Regarding Catholics who have “religious” concerns about taking COVID-19 vaccines, Gregory on Wednesday pointed to Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI having both received a vaccine.
“It’s difficult to say that ‘I have a religious concern’ when the last two pontiffs have already been vaccinated, and where Pope Francis has so clearly, and may I say with great insistence, urged Catholics to take the vaccine,” Gregory said.
“It doesn’t diminish their concern, but it certainly puts their concern on a pretty shaky platform.”
Some Catholics have voiced objections to receiving the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States. Two of the vaccines, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, have been tested with cell lines derived from abortions committed decades ago. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was not only tested on the controversial cell lines, but was also produced using the cell lines.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2020 issued a note stating that Catholics may receive a COVID-19 vaccine with a connection to the cell lines, if no ethical option is available, due to the gravity of the pandemic.
For Catholics objecting out of “conscience,” they should take other precautions to prevent transmission of the virus, the Vatican stated.
On the topic of racial reconciliation, Gregory on Wednesday was asked by moderator Lisa Matthews, president of the National Press Club, what role the Church could play to bring Black Americans back to the faith.
Catholics “have a responsibility because of our faith to be on the forefront of the justice movement,” Gregory said. “It’s not something that should be foreign to any of us.”
He noted a generational decline in religious practice that is not unique to Catholicism.
“We have a problem – and it’s not just a Catholic problem,” he said, “of passing on the faith to the next generation.” For too many Catholics, he said, Catholicism “is a description rather than a practice or lived reality.”
Gregory also answered questions on immigration, labor, abortion, the death penalty, and the ordination of women.
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He said that President Biden was “not demonstrating Catholic teaching” on when life begins, in response to Biden’s claim last week that life does not begin at conception. Gregory also called the death penalty “flawed,” before the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of a Texas inmate.
Asked about the Church’s discipline on priestly celibacy and its connection to the clerical sex abuse crisis, Gregory said that celibacy is not the central problem at hand. Married priests, as well as married rabbis and ministers of other denominations have also abused children, he noted.
“The Catholic Church – we are the 800-pound gorilla. But we’ve got some other small relatives that have also demonstrated that same type of incredibly sick personality, behavior,” he said.
Reflecting on becoming the first Black cardinal in the United States in November 2020, Gregory pointed to his Chicago roots.
“Having been raised in an urban environment, like many African-American Catholics, the schools were a primary vehicle for entering the Catholic Church. And so it is with me,” Gregory said.
“When I knelt in front of Pope Francis to receive the biretta, the ring, and the sign, titular church – a lot of that heritage was running through my head at that time,” he recalled.