A health care worker prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Montreal March 15, 2021. "Since there is currently no choice of COVID-19 vaccines being offered in Canada, Catholics, in good conscience may receive the vaccine that is available and offered to them," the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said. CNS photo/Andrej Ivanov, Reuters

Quebec bishops distance themselves from CCCB statement on COVID vaccines

  • March 17, 2021

OTTAWA -- Canadian Catholics should get vaccinated against COVID-19 and they should take any vaccine that has been approved for use in Canada, Canada’s bishops said in a clarifying statement that came just days after initial advice on vaccines caused a political firestorm.

In a statement released March 9, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) suggested that, given a choice, Catholics should avoid using two of the four vaccines that have been cleared for use in Canada because of their connection to abortion. The bishops said the better options for Catholics are the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

“These two vaccines currently available in Canada can be morally acceptable for Catholics to receive since the connection to abortion is extremely remote,” the CCCB said.

The other approved vaccines, the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, utilized abortion-derived cell lines in their development, production and testing.

“When provided with a choice between receiving different vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should always be preferred and chosen when possible,” said the bishops. 

While the bishops never told Catholics not to accept the latter two vaccines, the statement caused an uproar, particularly in Quebec, where a senior Quebec cabinet minister slammed the Church for raising doubts about the ethical use of some vaccines.

Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé sharply criticized the bishops on Twitter and invited “all Quebecers to trust our experts and those from around the world: all the vaccines we administer are effective,” he said.

The controversy led the bishops’ conference to update its statement March 11 to clarify its stance.

“The (March 9 statement) did not refer to, nor intend to question the medical efficacy of any vaccine. ... the CCCB wishes to clarify any misunderstandings that may have arisen.”

The Quebec reaction prompted Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine to issue his own statement on March 11, saying “any authorized vaccine can be used in good conscience by believers.”

Last modified on March 17, 2021

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