WACO, TX — Amid the release of COVID-19 vaccinations, Catholic leaders within Texas affirm their stance on the vaccinations as "morally permissible" under the Catholic faith.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin includes 127 parishes in 25 counties in Central Texas, stretching across more than 21,000 square miles.
In an interview Thursday, Father James Misko, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Austin, confirmed the recently released vaccines are morally permissible.
"The good that can come from using these vaccines so far outweighs the remote evil that the person would be participating in," Father James Misko said. "Moralists, people who study moral theology, and the Bishops of the United States Conference have indicated that someone can take them because of that remoteness with no fear of committing sin or of doing something that contradicts Catholic teaching."
Father Misko's message mirrors a Dec. 4 message from Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of the Diocese of Austin, as well as a recent letter from Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville.
According to the Catholic News Agency, Bishop Flores will serve as the next chair of the USSCB's committee on doctrinal affairs.
Among the primary concerns with Catholic leaders is aborted fetal tissue in research or pharmaceutical use.
"As Roman Catholics, we live by the deep sense of sanctity of human life," explained Father Misko. "It's important for us as Catholics to to be able to not only hold to ourselves as a Church, but also preach to the world its importance that caring for the human person and keeping people healthy and keeping people alive as part of our Catholic ethos."
In the Dec. 4 letter from Bishop Vásquez and confirmed by Father Misko, the USCCB has clarified that although there was a tainted cell line used in confirmatory testing, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not derived from cell lines originating from fetal tissue of aborted babies.
While it is true that there was a tainted cell line used in confirmatory testing, Catholic moralists have determined that any cooperation in the evil of this tainted cell line is so remote, and the good to be gained for society so valuable, that one may take these vaccines in good conscience.
The letter also clarifies that while the USCCB has discerned the AstraZeneca vaccine originates from fetal tissue of aborted babies, it remains acceptable from a moral theology perspective if it's the only vaccine available in the area.
Father Misko explained while its use is proper, it should only be taken if it's the only option.
"What is important for the the Catholic person to consider would be if the vaccines that are available, if some of them have less connection with anything that will be contradictory to Catholic teaching," he explained. "If there was a vaccine that had a closer connection to something that contradicted Catholic teaching, something that wasn't as remote, really the only way that a Catholic could take that, you know justifiably, would be if that was the only option in their particular area of the world."
Father Misko acknowledged the very real predicament that Catholics might not have the option of choosing between COVID-19 vaccination providers. Still, if given a choice between Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, they should select the first two.
"The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are less remote than the AstraZeneca vaccine. Catholic moral teaching says you want to go with one of the first two if they were available," he said.