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Catholic universities push COVID vaccination but don’t provide students with moral guidance to make decision

ANALYSIS: Catholic university leaders are not properly informing their students, and some are ignoring the Vatican

Catholic universities are pushing students to get vaccinated for COVID — but are not providing them with information on the potential moral complications so they can make an informed decision, weighing the medical benefits against the moral issues.

Only one of the universities contacted by The College Fix would answer questions about if the school would give students the information about the development of the three vaccines.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is made from aborted fetal tissue, and the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were tested using fetal cell lines made from an aborted baby, according to an analysis from the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute. The Lozier Institute is the think-tank arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. None of the vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue themselves.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement that said Catholics can receive the COVID vaccine, despite their connections to aborted fetal tissue. The group urged Catholics to avoid the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, if possible however. However, since the release of the statement, the Biden administration has restarted federally-funded research on aborted fetal tissue.

The policy reversal from the Trump administration has created a confusing situation where the USCCB is simultaneously encouraging Catholics to get a vaccine developed with aborted fetal tissue and telling them to contact pharmaceutical companies to urge them to not use the aborted fetal tissue cell lines in vaccine development.

Several bishops have also raised issues about COVID vaccine mandates, pointing out that the Vatican said the vaccines must be voluntary — though some universities such as DePaul and Loyola have said they are mandatory unless students have religious or medical exemptions.

While this does not affect the safety of the vaccine, it should add moral questions for students to consider as they make a decision to take or not take the COVID vaccine. Universities are not providing this information on their COVID resource pages.

University of San Diego pushes COVID vaccines

The University of San Diego linked to a number of sources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under an FAQ section about coronavirus.

It does not link to documents from Catholic leaders that raise questions about the vaccines or even the statement from a Vatican office that explains the moral permissibility of receiving the vaccine but also explored the moral questions about it.

“COVID-19 vaccination is an extremely important and sensitive topic,” Daniel Telles, a university spokesperson told The College Fix via email. “As a university, we recognize the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death as created in the image and likeness of God. We are thankful for our local bishop’s direction in this regard related to the COVID-19 vaccines, which you can read here.”

When asked if the university would be providing documents on the moral questions at play, Telles said the university would provide information the bishop and Pope Francis.

“In our communications, we plan to share links to messages from our bishop and from Pope Francis, which inform our approach as a university,” Telles said.

Other universities have pushed the vaccine but have not provided information to students and staff to make informed decisions, according to a Fix review.

Other universities ignore requests for comment

Loyola University New Orleans has an explanation of the biological basis for the vaccine and information about quarantines and other health information.

But the Jesuit Catholic university does not list any information about guidance from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, nor even provide a link to the statement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans which said Catholics should not take the J&J vaccine if avoidable.

Spokespersons Rachel Hoorman and Patricia Murrett ignored two emails in the past month that asked about what information would be provided to the university community.

Creighton University’s Cindy Workman also ignored two emails in the past month that sought the same information.

“If you have the opportunity to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, please do so! It doesn’t matter which vaccine is available,” the university website said, in direct opposition to what the USCBB has said. The school has not mandated the vaccine.

Carroll College, a diocesan university in Montana, also did not provide information on the vaccine’s moral questions. Chato Hazelbaker, a spokesperson for the university, said he is no longer in that role and would share questions from The College Fix on April 19. However, no one from the university has responded.

Catholic universities disobey the Vatican

Loyola University Chicago does have a vaccine mandate for students that it announced after The Fix reached out to officials at the Catholic university.

“Loyola University Chicago requires that all students be vaccinated for COVID-19 before the fall 2021 semester,” the university announced on April 22. “We strongly encourage all faculty and staff to receive the vaccine as well.”

Anna Shymanski responded on April 13 to questions about morality and asked for a deadline. She did not respond to two subsequent emails prior to the mandate announcement.

The university does link to an Archdiocese of Chicago short statement that said it is permissible to receive the vaccine, but does not link to the actual guidance from the Vatican on the issue. The archdiocese, led by Cardinal Cupich, has called the vaccines a “gift from God.”

Other Catholic universities like DePaul and Notre Dame have vaccine mandates, even though the Vatican said that vaccines must be voluntary.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, a Vatican branch that provides clarity to questions about Catholic Church teaching, “concluded that persons may — not must — get vaccinated,” Springfield, Illinois’ Bishop Thomas Paprocki said in a letter to the editor in Notre Dame’s campus paper.

MORE: Liberal Catholic professors are in denial about Biden’s abortion advocacy

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and a M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.