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USCCB: Moderna’s and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines ethically preferable to Johnson & Johnson’s

The statement was signed by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who head the USCCB committees on doctrine and pro-life activities, respectively.

(Credit: Seasontime/Shutterstock.)

CNA Staff, Mar 3, 2021 / 03:19 pm (CNA).- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday reiterated the Vatican’s teaching on COVID-19 vaccines produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines, after a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson received FDA approval over the weekend.

The bishops echoed the Vatican in stating that it is “morally acceptable” to receive COVID-19 vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses when no alternative is available, but if possible, Catholics ought to choose a vaccine with a more remote connection to abortion.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘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 fetuses in their research and production process,’” the bishops wrote in a March 2 statement.

That description applies to the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which used abortion-derived HEK-293 cell lines in design and development, production, and lab testing.

In contrast, mRNA vaccines available from Pfizer and Moderna have an extremely remote connection to abortion in the design and testing phases, leading ethicists to judge those vaccines “ethically uncontroversial.”

“[I]f one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”

The statement was signed by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who head the USCCB committees on doctrine and pro-life activities, respectively.

“While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good,” the bishops concluded.

The USCCB’s clarification follows a Feb. 26 statement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans calling the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “morally compromised” because of its connection with abortion.

While not prohibiting Catholics from receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if no other ethical alternative is available, the archdiocese advised Catholics to seek out the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines if possible.

“[W]e advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines,” the statement reads.

Bishop Michael Duca of Baton Rouge also weighed in on the matter this week in a March 1 letter to the faithful.

“[M]y guidance to the faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is to accept as your first choices the vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna, but if for any reasonable circumstance you are only able to receive the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, you should feel free to do so for your safety and for the common good,” Bishop Duca wrote.

By contrast, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wrote March 3 that “on the concrete moral and pastoral question of receiving the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson or Astra-Zeneca vaccines, I want to make clear to the Catholic communities of San Diego and Imperial Counties that in the current pandemic moment, with limited vaccine options available to achieve healing for our nation and our world, it is entirely morally legitimate to receive any of these four vaccines, and to recognize, as Pope Francis has noted, that in receiving them we are truly showing love for our neighbor and our God.”

Many vaccines are produced by using certain human cell lines; common vaccines, including those used to inoculate children for smallpox, measles, and rubella, have been produced with cell lines derived from aborted babies, such as the HEK-293 cell line.

One of the touted advantages of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it does not require specialized refrigeration and can be delivered in a single dose, making it more attractive to some healthcare professionals than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Those vaccines require deep freeze storage and are administered in two doses.

The Pontifical Academy for Life has said that Catholics should advocate for ethically-produced vaccines which do not use cell lines of aborted babies.

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  1. The ? God ordained irony through it all – our culture that has gone after the ‘gods’ of pride and fear , esp. with regard to the teachings of The Church in areas of marriage and life , now allowed to be ‘one in the wounds’ , with all of humanity , in efforts to seek out ways to protect life . As a tender , prudent Mother ,
    The Church comes with words in God given authority , to deliver us from excess fear and guilt about the vaccines and we can gratefully join her in Her mission and role , to intend that one of these days soon enough , the Divine Will alone would reign in all these areas . May prayers of many and all of heaven , including that of S.G Luisa , whose death anniv. is today be with us all , in all the days and every area in the lives of us all .

  2. Oh, bishops, please. Step down from your moral high horse. 500,000+ have died.

    Encourage use of the (assumed) cells for the pro-life purpose for which these vaccinations have been invented. Do not sow doubt in anyone’s mind.

    To advocate use of whatever vaccine is available seems to be a pro-life position put into action.

    • I agree 100%. Muddying the waters is just there to confuse people. Get the vaccine, go to confession later if you feel guilty, it’s the Catholic way!

  3. “Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wrote March 3…that in receiving them we are truly showing love for our neighbor and our God.”

    There we have it! Bore Tide McElroy pushing the Vatican Guilt Trip — Get the experimental jab out of charity to our neighbor and our God. Good land! Another mind has lent itself to be used by the B&B agenda.

    What ever happened to Bishops giving their charges an injection of Spiritual Protection? Whatever happened to clergies first line of defense, that of taking the power of prayer and fasting out of the cupboard and leading out, taking charge. How about leading the flocks around their churches in procession, interceding for mercy, then offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It’s happened before during pandemics. Have these prelates lost their compass or did they even ever have one? Past time for the leaders(?) to realize that the health of soul takes precedence over that of the body. Bishops please be the arm of Christ, not the arm of the government, please.

  4. I have been taken by surprise by the double standards of the Prolife supporters. They seem to be the first in line to receive the vaccines tainted/ cell lines of aborted babies such as HEK 293 and at the same time go ahead and criticise President Biden. But is he not giving them life by making abortion legally? At least he is honest about his actions. What about those who happily accept the vaccines and then pretend that it is not the same as the connection is remote as in the case of Pfizer. Are they not the same Catholics praying the Rosary for Biden to be ousted out of power and allow Trump to remain in power to promote Prolife? I saw them attend a campaign march for Prolife. I am yet to see these Catholics organise a march to protest against tainted vaccines. I would like to see them organise a worldwide Rosary to ask our Mother Mary to intercede for us against the pandemic(Isiah 33:4). Show your faith. Stand firm in what you believe. Do not make excuses based on fear. You can protect your neighbours by adherence to public health measures as these are clearly found in the old testament.
    Exodus 30: 18-21(hand washing)
    Leviticus 13:4-5(quarantine) and Leviticus 13:46( social distancing).All wisdom and knowledge comes from God. Prayer and the Precious blood are stronger than vaccines (Jeremiah17:5-10)Cursed is the man who trusts a man. Blessed is the man who has placed his trust in the Lord. Our Lord is the only source of life. We live for Christ and die in Christ.Jesus died a painful death because He loved us(John 11:33).And we are all called to repentance during Lent. A good starting point for our lukewarm Bishops.


    “It is time for clergy and laity to boldly confront this horror and defend the right to life for the most vulnerable with ‘maximum determination.’”

    The March 8 statement was also signed by Dr. Wanda Półtawska, a Polish physician who was a victim of pseudo-medical experiments in a Nazi concentration camp for four years in her early 20s.

    “The evil of using aborted fetal cell lines involves not just the original murder, but the ongoing commercialization of the child’s body, as well as the ultimate refusal to bury his desecrated remains,” they said.

    The statement listed five points, including a citation of a peer-reviewed study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization in October 2020 which found the average survival rate from SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, to be 98.3%.

    THAT’S 98.3% SURVIVAL RATE, bishops please stop pushing vaccines. Start providing nourishment and leadership in the spiritual realm.

  6. It is truly amazing that the general population has allowed itself to be bamboozled into swallowing the vaccine hype concerning COVID 19. How many people are aware that according to the WHO’s Bulletin issued in October of 2019, that of those infected with the virus there is a 98.3% survival rate. What I find most disconcerting is that Catholic bishops are acting as high pressured salesmen for the EXPERMENTAL COVID 19 vaccine and continuing to repeat the same line of thinking put forth by the Vatican. This is well and good as far as it goes, however, these prelates do not go far enough in explaining the primary horror of taking innocent human life, then following up that atrocious act by using preborn individual’s organs without their consent. Furthermore, just as frozen embryos are held captive indefinitely, the “desecrated remains,” of the illegally obtained cell lines of a foetus are refused burial. The Catholic Church’s stand on cremated remains of Catholics is that the urn holding the remains of the loved one must be buried. Catholic Church officials are inconsistent in their reasoning when it comes to the remains of illegally obtained cell lines from the aborted foetus that are being held indefinitely, thereby refusing the closure that comes with burial. Responsible Catholic prelates owe it to the members of the Catholic Church and humanity at large to expose the macabre practice of using illegally obtained organs from the preborn. Credibility of Catholic bishops on the matter of advertising for vaccination in this instance is questionable because nowhere have I seen that these prelates have researched or mentioned vaccines that are being developed without the use of illegally obtained tissue. Furthermore, I have not seen that the general first response of Catholic hierarchy has been that of prayer and fasting on a personal and community level, nor have I observed general leadership in this spiritual realm. Thankfully there are a handful of clergy and laity that see the long term effect of the proper understanding of the pandemic and use of untainted vaccines in both the spiritual and physical sphere.

    Note: I am including a link on this subject of an article written by Phil Lawler.

    “Americans have been lulled into acceptance of vaccines and medications (and other products) that represent the “benefits” of abortion. The Covid epidemic, and the rush to vaccinate, have provided the opportunity for a bit of moral awakening. Realizing what we have, sadly, come to accept, we might resolve to stop the profiteering, stop our peaceful coexistence with the “culture of death” and its marketable products. To stiffen that resolve, as “To Awaken Conscience” argues, “a more radical public witness is needed today.”

    Read More:

    ‘A more radical public witness’ on the Covid vaccines | Catholic Culture

    Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years.

    PS. Could CWR editors feature an author who is knowledgeable on this subject –someone with fire in their bones — an author that can get as much traction as authors of Vatican II fellows evoke. Please.

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