Vatican: Without alternatives, current COVID-19 vaccines are morally acceptable

However, doctrinal office said, licit use of such vaccines doesn’t imply moral endorsement of cell lines from aborted fetuses

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s doctrinal office said that when alternative vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines developed or tested using cell lines originating from aborted fetuses.

However, “the licit use of such vaccines does not and should not in any way imply that there is a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses,” said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying they wish to offer clarity on the matter.

“Both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated,” it added in a note published Dec. 21.

The note “on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines” had been reviewed by Pope Francis Dec. 17 and he ordered its publication, the doctrinal office said.

As vaccines against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are being distributed in some parts of the world, the doctrinal office said it has been receiving requests for guidance regarding the use of vaccines which, “in the course of research and production, employed cell lines drawn from tissue obtained from two abortions that occurred in the last century.”

The Catholic Church teaches that there are differing degrees of responsibility of cooperation with evil. That means that the responsibility of those who make the decision to use cell lines of illicit origin is not the same as those “who have no voice in such a decision,” the doctrinal office said, quoting from its 2008 instruction, “Dignitas Personae.”

When ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available for various reasons, the congregation wrote, “it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

Using these vaccines is morally licit when the “passive material cooperation” with the evil of an abortion “from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote.”

Therefore, in such a case, “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,” it said.

The doctrinal office also said that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

Those who wish, for “reasons of conscience,” to refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, “must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission” of the virus.

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