A letter to the faithful from the Colorado bishops on COVID-19 vaccines

Archdiocese of Denver

The bishops of Colorado affirm that the use of some COVID-19 vaccines is morally acceptable under certain circumstances. The development and utilization of vaccines to eradicate certain infectious diseases is a remarkable advancement in medical technology. The Catholic Church supports the morally legitimate development of vaccines to eliminate suffering and to promote human dignity and the common good. Considering the worldwide impact of COVID-19, vaccines for this virus seem to be especially necessary and urgent.

At the same time, we must remember that a good end cannot justify evil means. Vaccines need to be developed according to ethical criteria. Human cell lines that come from aborted fetuses should not be used in the design, development, production, or lab testing of vaccines. The development of vaccines and other medicines using aborted fetal cells is ethically unacceptable. It offends the dignity of the preborn aborted baby and his or her family, as well as the dignity of the medical vocations of doctors and scientists. We affirm the Church’s teaching that “the corpses of human embryos and fetuses, whether they have been deliberately aborted or not, must be respected just as the remains of other human beings.” 1 The ethical problems with regard to “cooperation in evil” are important to consider in accepting or promoting any vaccine.2 

The Catholic Church teaches that it is morally permissible to seek and receive a vaccine that has not been ethically developed, when there are no other alternatives and there is a serious risk to one’s health, and provided that any immoral cooperation with evil is excluded.3 The Pontifical Academy for Life states that “all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and… the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion.” 4 In the case of a global pandemic, the Catholic commitment to promoting the common good includes considering the health and safety of others. However, if individuals have serious moral objections or health concerns about vaccines, those concerns should be respected by society and government, and those individuals should not be forced into vaccination, contrary to their conscience. The government should not impose the COVID-19 vaccines on its citizens.

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many countries to expedite the development of a vaccine. Several different vaccines have been created in an ethical manner, while others have unethically used aborted fetal cells in their design, development, production and confirmatory lab tests. The Charlotte Lozier Institute, a national pro-life research nonprofit, has provided a helpful list of all vaccines being developed, indicating which are morally compromised. We encourage our community to review that list.5 

Because of medical advancements, the development of vaccines no longer requires the use of human cells. Many vaccines are now created using no cells, or cells from animals, insects, chicken eggs, or yeast. In the case of COVID-19, eight vaccines were developed by the United States’ “Operation Warp Speed” and six of those vaccines do not use aborted fetal cells, including vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that will soon be available.

In the case of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, their use is morally acceptable since neither company used fetal cell lines from an aborted baby at any level of design, development, or production. However, we must also acknowledge that these two vaccine options are not untouched by abortion, as both relied on fetal cells from an aborted baby for one of the confirmatory lab tests. In our current circumstances, when better options are not available, the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines remains a morally valid option. On the other hand, vaccines such as AstraZeneca-Oxford use aborted fetal lines in design, development, production, and testing, and therefore are not a morally valid option because better options are available. 

Catholics have the duty to use vaccines that respect human life, when they are available. We are thankful that many of the companies and countries working to protect human life and health from COVID-19 are also considering the ethical development and trials of their vaccines. 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend Michael J. Sheridan
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver


1 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Replies to Certain Questions of the Day,” accessed December 7, 2020, Vatican.va, 1:4.  

2 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions,” accessed December 7, 2020, Vatican.va, 32.

3 “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Foetuses,” Pontifical Academy for Life, June 2005.

4 “Note on Italian Vaccine Issue,” Pontifical Academy for Life, July 31, 2017. 

5 See the chart provided by the Charlotte Lozier Institute: COVID-19-Vaccine-Candidates-and-Abortion-Derived- Cell-Lines.pdf (pcdn.co), accessed December 11, 2020: https://s27589.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/COVID-19-Vaccine-Candidates-and-Abortion-Derived-Cell-Lines.pdf

COMING UP: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!