"Thankfully, the Philippine bishops have been more practical than their American counterparts in their outlook."
Even in the best of times, extreme beliefs, behavior and attitudes can be problematic. In a pandemic, they can be life-threatening.
In the United States, bishops are discouraging Catholics from using the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because the company used cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.
In a statement, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that while the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna used “abortion-derived cell line” to test them, they did not use them in the production process, as Johnson & Johnson did.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine … was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns,” the announcement said.
“If one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s,” the statement read.
The controversy centers around the use of cells commonly used in medical research that trace their origins to aborted fetuses in the 1970s and 1980s. The cell lines—known as HEK293 and PER.C6—have been used by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson to various degrees, but the cells in those and similar cell lines are clones and are not the original fetal tissue. None of the vaccines, in fact, contain any fetal tissue.
The US bishops’ statements against the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could throw a wrench into efforts to quickly get the US population vaccinated against COVID-19, where the disease has already killed more than half a million people. In the race against a deadly disease, is there really a need to throw extra barriers along the way?
Even the Vatican does not think so, declaring that it is “morally acceptable” for Roman Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines “that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses” in the research and production process when “ethically irreproachable” vaccines aren’t available to the public.
Thankfully, the Philippine bishops, who have offered the use of churches and related facilities to host mass inoculations for COVID-19, have been more practical than their American counterparts in their outlook.
Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Catholics would make “no moral compromise” if they received a vaccine that is derived from cell lines taken from aborted fetuses.
CBCP Vice President Pablo Virgilio David, the bishop of Caloocan City, argued that “the babies were not aborted for use of these vaccines…. They were dead already.”
In these times when there is a scarcity of vaccines, and when propagating their use is a matter of life and death, there really is no need to be more Catholic than the Pope.