“The Pennsylvania Bishops have affirmed Church teaching that, given a choice of vaccines, the least morally offensive vaccine should be chosen,” Bishop Alfred Schlert said.
“In our area, a true choice is not yet available; therefore, Church teaching would allow for receiving a less-desirable alternative if a person wishes to be vaccinated now,” he said.
Bishop Schlert and other Pennsylvania Bishops issued a joint statement on the topic on March 4, responding to questions about the permissibility of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The statement was issued to the news media by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference:
PCC ISSUES STATEMENT ON VACCINE
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference today responded to questions that many people have asked about whether it is permissible to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
When people have no choice about which COVID vaccine to receive, it is morally acceptable to receive any vaccine they are offered. This is based on the December 2020 guidance from the Vatican, stating 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.”
The position of some bishops in Pennsylvania has been inaccurately reported in some news media, resulting in confusion among Catholics and the public.
Our position has never changed, nor has that of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said, “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.”
In essence, we recognize that at this time individuals are not given a choice of which vaccine to receive and that this should not prevent Catholics from getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Catholics may in good conscience, receive any vaccine, in order to protect themselves. Once again, 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.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is based in Harrisburg and is the public affairs arm of PA’s Catholic bishops.