Buddhism teaching

Fetal cell line testing and church teaching

Despite claims to the contrary from some circles, the Church has never taught that drugs tested on fetal cell lines are a moral issue big enough to ignore this drug. I wrote this in a semi-academic article that covers a lot of detail, but I want to offer readers a summary here. The Church clearly taught in her ordinary magisterium that one can reject a vaccine grown on fetal cell lines, but in doing so she avoided saying that a vaccine – or any other drug – simply tested on fetal cell lines. was reason enough to ignore this. Medication. It can be argued the theological opinion that this is sufficient ground, but the Church asks theologians to clearly distinguish their theological views from the teaching of the Church.

I would invite readers who are so inclined to read the entire article, but I will offer a summary for the average reader of my blog below.

This article will explore a very specific question: Has the Church ever taught that a drug tested on fetal cell lines is a moral issue big enough to ignore that drug?

I will cover three prerequisites, examine the different lessons about vaccines,… and conclude with why this is important.


There are things the Church says in official master documents. These are official Church teachings. Everything we will be dealing with here are from the ordinary magisterium, not from the extraordinary magisterium so not infallible… Then there are the theological opinions which can vary… One can have a theological opinion different from the ordinary magisterium, but an ecclesial spirit would demand that it or stated as such not as “magisterium” or “teaching of the Church”. It is even more true if the Magisterium is silent on the subject …

In a way, almost every act has negative moral consequences that could be considered a moral problem. But some are so small that they have no functional relevance in moral decision-making because they are so extremely distant… The problem in the opening question is phrased: “a moral problem big enough to ignore this drug.” “. Thus, he is talking about a moral problem which is important enough that some ignore it, but not important enough that all Catholics should avoid it. It would also include problems that everyone should avoid, but not such a minor problem that it has never even been suggested that one might want to avoid it …

This article will be limited to the question of the fetal cell lines used in the tests.

Vatican statements on vaccines

The Vatican has made 4 statements on the ethics of vaccines. The Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) – and not the Magisterium – made statements in 2005 and 2017. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – Magisterium – made statements in 2008 and 2020. All, except the 2017 statement, clearly indicate an ethical issue that may prompt Catholics to choose not to use a vaccine grown or produced using fetal cell lines. I see no argument that the fetal cell line test is “a moral issue big enough to ignore this drug.” [I will only cover the two CDF statements here: read the PAL statements in the original.] …

Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, where the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is located (CC BY 2.0 Jim McIntosh)
Dignitas Personae

Dignitas Personae in 2008 was the first masterful document to deal with vaccines produced on fetal cell lines. The relevant quote: “Serious reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such ‘biological material’. So, for example, a danger to children’s health could allow parents to use a vaccine that was DEVELOPED from cell lines of illicit origin. »… Two things… should be noted.

First, “serious reasons” are used to justify most of the use of the rubella vaccine (which is part of the MMR) when rubella kills about 1 in 5,900 compared to 1 in 50-200 for COVID. If rubella is severe enough, a disease 30 times more deadly a fortiori has sufficiently serious reasons to justify its use.

Second, the word “developed” in English might be ambiguous as it refers to production alone or also to testing before production. However, versions in other languages ​​make it clear that “developed” means produced and does not include vaccines tested only on fetal cell lines …

CDF 2020 statement on COVID vaccines

The only masterful statement I can see that could refer to vaccines tested on fetal cell lines is in this document: “It is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their blood. research and production process. “…

Later, after noting that vaccines are voluntary, he talks about the ethics of those who do not vaccinate: means and appropriate behavior. … It should also be noted that it only provides for Catholics to ignore vaccines produced / grown on fetal cell lines rather than remote cooperation, and therefore indicates that these could be boycotted by Catholics. It does not mention those developed from cell lines or those tested on cell lines. The vaccines tested on fetal cell lines had just been approved when this document was released, so if the Vatican wanted to include them here, they could have. Excluding vaccines tested on fetal cell lines appears to be a conscious decision, not just an afterthought …

We return to the original question, “Has the Church ever taught that a drug tested on fetal cell lines is a moral issue big enough to ignore that drug?” Unless someone can show me a document that I missed, the answer must be no.

Why it matters

This is important because many people have expressed their theological opinion as if it were a teaching of the Church. This is very confusing to the faithful, especially when it is done by people who are called to explain such things to the faithful. It also shows a lack of ecclesial spirit or dishonesty on their part in distorting what the Church teaches.

For example, the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) vaccine exemption letter template states: “An individual Catholic may rely on Church teaching to refuse a vaccine developed or produced using cell lines derived from abortions. As it has been established above that the Church has never taught that there is a moral problem important enough to refuse a drug tested or developed in a fetal cell line, such a Catholic could not rely on the teaching of the ‘Church that for’ a vaccine produced using cells derived from an abortion. lines. “I fully support Catholics who decide that those not grown on a fetal cell line are available as a more ethical option …

The NCBC is free to take this as theological advice and present it to the faithful as such. However, they should not present what is a theological opinion as if it was the teaching of the Church. I personally question this theological view because a certain degree of appropriation of evil is impossible to avoid and therefore should not become a reason for avoiding otherwise good acts. For example. I would question the renunciation of US citizenship because the original 13 colonies had legal slaves and testing on a fetal cell line is at that level of remote appropriation …

I don’t intend to attack the NCBC only here, as I have seen similar things on popular Catholic and clergy websites. However, the NCBC is of particular importance so as not to distort Church teaching.


Church teaching makes it clear that being grown on a fetal cell line is a sufficiently important moral issue that one is free to boycott a vaccine under certain circumstances, and this would seem to apply to d other drugs if this happens. However, no Church teaching says the same about vaccines or any other medicine if it is simply tested on fetal cell lines. This should lead American and Canadian Catholics to prefer Moderna and Pfizer vaccines over those offered by Johnson & Johnson or Astraeneca (the latter only in Canada currently). However, the astronomically distant link to abortion is not a reason for a Catholic to skip the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. If you want to know more about how far that link with abortion is, check out these articles. Even one of the NCBC statements I criticized above notes, “Being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good. In fact, I would go beyond ‘maybe’ to ‘Being vaccinated is, in the vast majority of cases, an act of charity that serves the common good. “

If you are so inclined, do not hesitate to read the full article. I tried to grab a few sections for my average reader to understand.

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