Catholic World News News Feature
Vatican official clarifies stand on vaccines from fetal tissue July 25, 2005
Although the Pontifical Academy for Life has strongly condemned the development of vaccines from fetal tissues, the president of that Academy notes that parents may still be justified in having their children inoculated with such vaccines.
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, in a July 23 interview with Vatican Radio, clarified the position taken by the Pontifical Academy for Life, in response to an inquiry from an American pro-life group. The bishop said that pharmaceutical manufacturers have a grave moral obligation to provide vaccines that do not use fetal tissues. But parents whose children may risk serious disease without inoculation may still choose vaccination, he said.
Bishop Sgreccia said that the Vatican had sent a two-part message to the American pro-life group. "On the one hand," he said, "in a particular context such as that in the United States, it is licit to use these vaccines, because there are no others actually available." The bishop explained that parents have a serious obligation to protect their children from disease whenever possible, and in doing so they are not signaling their approval for aborton.
On the other hand, Bishop Sgreccia continued, drug manufacturers have the choice to provide vaccines that do not use fetal tissue, so their continued use of the "tainted" vaccines does involve formal cooperation in abortion. He said that government should press the pharmaceutical companies to make other vaccines available, using morally licit means such as the use of animal tissue, and Catholic families should join actively in that pressure campaign.
In a paper published in Medicina e Morale , a journal published by Rome's University of the Sacred Heart, the Pontifical Academy had argued that parents might have the right to refuse vaccinations. The paper argued even more strongly that parents have an obligation-- and government an even stronger obligation-- to press for the development of vaccines that are not developed from fetal tissues.
The Vatican document-- which was made public last week by the American group, Children of God for Life-- said that different actors have different degrees of moral involvement in the use of fetal tissues. While drug manufacturers are "culpable of cooperation" in abortion, the parents who are under pressure to use vaccines have only a "very remote material cooperation" in the immoral act, the paper argues.
Even if they do accept vaccination for their children, the Vatican statement argued, parents remain obligated to press for the ethical development of other vaccines.
The statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life was approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.