Church endorses only ‘morally acceptable' vaccines


Archbishop Michael Byrnes


In a bid to resolve the ethical dilemma involving the Covid-19 vaccine's link to abortion, the Archdiocese of Agana is urging Guam officials to provide only booster shots that the church deems “morally acceptable.”


Archbishop Michael Byrnes said his guidance for moral acceptability of the vaccines refers specifically to the Pfizer and Moderna brands and excludes Johnson & Johnson.


“I strongly urge our government and medical officials to continue to provide morally acceptable vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna to our community because of the large population of Catholics in Guam,” Byrnes said.


The moral question over the vaccine was linked to abortion, specifically Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen brand which is being manufactured with abortion-derived cell lines.


If one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Byrnes said in an open letter to the faithful, “Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson.”


Guam has so far administered over 52,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna, and has just received 1,300 doses of Janssen vaccine this week.


Byrnes said neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine used cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production.


However, he added, Pfizer and Moderna are not completely disconnected from the aspect of abortion as both made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products.


“There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote. The burden of this important battle cannot and must not fall on innocent children and on the health situations of the population,” Byrnes said. “Some may question that if it is remotely connected with tainted cell lines it makes it immoral to be vaccinated with them.”


But such dilemma, the archbishop added, has been resolved by the Vatican through a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which pronounced, "from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good.”


“Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have both chosen to be vaccinated and have done so with morally acceptable vaccines. Pope Francis has referred to the vaccination as an ethical action, because you are gambling with your health, you are gambling with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” Byrnes said.


While having opted to be vaccinated, Byrnes said he respects those who decline the booster shots for medical, safety or moral reason.


Vaccinated or not, the archbishop advised all Guamanians to continue following the basic safety protocols of wearing a mask, social distancing, and sanitation measures.


“The limited movement and face to face interaction has brought a new dynamic to this Lenten Season, while providing an invitation to grow deeper into our relationship with Christ through fasting and prayers,” he said.


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In a statement issued Dec. 21, the congregation said the vaccine morality question has been at the center of controversy even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.


The congregation noted that the Pontifical Academy for Life has already made pronouncement on this issue at least three times in recent years -- in 2005, 2008 and 2017.


“These documents already offer some general directive criteria,” the congregation said.


Based on the criteria, the congregation held that “it is morally acceptable” to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses “when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available.”


The criteria includes circumstances “in countries where vaccines without ethical problems are not made available to physicians and patients, or where their distribution is more difficult due to special storage and transport conditions, or when various types of vaccines are distributed in the same country but health authorities do not allow citizens to choose the vaccine with which to be inoculated.”



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