US Catholic leaders urging faithful not to use Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

‘We’re always better to not cooperate with evil,’ Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops says

US Catholic leaders urging faithful not to use Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine
US Catholic leaders urging faithful not to use Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

Roman Catholic leaders across the United States are discouraging the faithful from getting inoculated against COVID-19 with the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Some within the Catholic church have called the vaccine “morally compromised” because it was produced using a line of lab-grown cells that descend from cells taken in the 1980s from the tissue of aborted fetuses.

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The archdiocese in St. Louis and New Orleans both encouraged Catholics to get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines if they are available.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also weighed in on the issue by releasing a statement:

“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.’ However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.

While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good.”

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“The position of the Vatican and the USC, the U.S. Conference of Bishops, and the Florida bishops are all in consistency with each other,” said Ken Kniepmann, associate for health for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Given the choice, we should avoid the J&J if at all possible ... the bishops have also said there’s really no good, compelling moral reason to not get vaccinated.”

Johnson & Johnson also released a statement stressing that there is no fetal tissue in its vaccine:

“Several types of cell lines created decades ago using fetal tissue exist and are widely used in medical manufacturing but the cells in them today are clones of the early cells, not the original tissue.”

Johnson & Johnson

Kniepmann said while that’s true, there remains an issue with the history of the development of the vaccine.

“It’s true. their vaccine does not contain any fetal tissue. That’s a true statement. It’s just kind of incomplete,” Kniepmann said. “They originally derived from fetal stem cells, and so it’s not fetal tissue, (per se), so they’re not injecting baby parts into us, but it would be inaccurate for them to say that they did not use a cell line derived from an abortion.”

Last December, the Vatican said the use of coronavirus vaccines is “morally acceptable,” even if some vaccines are manufactured using “cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

“Ultimately, it’s left to the individual to really, prayerfully, to look at and discern but the church is really trying to provide some guidance and really help folks in understanding the ethical issues that are involved and to say, ‘Listen if you have a choice, we’re always better to not cooperate with evil even if it’s this distant-past, remote evil, we’re always better to not cooperate with it,’” Kniepmann said.


About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.