The COVID-19 Vaccine and Social Morality
Guidelines from Catholic Social Teaching by Fr. Edlefsen
Today, questions are being raised about the morality of COVID-19 vaccines. Some people have concerns about getting vaccinated because the technology was developed with cells from babies aborted some time ago. The US bishops, in concurrence with the Holy Father, have given clear guidance on the matter:
“In view of the gravity of the current pandemic and the lack of availability of alternative vaccines, the reasons to accept the new COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are sufficiently serious to justify their use, despite their remote connection to morally compromised cell lines. Receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community. In this way, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.”
This statement was issued by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Note the line about “remote connection” to morally compromised cell lines. In Catholic teaching, having a “remote connection” to a moral evil does not imply moral culpability. For example, most people shop at pharmacies, go to hospitals, fly airlines, attend schools, and patronize businesses that support – in one way or another – causes contrary to Catholic moral teaching. If you’ve been on the internet or have a wireless device, chances are you’re “remotely connected” to morally compromised activities. It’s hard not to be. The only way to avoid such a “remote connection” may be to flee to the hills. In fact, this has probably been the case for most people, in most civilizations, in most of history.
In light of this, Catholics are free to get the vaccine per the recommendation of their doctor. In fact, doing so is charitable and making a contribution to the common good in the midst of a pandemic. Though no one is obliged to get the vaccine, everyone is morally obliged to take reasonable measures that protect one’s health and the health of others.
Sometimes it’s helpful to keep the big picture in mind for a sense of perspective. We live in a fallen world. No civilization or human endeavor is born in innocence. Yet, despite injustices, good often finds its way out of evil. That’s Providence. The Resurrection shines from the Crucifixion. “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5)