In today’s Gospel Jesus cures many people from disease. Healing is what the Church does. What about its healing mission today? We can think of all the good work that nurses and doctors do in repelling Covid-19. However, there are also areas where there are difficulties in knowing the best way forward.
For instance, the recent launch of vaccinations against Covid-19 raises an important ethical question for Christians. Is there a moral dilemma about using the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines because of the origins of the vaccines?
In the development of both vaccines researchers in different ways used the tissue of human foetuses aborted over 30 years ago. In response the Vatican advised, “When the illicit action (i.e. the use of aborted foetuses) is endorsed by the laws which regulate healthcare and scientific research, it is necessary to distance oneself from the evil aspects of that system. The Church does not want to give the impression of tolerating or accepting actions which are gravely unjust. This may lead to growing indifference, or approval, of such actions in society.” Therefore we have to be careful how we proceed. In the meantime what should I do if there are no other vaccines available yet?
Here are the arguments for accepting the vaccine. If I do not take the vaccine, I could infect others and be a cause of spreading disease. If I am not vaccinated, I would have to self-isolate for years! Poor people could die in huge numbers if they do not get the only vaccine available. Innocent people today did not agree to the abortion in the first place and it does not seem reasonable to deprive those innocent people today of a chance for a healing remedy.
All these arguments are made to support the use of the vaccine today and Catholic teaching authority advises us not to agonise too much but to do what is best for our elderly citizens and innocent children.
So this is my understanding of Church teaching. A person using the vaccine today is not cooperating materially in any abortion. But from now on it is better to demand and support new ethical ways of producing vaccines. We already know that a responsible doctor was involved in the production of the Pfizer vaccine. Dr Derrick Rossi helped to develop a technique using adult stem cells and not embryos. He shows that there are scientists who work in an ethical way and their work should be supported. Admittedly, Pfizer did use embryonic stem cells in the testing procedures. They did not use it in the development of the vaccine, as you can see from the Charlotte Lozier Research Institute.
A further consideration is that the parents of the aborted child may now be pro-life and may be glad their child’s death has led to new life and therefore they are helping the common good at this stage. The Gospel urges us to be pro-life and to cure diseases. We can see that doing what is right nowadays is a challenge to us, both ethically, medically, and financially.
Remember we must work for the common good as best we can and be pro-life in opposing abortion and pro-life using the most ethically acceptable vaccine to save others and in supporting scientists pioneering more ethical methods.