Coronavirus: Fresno bishop urges Catholics not to jump on vaccine ‘bandwagon’

FRESNO, Calif. — A bishop in California, citing concerns about the use of fetal cells, urged Catholics not to “jump on the COVID-19 vaccine bandwagon.”

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Joseph V. Brennan, bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, shared a video in which he claimed that some researchers hurrying to produce a coronavirus vaccine, are using cells taken from an aborted fetus, The Fresno Bee reported. The bishop also claimed other “morally objectionable” materials may be used in vaccine development.

“I try to maintain, really do I make a concerted effort to maintain a joyful spirit, so I don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade,” Brennan said. “But I’m going to rain on a parade today: it’s the vaccine parade.”

In the nearly 12-minute video, Brennan quotes from the church’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and references the opening passage from the television series “Star Trek,” the Bee reported.

Brennan said the church is not against vaccines created by good, ethical science, the Los Angeles Times reported. He noted in the video that he had recently received a flu shot, and had taken shots to protect against pneumonia and shingles.

However, Brennan said he opposed vaccines derived from babies “whose lives were taken.”

“I won’t be able to take a vaccine, brothers and sisters, and I encourage you not to, if it was developed with material from stem cells that were derived from a baby that was aborted, or material that was cast off from artificial insemination of a human embryo,” Brennan said. “That’s morally unacceptable for us.”

In the video, Brennan mentioned the vaccine made by Pfizer, which formally asked the federal government to allow the emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, The Associated Press reported. The vaccine developed by Pfizer appeared to be 95% effective in treating the virus, the Bee reported.

Brennan did not say why he singled out Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for criticism, the Times reported. There is no indication that the vaccine was developed using fetal or human embryonic stem cells, the newspaper reported.

“Not a single stage has had it,” Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts told the Times on Thursday.

Brennan is not alone in his concerns.

In April, more than 20 Catholic leaders and key members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops signed a letter to the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, urging the federal government to follow “moral principles” in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Times reported.

“It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically,” they wrote. “No American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience.”

“Thank goodness there are some (vaccines) that are being developed. ... that have no connection at all with any of that material,” Brennan said. “I don’t want to cause anyone pain. I don’t want to cause anyone to be less hopeful than they normally would be about coming to grips with this terrible pandemic.”

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