Bishops’ Doctrine Czar Clarifies Johnson & Johnson Vaccine ‘Morally Allowed’

Bishops’ Doctrine Czar Clarifies Johnson & Johnson Vaccine ‘Morally Allowed’

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, the chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Doctrine Committee, said Wednesday that Catholics should have no qualms of conscience in receiving the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

“We consider the use of these vaccines to be permissible because we consider what is called the Catholic theology ‘remote material cooperation.’ And that is morally allowed,” Bishop Rhoades said in a statement.

In a Wednesday news conference, Rhoades, the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, clarified that the Church is not forbidding Catholics — or anyone else — from taking the newest vaccine available in the U.S.

“But I think there are Catholics who would like to, would prefer to take big vaccines that make less use of these cellular-based products as kind of a witness to the culture of life,” Rhoades said.

To manufacture its vaccine, Johnson & Johnson used cell lines generated from a fetus that had been aborted in the 1980s. The Catholic Church allows the medical and scientific use of human cadavers such as that of an aborted child while condemning the abortion itself.

In a similar way, the Church permits transplanting organs from a homicide victim to save someone else’s life, while clearly denouncing the homicide itself.

“We expressed a preference for a use of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the use of Johnson and Johnson because the cooperation in abortion is less remote than with Pfizer and Moderna. But it’s still remote, and therefore is allowed,” Rhoades said, in reference a March 2 statement he issued jointly with Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Bishop Rhoades noted on the personal level, he would prefer to receive either of the other two vaccines available in the U.S. but that this preference is not morally binding.

“If I had a choice, I’d rather take Moderna or Pfizer than Johnson & Johnson, but one is not obligated,” he observed. “The Vatican has said it’s morally licit to use these vaccines because it’s a very remote material cooperation with abortion.”

Rhoades also specified that the Catholic Church will continue to lobby pharmaceutical companies and the FDA not to use abortion-derived cell lines in their research and products.

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Thomas D. Williams Ph.D.