The high hopes associated with the approval of a third antiviral vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) in the United States have been somewhat dimmed by reactions to the vaccine from some Catholic leaders.
A spokesman for the Archbishop of the Catholic Church of New Orleans, Louisiana, said that if Catholics have a choice, they should choose the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “morally compromised.” Citing directives from the Vatican and other Catholic organizations, the statement said, the archbishop’s diocese recommends that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine be abandoned on the grounds that the company used stem cells from two abortions performed in the 1970s and 1980s, not only during vaccine testing, but also during its development and production. The statement acknowledges that Pfizer and Moderna also used abortion cells in testing, but they did not use them in the vaccine manufacturing process, so their vaccines “have a very distant relationship to abortion.”
Bishop of the Catholic Church of Baton Rouge Michael Duca expressed similar doubts. However, he also admitted that for reasons of “their own and public safety” Catholics can be vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if they have no other choice and “the church will not condemn them.”
Johnson & Johnson advocates the use of stem cells from abortion as a “research tool” that can help discover “new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases.”