Priests, however, “should not be active participants to such actions” by granting religious exemptions, the memo stated.
“Imagine a student receiving a religious [vaccine] exemption, contracting the virus and spreading it throughout the campus. Clearly this would be an embarrassment to the archdiocese. Some even argue that it might impose personal liability on the priest,” the memo said.
Currently, three vaccines have been given an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – those produced by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. While all three vaccines were tested on cell lines derived from elective abortions decades ago, only one of the vaccines – Johnson & Johnson – was directly produced using the controversial cell lines.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has stated that the use of the vaccines with connections to the questionable cell lines is “morally acceptable,” but that Catholics should seek “ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines” when available.
In its December 2020 note, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith further stated that vaccination must not be mandatory.
“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,” the congregation stated.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has stated that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States are “morally acceptable” for use.
“[I]f 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,” the USCCB said in March. “Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.