The Archdiocese Of New Orleans Is Against The COVID Vaccine Because Of A Questionable Abortion Connection
As new vaccines continue to roll out, the U.S. continues to see mass pushback from different sourcess — including anti-vaxxers and, apparently, the Catholic Church. This week, the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans called for a ban on the new Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, over a muddied link to abortion.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans issued a split decision on how religiously acceptable major COVID-19 vaccines are in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Upon investigating, the church decided that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are acceptable for members of its community, but has called the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine "morally compromised." According to their findings, an "abortion-derived cell line" that was used to produce this particular vaccine became a dealbreaker.
"The Archdiocese of New Orleans, in light of guidance from the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The National Catholic Bioethics Center affirm that though there was some lab testing that utilized the abortion-derived cell line, the two vaccines currently available from Pfizer and Moderna do not rely on cell lines from abortions in the manufacturing process and therefore can be morally acceptable for Catholics as the connection to abortion is extremely remote," the official statement reads. "It is under the same guidance that the archdiocese must instruct Catholics that the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing."
But this decision — and the "evidence" used to sway the archdiocese — predates the COVID-19 vaccine. Rather, there is a historic debate in the Catholic community regarding the use of HEK293 cells, with origins that can supposedly be traced back to aborted fetuses from the 1970s. Despite the fact that many ethicists and scholars have emphasized that HEK293s and cells similar to them are simply clones and are not the original fetal tissue, the arguments within the church wage on.
Since this was issued in New Orleans, it's only binding for Catholics in that area of Louisiana. Catholic churches in other areas have the power to issue their own guidance on whether or not the latest FDA-fast tracked vaccine is acceptable. And some places are going to even more extremes: In Tyler, Texas, all three vaccines are considered "produced immorally" for similar abortion-related reasons.
It should be noted, though, that the Vatican itself has begun administering the Pfizer vaccine, with Pope Francis and predecessor Pope Benedict XVI among the first recipients of it. The Vatican has even warned that it will fire employees who choose not to be vaccinated.
Despite this, religious groups may very well continue to find reasons to refuse COVID vaccines. And this is not the first time something like this has happened. The Catholic church has taken a stand against plenty of vaccines before, like the long opposition to the measles, hepatitis A, and chickenpox vaccines. But those who choose to defy the Archdiocese won't necessarily be shunned.
A 2005 document from the Pontifical Academy for Life, which considered the moral issues surrounding abortion and vaccines, shows that The Vatican concluded it is morally permissible and morally responsible for Catholics to be vaccinated. It also notes that Catholics have an obligation to use ethically-sourced vaccines if possible and when there are not alternatives, to speak out against the development of vaccines that use anything even related to aborted fetus tissue.