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Church clear on vaccinations

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & AMMR

As disciples of Christ, each of us has a duty to use our God-given talents to promote integral human development and to build the common good.

In the face of the dreadful Covid-19 pandemic, Pope Francis, Archbishop Jason Gordon and many others have been encouraging us to take the vaccine to protect our lives and that of others.

Pope Francis has stated that in receiving the vaccine, “we are truly showing love for our neighbour and our God.” I have had my two doses of the vaccine.

In order to guide the faithful, on  December 21, 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines. The note was approved by Pope Francis on December 17.

CDF states that it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take these vaccines against the Covid-19 virus.

There have been three previous notes on this topic e.g. in 2005 and 2017, the Pontifical Academy for Life issued notes on this issue. On September 8, 2008, CDF issued the Instruction Dignitas Personae, on certain bioethical questions.

The CDF note in December 2020, states: “We do not intend to judge the safety and efficacy of these vaccines, although ethically relevant and necessary, as this evaluation is the responsibility of biomedical researchers and drug agencies. Here, our objective is only to consider the moral aspects of the use of the vaccines against Covid-19 that have been developed from cell lines derived from tissues obtained from two foetuses that were not spontaneously aborted…

“As the Instruction Dignitas Personae states, in cases where cells from aborted foetuses are employed to create cell lines for use in scientific research, ‘there exist differing degrees of responsibility’ of cooperation in evil. For example, in organisations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilised, 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 this sense, when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available …it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted foetuses in their research and production process.”

As Vatican News reports, the CDF says the reason for considering these vaccines morally licit is the “kind of cooperation” in the evil of abortion, which is “remote” on the part of those receiving the vaccine.

Therefore, the “moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory” since there exists a grave danger, in the form of an “uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent.” The Covid-19 pandemic, says the CDF, fulfils this requirement.

“In such a case, all vaccinations recognised 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 morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.”

So, taking the vaccine should not imply a moral approval of the use of cell lines from aborted foetuses. CDF calls on pharmaceutical companies and government health agencies to “produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience.”

In light of the ongoing pandemic, “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue 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.”

CDF reminds us that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. However, if some of the faithful, for reasons of conscience, choose not to take the vaccine produced with cell lines from aborted foetuses, the Vatican says that they must “do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behaviour, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent…In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.”

Let us pray for those who have died because of the pandemic, and for their grieving families. May they rest in peace.




“Each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A [Covid-19] vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate. …”

– Bishops Conference of England and Wales

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee