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Catholic Moral Teaching and COVID-19 Vaccines

Many Catholics are in a dilemma over the use of vaccines. Confusions arise from the mixed information received via various sources on whether these vaccines have been produced through a culture of foetal cells derived from abortions.

This dilemma has become increasingly apparent in the race to accelerate vaccine production to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catholics At Home presented a livestreamed chat session of Catholic Moral Teaching & COVID-19 Vaccines on January 29.

More than one thousand people ‘eavesdropped’ on the virtual chat session which was streamed live via Facebook and YouTube. Having the whole session on a digital platform, made it accessible even after it ended, as the number of viewers seem to be increasing daily.

The session was led by Fr Clarence Devadass, executive Secretary of the Office of Theological Concerns under the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), featuring Fr James McTavish from Scotland, who was a successful plastic surgeon prior to being ordained as a Catholic priest and moral theologian, working in the Philippines for more than 17 years, and Dr Sharon Gopalan, a medical practitioner from Kuala Lumpur.

The conversation began with Fr Clarence highlighting the importance of protecting human lives, reflecting on the issue of vaccines and its impact on humankind. 

“In today’s world, how does the principles of life apply?” asked Fr Clarence.

To look for the good in this situation, Fr. McTavish said that the person getting vaccinated might help protect others from contracting the virus, particularly people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Fr Clarence pointed out that the challenge in prioritising between the quality of life and the sanctity of life is to constantly remember, ‘first do no harm’, as it is hard to hold onto the sacredness of life.

“One of the beautiful things of the Catholic faith is not just lighting candles but the doctrinal teaching on life, the Church has been proactive, casting a light on these conundrums of life,” Fr McTavish said.

He added that it is important to look first at the acceptability of using such vaccines and the conditions the Church attaches to their use, then the issue of conscientious objection.

Both the priests said that all Christians have positive obligations of charity and solidarity with others, especially those at greatest risk of serious disease, as the documents rightly insist.

When the topic of ethical decision making on vaccinations was brought up, Fr McTavish said, Catholics may morally use the vaccines, but they are also free to refuse them for reasons of conscience or caution.

He urged people to search for the right information and to always be well-informed, not only depending on social media but, most importantly, to know the teachings and doctrines of the Church.

In the almost 90-minute chat session, Dr Gopalan described concisely the process of vaccine production and how it aims to create an antibody response in the body that may not only prevent those around us from getting the virus but may also be a possible hope to protect ourselves from a future infection.

These vaccines, she said, are seen as the best hope in the current global situation for halting the pandemic. She explained briefly about the manufacturing of the vaccines that have been authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use due the urgent need globally.

Dr Gopalan advised people to source views of those involved with the provision of COVID-19 data and information and COVID-19 vaccines, which can also be found at and https://

Drawing the conversation back to Church teachings, Fr McTavish spoke extensively on the essence of the moral dilemma that many Catholics have if these magisterial documents are to be taken at face value.

As anything produced in haste always stirs suspicions, the Scottish Catholic priest said, “Where there are no other vaccines available, it is morally acceptable to take these tainted vaccines.”

He assured us that these COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the aborted foetus cell.

He said that the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has determined that it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to take these vaccines against the COVID-19 Virus.

Fr McTavish recommended those who are seeking for more in-depth information on the origins of vaccines to gain a better understanding of the value of life and identify policies to look at

They all agreed that although the issue of tainted vaccines is a significant concern, it also entails various other issues that involve a country’s economy, accessibility, and distribution of vaccines, especially in poor countries.

Fr Clarence agreed and responded that, ‘the whole principle of human solidarity calls us for a reflection’, as the Church emphasises the ‘common good’ and not just the concern on one’s health but on the health of other’s too.

He also reminded listeners of the two Notes issued by the Vatican COVID-19 Commission last year; Morality of Using Some Anti COVID-19 Vaccines, issued on December 21, 2020 and Vaccine for all. 20 points for a fairer and healthier world, issued on December 29, 2020.

As the vaccines against COVID-19 become available, it is critically important that Catholics and others have an accurate understanding of how these vaccines may be viewed from the perspective of Catholic moral teaching and tradition. Although no one is morally obligated, Fr Clarence said, it is very important to be well informed prior to making the decision on whether to be vaccinated or not. – Melissa Fernado

READ this article in Bahasa

SOURCE: Herald Malaysia Online

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