Baton Rouge Diocese and New Orleans Archdiocese call Johnson and Johnson vaccine, ‘morally compromised’

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BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – Concerns are rising after some Catholic Church leaders are telling their followers to avoid the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge and New Orleans Archdiocese have said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is morally compromised because its development traces back to an abortion-derived cell line.

Louisiana is expected to receive more than 37,000 doses of the J&J vaccine this week.

This decision has the potential to impact vaccine distribution across the country, especially in predominantly Catholic communities like Louisiana, where churches often serve as vaccination centers.

As vocal pro-life advocates, the Catholic Church is opposed to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as it can be traced back to vaccine techniques developed in the ’60s and ’70s with cells from elective abortions.

Gus Kousoulas is the head of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Kousoulas says the church’s stance is counterproductive.

“I would encourage all people to take this vaccine,” Kousoulas says. “There’s no real reason to have an inclination of not really using this particular vaccine.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated: “receiving a COVID-19 vaccine ought to be understood as an act of charity toward the other members of our community. In this way, 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 Diocese of Baton Rouge says if Catholics choose to get vaccinated they should first try to get the Modera or Pfizer vaccines.

Bishop Michael G. Duca of the Diocese of Baton Rouge issued the following statement this evening (March 1, 2021) on the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines:

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage populations around the globe. Worldwide over 2.5 million have died. In the United States the death toll is over half a million, with Louisiana’s approaching 10,000. Thankfully, vaccines have been developed to reduce the spread and effects of this virulent killer. 

In a letter read in all parishes several weeks ago, I explained, 

“Vaccines are now being made available to various groups throughout the United States. I have reviewed these remedies along with the Bishops of the United States and we have determined, reinforced by the Holy Father Pope Francis, that receiving the new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are justifiable and morally acceptable ways to help end this pandemic. Being vaccinated should be considered as an act of charity toward others in our communities. I encourage all of the faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge to take this moral evaluation to heart as you make your decision to receive the coronavirus vaccinations as they become available.” 

I continue to encourage everyone to receive a vaccination, but the new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has some moral concerns we must acknowledge. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Johnson & Johnson uses a line of stem cells procured from abortions performed over 30 years ago in the production of its vaccine. To the question of whether a person should receive this vaccine in good conscience the Congregation of Doctrine has stated, 

“As for the moral responsibility of those who are merely the recipients of the vaccines, the Congregation affirms that a serious health danger could justify use of ‘a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.’” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction (Dignitas Humanae), no. 35. 

Given our present situation and the need to protect ourselves and one another from this virus, my guidance to the faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is to accept as your first choices the vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna, but if for any reasonable circumstance you are only able to receive the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, you should feel free to do so for your safety and for the common good. In addition, I have consulted with Catholic health care representatives, and I understand and appreciate their serious challenges as to the acquisition and equitable distribution of all three vaccines. I therefore support their policy of administering any of the vaccines as circumstances require. 

Again, as I have stated in my original letter to the Diocese, “I encourage all of the faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge to take this moral evaluation to heart as you make your decision to receive the coronavirus vaccinations as they become available.”

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