Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Another balanced moral perspective on fetal tissues and Covid vaccines

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 11, 2020

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center has produced a balanced and informative column on the use of fetal tissues in Covid vaccines. While he accepts compromises that I am not willing to make, he outlines the moral issues accurately.

Two observations about that column:

1. While he concludes that Catholics are not morally obligated to decline the vaccines that will apparently be first available, he does not leap to the opposite conclusion (as some Church leaders have), and say that Catholics are morally obligated to take the vaccine. There is room for personal judgments, as he explains:

While it is a personal decision of conscience as to whether or not to accept a vaccine, it is important to be clear that the Church, for her part, does not require us to decline it on such grounds in the face of serious reasons, as in the situation of an elderly person or someone with multiple health issues who faces significant risks if they were to contract COVID-19.

Here Father Pacholczyk defends the right of Catholics to conclude that they cannot, in good conscience, take the tainted vaccines.

But notice how Father Pacholczyk continues that crucial sentence. He cites the “serious reasons” that might weigh in favor of taking the vaccine, for “an elderly person or someone with multiple health issues.” Most people do not fall into those categories. For the majority, then, it might be questioned whether those “serious reasons” obtain.

2. Father Pacholczyk ends his column with a hopeful paragraph:

While it is too early to know which COVID-19 vaccines will end up becoming available in the U.S., the pandemic is certain to elevate the profile of abortion-related ethical concerns among the public to a degree not previously seen, offering a unique opportunity to push for the elimination of these cell lines from future biomedical research and pharmaceutical development projects.

Is that true? Is it “certain” that the introduction of the Covid vaccine will prompt wider discussion of the moral issues involved in the use of fetal tissues? That could be true—but only if Catholics (and others committed to the pro-life cause) mount a vigorous campaign of opposition to the tainted vaccines. If we meekly accept the vaccines that are offered, without protesting or demanding alternatives—as some Church leaders seem to suggest—Father Pacholczyk’s optimistic prediction will not come true.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: 1Jn416 - Dec. 12, 2020 6:06 PM ET USA

    If we use a smartphone we remotely cooperate in child and slave labor, and if we use the internet or pay TV we remotely cooperate in the production of pornography. We all may benefit from medical knowledge obtained from Nazi experiments. And on and on. Where, and how, does one draw the line? That early researchers tested mRNA vaccines on aborted cell lines is unfortunate, but the development of the vaccines did not hinge on it, and so I do not think they are so tainted we must avoid them.