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National Catholic Bioethics Center: Church teaching calls for respect of both common good and conscience

By Autumn Jones, Joe Bukuras for CNA

(Credit: Seasontime/Shutterstock.)

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 17, 2021 / 10:28 am (CNA).

The National Catholic Bioethics Center on Tuesday recalled that its guidance on vaccination against the coronavirus is drawn from the full range of Church teaching on the common good, conscience, and charity.

A bioethics think tank that provides guidance to uphold human dignity health care and medical research, the NCBC is opposed to mandated immunization for Covid-19, while also acknowledging that reception of the coronavirus vaccines is morally licit.

“In fulfilling its mission, the NCBC draws on the full range of the teachings of the Church, including its social teachings, which provide guidance on appropriate respect for persons while building up the common good,” the center said in an Aug. 17 statement.

The matter of conscientious objection to Covid vaccine requirements is emerging as a source of conflict among Catholic leaders and institutions, particularly so in the United States, where pressure is mounting against those who have not been vaccinated.

Several bishops in California, and the Archdiocese of New York, have instructed priests not to provide religious exemption letters for those Catholics who object to the vaccine mandate, while the bishops in Colorado and South Dakota have upheld conscience rights.

The NCBC noted “with great sadness the increasingly heated rhetoric and even violence associated with the vaccine mandate debates,” adding that “Frustration and anger on all sides must be transformed by charity and understanding for all our brothers and sisters.”

The center stated that “The Church encourages people to receive vaccination for COVID-19, even though the currently available vaccines in the U.S. have a remote connection to abortion through the use of certain cell lines.”

It noted that the US bishops have urged the provision of vaccines not connected to abortion, and stated: “Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA of a vaccine that did not rely on abortion-derived cell lines for manufacture and/or testing would remove a major obstacle to COVID-19 vaccination for many.”

The NCBC added that it has pointed out “that the Church permits people to use any of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines.”

“Discernment with consciences informed by Church teaching is required, as well as all the elements of free and informed consent needed for any medical intervention,” the center affirmed.

The center said that “It is extremely important to embrace both respect for the common good and conscience as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) did in December 2020.”

In its December 2020 note, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

It said that the morality of vaccination depends on both the duty to pursue the common good and the duty to protect one’s own health, and that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, 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 infectious agent,” the congregation wrote.

The NCBC noted that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “balanced teaching is cited in full” in its statement on Covid vaccine mandates.

It added that its guidance highlights the need to consider the common good in choosing whether to be vaccinated.

“The NCBC fully acknowledges the complex and challenging decisions in conscience that institutions — including Catholic health care organizations — need to make not only for the sake of the persons they serve but also for the good of their employees. Respecting the conscientious judgments and religious beliefs of these employees is an indispensable dimension of this,” the Aug. 17 statement said.

It noted that the Joint National Hospital Association said last month that “mandatory vaccination policies needed appropriate accommodations for medical or religious reasons.”

Moreover, the NBC wrote, its vaccine exemption resource “was created to help Catholics express the religious basis for accommodating their judgments of conscience. The Catholic faith provides many resources to inspire people to care for others, to serve the common good, and to make sound ethical decisions about how best to protect their own life and health.”

“The NCBC shall continue to help people to draw upon the deepest resources of the Catholic faith to address the many challenges posed by COVID-19 with integrity and charity,” it concluded.


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12 Comments

  1. What right do these bishops have to deny conscience protections of the faithful? I’m willing to bet these are the same bishops who objected to the Eucharistic document as well as who give pro-abortion politicians a pass.

  2. “Mandatory vaccination policies need appropriate accommodations for medical or religious reasons”(NHA). NCBC citing in agreement with its ethics the Nat Hosp Assoc on a median between the Common Good and individual conscience. Although that’s where there can be no universal rule because the conditions differ in various settings. Deliberation of those conditions can arrive at a just mean between excess and defect that may not be perfect, although correct when close to the mean. So there will always be instances of disagreement even dispute the final decision necessarily belonging to the institution rather than the individual and or unions representing staff. Maintaining order requires this. This is the issue now in State and municipal government where the individual depends on the expertise and grasp of justice of officials. How vital a requirement one that is frequently not met.

    • Justice exceptional from all the virtues is not subject to measure. Justice, the right, or the good incorporates all the virtues. Moral acts are either good or evil, just or unjust. While there are circumstances in which the Common Good may be measured for example when risk is variable and containable, such as in the general populace, there are those in which the risk may warrant a mandate for the CovidVax that is a matter of Justice, such as nursing homes, medical delivery centers.

  3. An addendum to my comment. Justice has no mean because an act of justice is either just or it is not. For example abortion, murder, forgiveness [from the heart], the first two always evil the second always good, whereas the virtues like prudence, fortitude do have a mean. A vaccine mandate is measured to the common good.

  4. “Several bishops in California, and the Archdiocese of New York, have instructed priests not to provide religious exemption letters for those Catholics who object to the vaccine mandate.”

    The Church used to be a haven from the tyranny of the State, but now has – in many places – become an instrument of the State in enforcing its tyranny in the name of God.

  5. A government that can mandate that you submit to a vaccine for “the public good” can also mandate that you submit to an abortion or sterilization for “the public good.”

  6. This is the first sign of a crack in the dam of ‘Catholics for abortion products on demand’ as they begin to consider that perhaps, just perhaps they are in colossal danger.
    Lying that ‘The Church encourages people to receive vaccination for COVID-19, even though the currently available vaccines in the U.S. have a remote connection to abortion through the use of certain cell lines.’is bad.
    But not having a justification WHY the church encourages these products has let the cat out if the bag…

  7. It’s not about “remote cooperation” with past abortions and the cell lines developed and used in the research, development, production and/or testing of the currently available vaccines. It’s about approving this type of research going forward. If the bishops had demanded that Operation Warp Speed support at least one vaccine with no connection to these immoral practices, we would have had at least one (from Sorrento Therapeutics). Catholics could have, in good conscience, availed themselves of this morally produced vaccine. As it is, we are facing persecution on the basis of our religious beliefs as the Federal Government moves toward vaccine mandates. This could have been easily avoided.

  8. Was it not pagan tribes that sacrificed the innocent to their “gods of common good” and the explorers brought the Christian TRUE GOD. Whwn we try to save our lives or money or careers by sarificing the innocent babies, we do far worse because we have had the opportunity to know HIM the author of LIFe, We should be having processions and public rosaries and have faith enough to move mountains. There is only one innocent body and blood I choose to take into my body and on my doorpost. What is wrong here?? The sick culture is taking us in.

  9. What if the “infectious agent” is not Sars-COV-2 virus – which has never been isolated in a human – which is not used in the so-called “vaccines” (which don’t meet the definition)? What of the injection itself is the “infectious agent” because of the transfer (“shedding”) of its components – like spike proteins (Salk Inst. proved 4/21 they are the cause of the blood clotting and heart issues we now see) and graphene (toxin)? So who has the responsibility to protect others? … But we’re all in this together now. Now the only answer is charity. And speaking the truth. Even about the injections. In love.

  10. This is all part of The Coming Of The Kingdom on u-tube! our Church is in turmoil, our country is in turmoil and our world is in turmoil!!!! We as Catholics have to stand strong in our religion with prayers to Our Father, The Blessed Virgin, Jesus and The Holy Spirit to drive out the anti-Christ (satan) who is creating this havoc. We need to spread God’s word.

  11. It has been scientifically and medically established that the so-called ‘vaccine'(s) for covid19 neither prevents infection nor spreading of the virus. It only mitigates (for most people) the severity of the infection. With this in mind, we should be charitable toward others who are misinformed. The most frustrating aspect is the lack of honest factual statements of the value as well as the limitations of this treatment – whose long term health effects are completely unknown at present. A little balanced information, a little charity, open minds and a lot of faithful prayer are more needed than contentious argument.

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