“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 wrote.
The Bishop of Arecibo stressed that "conscience, and its freedom, cannot be considered only as a civil right but is something intrinsic to our Catholic faith."
Bishop Fernández also stressed that “following the moral doctrine of the Church, in the face of difficult, sudden and morally debated cases, the shepherds of souls should not impose univocal solutions, but rather, following Saint Alphonsus, we must leave each one to act accordingly to his right conscience.”
The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides guidance to uphold human dignity in health care and medical research, is opposed to mandated immunization for COVID-19, while also acknowledging that reception of the coronavirus vaccines is morally permissible.
“In fulfilling its mission, the NCBC draws on the full range of the teachings of the Church, including its social teachings, which provide guidance on appropriate respect for persons while building up the common good,” the center said in an Aug. 17 statement.
The matter of conscientious objection to COVID-19 vaccine requirements is emerging as a source of conflict among Catholic leaders and institutions, particularly so in the United States, where pressure is mounting against those who have not been vaccinated.
Several bishops in California, and the Archdiocese of New York, have instructed priests not to provide religious exemption letters for those Catholics who object to the vaccine mandate, while the bishops in Colorado and South Dakota, and the Bishop of Gallup, have upheld conscience rights.
The NCBC stated that “The Church encourages people to receive vaccination for COVID-19, even though the currently available vaccines in the U.S. have a remote connection to abortion through the use of certain cell lines.”
It noted that the U.S. bishops have urged the provision of vaccines not connected to abortion, and stated: “Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA of a vaccine that did not rely on abortion-derived cell lines for manufacture and/or testing would remove a major obstacle to COVID-19 vaccination for many.”