3

To some it would smack of nothingburger, but it's notable enough to publish as a "Whistleblower" report that Pfizer has been testing performing embryonic stem cell tests with more than just one line of tissues derived from an aborted baby. Lots of arguments I've seen (including one in an op ed to our local Catholic newspaper last week by a long time lay leader in the US Bishops conference office of pro-life affairs) have said that vaccines being tested on a single human child aborted several decades ago were moral.

A lot of the arguments were that there was just one abortion involved in the embryonic testing (which didn't pass the smell test initially for many pro-lifers) but the Veritas report confirmed the suspicions of pro-lifers who rejected the vaccine on those grounds initially. What we were told from Pfizer, not what was withheld, formed the basis for the religious acceptance of the vaccines.

If we truly don't know the nature of the tests done to produce the Pfizer vaccine, does that change the rationale the CDF used for saying the vaccines were OK?

Here, our objective is only to consider the moral aspects of the use of the vaccines against Covid-19 that have been developed from cell lines derived from tissues obtained from two fetuses that were not spontaneously aborted. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20201221_nota-vaccini-anticovid_en.html

What sort of additional information should Catholics be asking for from Pfizer to persuade vaccine sceptics jumping on this latest news to get vaccinated?

7
  • You would think using exogenous mRNA to monkey with the cells of humans in an unprecedented experimental rollout to hundreds of millions of people, including very-low-risk individuals, including strongly coercive measures such as losing one's livelihoods, would be enough for the Catholic Church to issue words of caution. But nope, crickets. Oct 11 at 19:03
  • 1
    This is a very important issue. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/79949/…
    – Lesley
    Oct 11 at 19:37
  • Wait a month and the CDF will likely respond after verifying the facts!
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 11 at 20:05
  • As far as I understand the matter, as a non-Catholic, most of the vaccines both use human foetal cells in producing AND testing. Many Christians think a distinction should be drawn between the actual vaccine and the testing of it, so that a vaccine free of foetal cell-line is acceptable. How manufacturers test their product is entirely their decision. Luther said, "I cannot stop birds flying over my head, but I can prevent them nesting in my hair." I take the testing to be the 'birds flying overhead' bit, so took an historical-foetal-cell-free-produced product into my veins.
    – Anne
    Oct 12 at 8:00
  • 1
    @Anne According to Lozier Institute most vaccines (including Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax) do NOT use abortion-derived cell line for production, only for testing. See my answer and this table for details. Oct 13 at 1:18
2

Does the 5th Veritas Covid Whistleblower on Pfizer change the Catholic Church's position on the the morality of the Pfizer vaccine?

Possibly, but I doubt it. If true it will probably say to simply try to avoid it in favour of the least offensive vaccine on the market. For the moment the allegations refer to testing of the vaccine and not in it’s manufacturing of of it. But I can understand how doubt can now arise.

Catholics should strive to take the vaccine the least morally offensive possible, if possible.

The Vatican’s Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines states the following and I believe will stand as the norm here:

The question of the use of vaccines, in general, is often at the center of controversy in the forum of public opinion.

Here, our objective is only to consider the moral aspects of the use of the vaccines against Covid-19 that have been developed from cell lines derived from tissues obtained from two fetuses that were not spontaneously aborted.

  1. As the Instruction Dignitas Personae states, in cases where cells from aborted fetuses are employed to create cell lines for use in scientific research, “there exist differing degrees of responsibility” of cooperation in evil. For example,“in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision”.

  2. In this sense, when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available (e.g. in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated) it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.

  3. The fundamental reason for considering the use of these vaccines morally licit is that the kind of cooperation in evil (passive material cooperation) in the procured abortion from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote. The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent - in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. It must therefore be considered that, in such a case, 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. It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.

  4. In fact, 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 fetuses. Both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.

  5. At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed. 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. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.

  6. Finally, there is also a moral imperative for the pharmaceutical industry, governments and international organizations to ensure that vaccines, which are effective and safe from a medical point of view, as well as ethically acceptable, are also accessible to the poorest countries in a manner that is not costly for them. The lack of access to vaccines, otherwise, would become another sign of discrimination and injustice that condemns poor countries to continue living in health, economic and social poverty. - (17 Dec 2020)

On March 2, 2021 Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine recently approved for use in the United States.

The approval of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the United States again raises questions about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines.

Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns. 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.’ However, if 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.

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. - U.S. Bishop Chairmen for Doctrine and for Pro-Life Address the Use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine

There still remains a fair bit of confusion on the data and scientific evidence in regards to vaccines at the present. In order to follow scientific evidence that they find disreputable with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, we as Catholics have the right to understand what the scientific evidence truly is.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not morally compromised and even the Vatican knows it

By tainting the COVID-19 vaccine with its taboo morality, the bishops are not respecting life, they are instead exploiting a grave situation to inject their anti-abortion politics.

Though the Archdiocese of Philadelphia did not make any additional comments about the bishops’ pronouncement, they did share the statement with educators in all Catholic schools in the five-county Philadelphia region, spokesperson Kenneth A. Gavin told The Inquirer’s Marie McCullough in an email.

The truth is, all currently approved vaccines for COVID-19 used cell lines derived from aborted fetuses in their testing phases. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, some antiabortion activists claim, is morally compromised because it also used these cells in its production. The pharmaceutical company has stated unequivocally that there are no fetal cells in its vaccine. All vaccine companies must give the scientific evidence of research and how the vaccines are actually made, in order that as Catholics, we can follow what the scientific community is claiming.

The Church has not pronounced on the mRNA vaccines as of yet, so Catholics must ultimately make the best informed decision possible, including talking it over with your local bishop.

Catholics got permission in 2005 and 2017 from the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life to get vaccines that use historical fetal cell lines, if no alternatives are available. “The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concerns about the origins of the vaccine,” Evans explains. Of course, many people who are anti-abortion are not Catholic, and not all Catholics agree. - How making a COVID-19 vaccine confronts thorny ethical issues

Ultimately, if true the Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson’s.

Most COVID-19 Vaccines do not use fetal cells for production; several Have used abortion-derived cell lines in testing; experts urge all vaccine developers to use noncontroversial alternatives.

Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) has published a new chart detailing whether the eight leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates supported by Operation Warp Speed are produced or tested using cells derived from abortions. The vaccine candidates evaluated are those produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Sanofi/GSK, Inovio, and Merck. - What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines (Last updated June 2, 2021)

5
  • 1
    I'd read somewhere that all the fetal cells were filtered out of the J&J vaccine, but I'm kinda with the inquirer on this, that's yet another thing that doesn't pass the smell test and sounds more like yet another Pfizer smear campaign. My unscientific mind imagines a colander marked "fetal tissue". I'm guessing the reality is spin very fast and hope for the best.
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 12 at 3:10
  • Are they saying the end justifies the means? Oct 12 at 4:09
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather No, just try to take the vaccine the most moral possible one: Moderna. Some countries can not get the appropriate moral vaccine, so it is permitted to get others. ”It should be emphasized, however, that the morally licit use of these types of vaccines, in the particular conditions that make it so, does not in itself constitute a legitimation, even indirect, of the practice of abortion, and necessarily assumes the opposition to this practice by those who make use of these vaccines.“
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 12 at 4:15
  • 1
    @OneGodtheFather “Catholics got permission in 2005 and 2017 from the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life to get vaccines that use historical fetal cell lines, if no alternatives are available.“ The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concerns about the origins of the vaccine.” Regardless, the Catholic Church says that if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only one available, it is still more morally correct to get the vaccine than to avoid it.
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 12 at 4:42
  • "the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concerns about the origins of the vaccine" I have a hard time seeing how this isn't 'the end justifies the means', TBH. Oct 12 at 7:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.