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Moral guidelines regarding vaccines and COVID-19

A number of our parishioners have inquired about the moral use of certain vaccines, especially in light of new pharmaceutical advances embracing the use of human embryos or the tissue from aborted children. The Diocese of Cleveland sent clergy some guidance regarding the use of vaccines being developed to battle Covid-19. This was prepared by Father Joseph Koopman, Professor of Moral Theology at Saint Mary Seminary. The following summary has been prepared for our parish bulletin:

It appears as if neither the vaccine created by Pfizer/Biontech nor the vaccine created by Moderna has been created using material of “illicit origin” (i.e. embryonic stem cells and/or the tissue of aborted children). However, the vaccines themselves may have been tested utilizing the tissue of aborted humans. Some commentators have concluded that it is immoral to use these vaccinations. This sweeping conclusion is inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching.

A critical question must be examined: “Are Catholics always forbidden to perform an action if it touches upon evil, or cooperates, somehow, with the evil action of another?” Clearly, the answer is no.  While there are times when Catholics must refrain from immoral cooperation, we make a distinction to determine the degree or level to which one cooperates in evil. In some cases, some forms of cooperation, while unfortunate, can be allowed in certain circumstances. 

In short, at this point there appears to be no moral issues to prohibit a Catholic from receiving vaccines produced by Pfizer or Moderna.  Should other vaccines using materials of illicit origin be developed, Catholics are urged to use the option that is least morally problematic. More information will become available as submissions are made to the FDA.