Amid growing COVID-19 vaccine mandates from employers and government entities, a Catholic priest told his Brooklyn congregation recently that they are not obligated to take a vaccine made with cell lines created from aborted babies.
Father Michael Panicali’s remarks are attracting criticism from leftist news outlets like Raw Story and The Daily Beast.
The New York priest recently pushed back against a Vatican statement declaring that it is morally acceptable for Catholics to take vaccines even if they use cell lines create from aborted babies.
“My brothers and sisters, you are under absolutely no obligation to take a vaccine that is made, produced, manufactured, tested even in the most remote ways with aborted fetal cells,” Panicali responded in a recent homily, according to Raw Story. “Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Panicali, who serves at St. Mark-St. Margaret Mary Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, said he personally would not touch a COVID-19 vaccine “with a 10-foot pole” because of the reports of complications.
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“Our ultimate answer and word is the Word of Jesus Christ, who emphasizes that the flesh is important. The flesh of aborted cells are important and they are not to be put into our body in any way, shape, or form. Do not let anyone confuse that for you,” he added.
Opinions about the ethics of the new COVID-19 vaccines vary even among many Catholics and pro-life advocates. None of the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer contain cells from aborted babies, but all were tested and/or produced using cell lines created with aborted babies.
There are no actual cells from aborted babies in the vaccines; rather, the vaccine producers used cell lines created from the cells of babies who were aborted decades ago. These cell lines are clones of the aborted babies’ cells.
The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines used cell lines created from aborted babies in design, development, production and testing, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. However, the connections between abortion and the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are much more limited, with derivative cell lines created from cells from an aborted baby used only in testing.
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and other Catholic leaders have encouraged Catholics to seek out the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, rather than the other two, because their connection to abortion is so limited.
“As you may know, vaccines are normally made from stem cells that come from aborted fetuses,” DiMarzio said in a recent statement, according to Raw Story. “In fact, the process for developing these two newest vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna never used stem cells to begin their study or production.”
However, other bishops have argued that any connection to the killing of unborn babies in abortions is immoral.
When asked about Panicali’s comments, the Diocese of Brooklyn said it was “unfortunate” that the priest expressed his personal opinion in a homily, and “the issue will be addressed by diocesan officials.”
The Charlotte Lozier Institute has a list of the vaccines with information about whether cell lines created 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.
When COVID-19 vaccines were being discussed in the early stages of the pandemic, many Catholic and pro-life leaders urged production companies to use ethical materials to create the vaccines.