A recent outbreak of the measles in the United States has brought the controversy over immunizations to the forefront again, and the Church is clear in its position on the matter.
In a nutshell, parents can decline immunization, but not on the basis of Catholic religious principals.
The argument stems from the fact that there are two human diploid cell lines which were originally prepared from tissues of aborted fetuses, in 1964 and 1970, and are used for the preparation of vaccines.
However, in an analysis from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, it states that the Church does not teach that the use of vaccinations produced in cell lines, even those derived from the tissue of an aborted fetus, is intrinsically evil, and that the use of these vaccines is licit if no others are available.
Both the USCCB and the Pontifical Council of Life concur.
Recently, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone sent a letter to all pastors and principals of schools in the diocese, telling them that religious objections to immunizations will no longer be accepted.
“If they don’t want immunization, that’s fine — I don’t think it’s a good choice — but they can’t use conscientious objection as a reason,” he said.
Sandra Leatherwood, director of Catholic education, estimated that about a dozen families in the diocese currently cite a religious exemption as the reason for not having their children immunized.
The bishop’s letter on school immunization stems from the measles outbreak in January that has so far affected 179 people from 18 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Most (120) were from California, where the outbreak occurred, but the quick spread shows how easily an almost dormant disease can make a comeback.
The Bioethics Center states that people are morally free to use a vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion because the risk to public health outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine.
This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.
The CDC states that measles in young children can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, deafness and death. In pregnant women, it can cause a spontaneous abortion; and in the case of German measles, can lead to grave fetal deformities.
In his letter, the bishop points out that the Pontifical Academy for Life stresses that parents who do not vaccinate their children bear the moral consequences of their actions and “become responsible for the malformations in question, and for the subsequent abortion of fetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.”
The academy said Catholics have a responsibility for protecting all people, not just ourselves, and protecting others against malformations and death.
Parents can voice their conscientious objection in other ways:
- Use an alternative vaccine if one is available. However, there is no moral obligation to use products that are less effective or inaccessible.
- Register a complaint with the manufacturer of the products and with the doctors using them.
Visit www.ncbcenter.org for a full explanation on vaccines.