The new vaccines for the coronavirus are “morally acceptable” even though they were developed with cells from aborted babies, the Vatican said Monday in a new document.

The statement comes amid a growing controversy among Christians and pro-lifers about the new COVID-19 vaccines because all of the currently available ones have connections – some remote, some more directly – to aborted babies.

Reuters reports the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which released the statement, said there are “differing degrees of responsibility of cooperation in evil.”

Because there currently is no other vaccine option, “it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,” the document states.

Vatican News reports congregational prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria, and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi signed the document, and Pope Francis approved it last week.

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Because so many have died in the pandemic and infections are growing, “all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive,” the document states.

Here’s more from the report:

The [Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] says the reason for considering these vaccines morally licit is the “kind of cooperation” in the evil of abortion, which is “remote” on the part of those receiving the vaccine.

Therefore, the “moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory” since there exists a grave danger, in the form of an “uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent.”

The Vatican also emphasized that getting vaccinated is not a “moral obligation” and should be voluntary. It urged people who choose not to be vaccinated to “do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.”

The Catholic Church leaders called on governments and pharmaceutical companies to support and produce vaccines ethically.

All three of the currently available vaccines for the coronavirus used cells from aborted babies in some part of the process. The vaccine by AstraZeneca was developed with cells from an aborted baby’s kidney, though the cells are not in the actual vaccine.

While a number of leading pro-life and religious organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have warned people about the unethical production of that vaccine, they did suggest that two others from Pfizer and Moderna are morally permissible even though there is a “remote connection” to cells from aborted babies in their development as well.

However, there is disagreement even among Catholic and pro-life leaders. Earlier this month, a group of Catholic bishops from the U.S. and Europe said even vaccines with remote connections to abortion are unethical.

The USCCB and pro-life leaders have warned pro-lifers about the AstraZeneca vaccine, because its development did directly involve cells from an aborted baby.

According to the Catholic News Agency:

In 1972, a female child was aborted in the Netherlands, and cells from her kidneys were extracted and developed into the cell line now known as “HEK293.” “HEK” stands for “Human Embryonic Kidney.” Cells from the HEK293 line have been commonly used in biologic research since the late 70s.

The vaccinations produced by Pfizer and Moderna did not use HEK293 in their design, development, or production, but did use cells from the line in a confirmatory test, said the bishops. …

Conversely, the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca “should be avoided if there are alternatives available,” said the bishops, as this vaccine is “more morally compromised.”

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“The HEK293 cell line was used in the design, development, and production stages of that vaccine, as well as for confirmatory testing,” [the bishops said].

The Charlotte Lozier Institute has a list of the vaccines with information about whether cells from aborted babies were used in testing and/or production. Find it here.

Vaccines can be and are produced with ethical materials, including pluripotent stem cells and tissue from placentas, umbilical cords and amniotic fluid. In 2018, the Trump administration created a $20 million grant to invest in these ethical research alternatives.

Earlier this year, the Charlotte Lozier Institute identified 17 research groups that were conducting ethical coronavirus vaccine experiments while five that were not. The five using cells from aborted babies in their research include researchers with the University of Oxford (AstraZeneca), Johnson & Johnson and the University of Pittsburgh.

It appears that some vaccine producers are listening to pro-lifers’ concerns. In September, the company Sanofi-Pasteur announced plans to produce a new, ethically-developed polio vaccine. The project will replace an older polio vaccine that was developed with cells from an aborted baby, according to the Catholic News Agency. Sanofi-Pasteur is one of the largest vaccine production companies in the world.

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