The 2005 guidance from the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL), “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses,” told us to end the practice of using abortion-tainted vaccines and demand ethical alternatives. These same principles are reaffirmed in the new statement the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has released regarding the new COVID-19 vaccines that are now becoming available.
But, as the COVID-19 pandemic and response has shown, the issue is still very much unsettled, both in the pharmaceutical industry and in the ethical considerations among Catholics. How do we object to an abortion-tainted vaccine if for grave reason we accept the shot?
The Vatican provided guidance that still applies today. The PAL 2005 document explained that Catholics may use, in a narrowly defined limit, vaccines prepared with cell lines derived from aborted children, but with strong admonishments regarding our obligations to protest. As we exercise prudential judgment about our vaccine choices, it is a good time to review our obligations.
Abstain. The Pontifical Academy for Life says it is “right to abstain” if refusal to use the vaccine can be done without causing harm to yourself or community. If you judge that you can go without the vaccine, you should do so, even if it means continuing to adopt social-distancing measures to keep those around you safe. This honors the safety of others while respecting the dignity of unborn human life. By making this choice, you are showing that you are willing to sacrifice personal comfort to reject a vaccine produced using the remains of an aborted child.
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