04 December 2020, The Tablet

Catholics 'do not sin' by receiving vaccine

Catholics 'do not sin' by receiving vaccine

The bishops spoke as Britain prepares to launch a national vaccination program as early as next Tuesday.
Pietro Recchia/PA

The bishops of England and Wales have stated that Catholics do not sin if they receive a vaccine developed from cell lines from an aborted foetus.

In a statement today, signed by Bishop Richard Moth, chair of the bishops' conference department of social justice, says that development of a vaccine against Covid-19 presents “an important breakthrough” in protecting others as well as oneself from the virus.

He notes this is a virus that has not only caused a global pandemic and led to a huge loss of life, but has also placed a great burden on healthcare workers and systems.

“Each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate,” he says. 

At present, debate concerns the use of the vaccines developed by Pfizer & BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. Some have questioned the use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine since it has been developed from cell-lines originating from the cells of an aborted foetus in 1983.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Academy of Life have expressed the view that one may in good conscience and for a grave reason receive a vaccine sourced in this way, provided that there is a sufficient moral distance between the present administration of the vaccine and the original wrongful action,” writes Bishop Moth.

“In the Covid-19 pandemic, we judge that this grave reason exists and that one does not sin by receiving the vaccine.”

Both the Pfizer & BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have a different source since they are mRNA-based vaccines. On 2 December 2020, the Pfizer & BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the UK.

Bishop Moth says in the statement: “Each Catholic must educate his or her conscience on this matter and decide what to do, also bearing in mind that a vaccine must be safe, effective, and universally available, especially to the poor of the world.

“Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves. In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection.”

The bishops issued an earlier statement, COVID-19 and Vaccination, in September 20.


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