider referred to the arguments in Dignitas Personae and the Pontifical Academy document in "COVID Vaccines: The Ends Cannot Justify the Means," writing:
we see a clear contradiction between the Catholic doctrine to categorically, and beyond the shadow of any doubt, reject abortion in all cases as a grave moral evil ... and the practice of regarding vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines as morally acceptable in exceptional cases of "urgent need" — on the grounds of remote, passive, material cooperation. To argue that such vaccines can be morally licit if there is no alternative is in itself contradictory and cannot be acceptable for Catholics.
Apart from doubts raised about aborted fetal cell lines, issues have been raised about side effects and ethics. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll recently revealed that 35% of black American adults said they would definitely or probably not get vaccinated, citing fears of side effects. The Pew Research Center found that only 42% of black Americans would take the vaccine, as compared to 61% of white adults who would.
Church Militant has reported that at least one research group is seeking to produce a vaccine free of cell lines derived from abortion. John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JPIIMRI) is seeking funding to create vaccines for COVID-19 and other emerging viruses. According to the Institute, this would mean "a potent vaccine made from a human cell line which closely resembles what the vaccine is intended to treat."
The Institute promises not to use aborted fetal cells at any stage of development, but would use a "proprietary immortalized human cell line" it has created from a "rare postnatal stem cell."
The conference was sponsored by Líderes Católicos, Konrad Adenauer Foundation of Germany and Vida Nueva, a Spanish news service. According to co-founder José Antonio Rosas, Lideres Catolicos [Catholic Leaders], which is a Chilean nonprofit that provides leadership training and formation in Catholic social teaching in Latin America and Spain, was founded to transform society, politics, and economics.