Cardinal Parolin Appears to Deny Conscience Right Exemption from Vatican’s Pfizer Vaccine
Responding to a query about his Dec. 23 ruling mandating vaccination for all Vatican employees and visitors who haven’t recently recovered from COVID-19, the Vatican secretary of state indicated religious exemptions are not ‘justified’ with respect to mRNA vaccines.
VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said Vatican employees seeking to be exempt from the Vatican’s new vaccine mandate because they oppose the vaccine’s link to abortion “seems not to be justified” as it was only tested rather than produced using the cell lines of aborted fetuses.
On Dec. 23, Cardinal Parolin, who is the most senior Vatican official after Pope Francis, ruled that entry to the Vatican now was only to be permitted to those who were vaccinated or had recently recovered from COVID-19.
In Jan. 9 written comments to the Register, the Vatican Secretary of State said that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine administered at the Vatican does not use such “cell cultures” in its composition or production but “only in the preliminary stages of vaccine testing in the laboratory.”
“On the other hand, other vaccines (Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson) are actually produced from cell cultures that were donated about 40 years ago for scientific purposes,” he added.
“Therefore, it seems that not wanting to undergo vaccination with this motivation [of objecting to the vaccine’s abortion link] cannot be justified, since the vaccine that is currently used is precisely the Pfizer one that uses the mRNA method,” he said.
The Dec. 23 decree mandated vaccines for most employees and visitors, stating that staff without a valid “Green Pass” attesting to vaccination or recovery from the virus would be unable to access the workplace. Those lacking this documentation would be “considered a case of unjustified absence” and effectively suspended without pay.
Cardinal Parolin also decreed that, from Jan. 31, all Vatican employees who serve in contact with the public would be obliged to provide official documentation proving they had received the full anti-COVID vaccine, including the third booster dose.
Vatican City State was one of the first territories to offer the Pfizer vaccine to its employees, back in December 2020, and both Pope Francis and Benedict XVI reportedly received both shots and the booster jab.
The cardinal, who was relaying information to the Register from “competent persons in these matters” whom he had consulted for his response, also briefly explained the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology that teaches cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response inside the body.
Cardinal Parolin said these “mRNA vaccines (the best known of which is Pfizer, the one we use) are produced with a technique that does not involve the use of cell cultures but are synthesized through a method that involves the insertion of fragments of genetic information into the bacteria belonging to the type of Escherichia Coli [bacteria that normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals, but some strains cause illness].”
“These are subsequently left to multiply for several days in crops which are rich in nutrients,” the cardinal added. “In this way it is possible to extract numerous copies of the DNA sequence from which then the mRNA sequences used for vaccination are produced.”
Vatican Document References
To buttress his position, the cardinal also made reference to a note “on the morality of using some anti-COVID-19 vaccines” published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Dec. 21, 2020. The note declared it was “morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.
“The fundamental reason for considering the use of these vaccines morally licit is that the kind of cooperation in evil (passive material cooperation) in the procured abortion from which these cell lines originate is, on the part of those making use of the resulting vaccines, remote,” it added.
The CDF note stated that using such vaccines does not in itself legitimize, even indirectly, the practice of abortion, nor does it amount to a moral endorsement of the use of cell lines proceeding from aborted fetuses. It also added that pharmaceutical companies and state health agencies are encouraged to produce alternatives “that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated.”
Furthermore, it stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”
Cardinal Parolin also referred to a 2017 document from the Pontifical Academy for Life that used similar arguments to the CDF note, namely that the cell lines used are “very distant from the original abortions and no longer imply that bond of moral cooperation indispensable for an ethically negative evaluation of their use.”
Catholic leaders have taken varying positions on receiving the vaccine, with some such as Bishop Athanasius Schneider and other pro-life Catholics rejecting the use of a vaccine with any link to abortion, and other pro-life faithful, including Princeton Professor Robert George, asserting it is morally acceptable to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available.
Cardinal Parolin’s differentiation between what he attests is the moral acceptability of using the Pfizer vaccine as opposed to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the Astra Zeneca vaccine, is somewhat similar to guidance issued by the USCCB last March, which stated that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine raised “additional moral concerns” and that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines consequently should be preferred. However, the USCCB guidance did not indicate there were no moral problems at all associated with the mRNA vaccines, and it also stressed the importance of continuing to “insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines.”
The Register asked Cardinal Parolin about his new decree regarding anti-COVID restrictions: “Until now, personnel could self-exempt themselves from taking the vaccines against COVID by obtaining a negative test. Now those tests are no longer accepted, will exemptions be made for those personnel who cannot, in good conscience, take the vaccine on grounds of the vaccine having been derived (tested or produced) from aborted foetal stem cells?”
The full text of Cardinal Parolin’s Jan. 9 response to the Register follows:
mRNA vaccines (the best known of which is Pfizer, the one we use) are produced with a technique that does not involve the use of cell cultures but are synthesized through a method that involves the insertion of fragments of genetic information into the bacteria belonging to the type of Escherichia Coli. These are subsequently left to multiply for several days in crops which are rich in nutrients. In this way it is possible to extract numerous copies of the DNA sequence from which then the mRNA sequences used for vaccination are produced. In the case of mRNA vaccines, cell lines from aborted fetuses were used only in the preliminary stages of vaccine testing in the laboratory, but no cell lines from aborted fetuses are included in either the composition or production. On the other hand, other vaccines (Astra Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson) are actually produced from cell cultures that were donated about forty years ago for scientific purposes. Therefore, it seems that not wanting to undergo vaccination with this motivation cannot be justified, since the vaccine that is currently used is precisely the Pfizer that uses the mRNA method.
Concluding, I would refer you to the Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on 20 December 2020, as well as the document of the Pontifical Academy for Life issued on 31 July 2017.