Regarding the connection of the vaccines to abortion, he said that "with this category of moral acts, where you are benefiting from historical evil without perpetuating future evil," a Catholic's decision on whether or not to receive the vaccine "becomes a little bit more entangled. And many people want it black and white."
Amid the statements by Catholics on the morality of vaccines, public figures have also appeared in campaigns encouraging Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fr. Austriaco praised the bipartisan public service announcements by former presidents, saying that he is "grateful" to see their campaign. "Really this should be a bipartisan, apolitical effort," he said.
Several American presidents released public service announcements on Thursday urging Americans to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, when vaccines become available to them.
In a campaign for the Ad Council, former Presidents Barack Obama (D), George W. Bush (R), Bill Clinton (D) and Jimmy Carter (D), as well as former first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Rosalynn Carter, are pictured receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump do not appear in the ad.
The Associated Press reported that Trump was still in office when the former presidents' project started in December. Trump also did not attend President Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, when Obama, Bush and Clinton filmed an ad together in person. The Trumps were reportedly vaccinated in private before the 45th president left office in January.
In one ad, the former presidents characterized getting vaccinated as the best way to end the pandemic. In another ad filmed at Arlington National Cemetery on the day of Biden's inauguration, Obama, Bush, and Clinton reiterated their call for Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
Currently, three vaccines against COVID-19 have been approved for use in the United States.
The COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States were either tested or produced utilizing cell lines derived from the remains of a deceased unborn child in what may have been an abortion.
Two of the vaccines - produced by Moderna and Pfizer - did not directly use the cell lines in the design and production phases, but some laboratory tests did use those controversial cell lines. Meanwhile, the latest vaccine to be approved for use in the U.S. - from Johnson & Johnson - did utilize the cell lines in all three phases.
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However, while the Church teaches that abortion is an intrinisic evil, Catholic theologians have argued that the connection to abortion of each of the vaccines is remote and is not ongoing.
The chair of the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and the bishops' pro-life committee chair, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, said that while all three vaccines are morally acceptable to use, Catholics should seek the those "with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines."
"Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson's," the bishops said in a statement released earlier this month.
Catholics must advocate against the use of the controversial cell lines, they said, adding that "we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good."
Kate Scanlon served as EWTN News Political Affairs Correspondent through August 2021.