THE CATHOLIC POSITION ON COVID-19 VACCINES
10 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Prepared by Rev Fr Dr Clarence Devadass
Catholic Research Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Based on the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia on COVID-19, VACCINES AND IMMUNISATION
Dated 4 February 2021
Q1: What is the position of the Catholic Church in relation to vaccinations in general?
Catholic teaching protects the good of every life and the health of all and teaches that one must not do harm to another. Therefore, the Catholic position is that vaccination is a moral good and the moral principle with regard to vaccinations is that it “depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good.”
Q2. What does the Church say about vaccines derived “immorally”?
The process of developing vaccines should always respect the human dignity of all persons, including the unborn. The Church advocates the protection and sanctity of human life at all stages. Deliberately destroying innocent human life in order to safeguard other lives is ethically wrong.
Q3: Is the Covid-19 vaccine being derived from aborted foetuses?
Foetal cell lines are biological products developed from the cells extracted from the foetus. They are not the same as cells or tissue taken directly from the foetus. It has been noted that in order to determine the efficacy of some vaccines, it has been tested against foetal cell lines but they only function as a kind of ‘biological soil’. In no way do these vaccines have any incipient or foetal tissue in the development stage.
Q4. Is it morally permissible for ordinary people to use vaccines that make use of foetal cell lines for research?
Yes. For serious or grave reasons, one may be vaccinated even if the vaccine was derived from or tested on foetal cell lines. Based on the Catholic moral principles of cooperation, our connection with the past wrongdoing is both remote and distant.
Q5. By taking vaccines that make use of foetal cell lines, does it amount to a legitimisation of abortion?
No. 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 foetuses. Therefore it is not a legitimisation of abortion. Abortion is a grave sin.
Q6. What about the use of the new COVID-19 vaccines?
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 from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.
Q7. Is it a sin to accept a vaccine that was either developed or researched using foetal cell-lines?
No. Based on the Catholic moral principles of cooperation, the Church teaches that for ordinary citizens, who have no direct say in how vaccines are produced, our connection with the past wrongdoing is so remotely distant. Therefore, it is morally acceptable to use a vaccine either developed or researched using foetal cell-lines when there is a grave reason, and no other alternatives are available.
Q8. Do I have the right not to be vaccinated on the grounds of “conscience”?
Yes. However, the assumption here is that the conscience has been fully formed and informed. In times of doubt, turn to the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Catholic Church) for clarity on difficult questions.
Q9. Can I still contribute to the common good if I am unable to receive the vaccination for medical or personal reasons?
Yes. You must do your utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means (e.g. masks, face shields, social distancing, etc) and appropriate behaviour, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent to others, especially the vulnerable.
Q10. What does Catholic Social Teaching say about COVID-19 vaccines?
The Catholic Social Teaching calls on those in authority to not only ensure that rigorous education and outreach campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy, but also to ensure accessibility especially to the most vulnerable in society, accountability and transparency so as to prevent commercial exploitation of the situation, effectivity and safety for the protection of all, and common good to help rebuild lives and that of the nation.
*For more detailed reading, please refer to the CBCM Pastoral Letter (4 Feb 2021).
Prepared by Rev Fr Dr Clarence Devadass
Catholic Research Centre