While many parents have sought religious exemptions to vaccines derived from aborted fetal tissue, the response from those who attempt to deny this right has been that the Catholic Church says the vaccines are "morally acceptable". In fact, in a June 2005 Statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life under the approval of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the right to abstain under proper conditions is clearly upheld. See www.cogforlife.org/vaticanresponse.pdf
Further, the Catholic Church has always upheld the right to follow one's properly formed Moral Conscience. It is considered a primordial right which cannot be interfered with, especially in religious matters. The following Church documents explain this right, which is fully supported by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican. See also: Msgr Suaudeau, PAV,upholds parents right to abstain
In December 2007, the NJ Catholic Conference of
Bishops reversed their previous policy of denying religious exemptions at
all Catholic schools in the State. Out of 195 dioceses in the country, only 19
remain with such unlawful, stringent - and unwarranted policies.
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Whereas the supreme teaching authority of the Catholic Church, as illumined by Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the Magisterium of the Church and the Apostolic Authority of our Holy Father, the Pope, and,
Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Canon Law binds parents to be primarily responsible for the physical, moral and spiritual formation of their children, and
Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church holds abortion to be intrinsically evil, so much so that the consequences of such practice is grave enough to warrant Excommunication, and
Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican have all denounced both abortion and human fetal tissue research procured from abortion or deliberately destroyed human embryos, and
Whereas the Catechism of the Catholic Church defers to moral conscience as the guideline that states, "In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right", therefore be it known that:
A Catholic, according to his good, moral conscience and under direct teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has the absolute right to refuse any medical products derived from aborted fetal tissue, including vaccinations, tissue transplants or future products derived from embryonic stem cell research or other areas that in themselves directly contradict the moral laws of the Church.
Be it further noted that the Catholic Church encourages the faithful to use alternative products where they are available, rather than those derived from deliberately destroyed human life and that the Catholic Church accepts such human life to begin at the moment of fertilization through natural death.
These documents include but are not limited to:
Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (pg 5-6)
3. The Doctrinal Value of the Text
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!
The approval and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church represent a service which the Successor of Peter wishes to offer to the Holy Catholic Church, to all particular Churches in peace and communion with the Apostolic See: the service, that is, of supporting and confirming the faith of all the Lord Jesus' disciples (cf. Lk 22:32), as well as of strengthening the bonds of unity in the same apostolic faith.
Therefore, I ask all the Church's Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms. It is also offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation (cf. Eph. 3:8). It is meant to support ecumenical efforts that are moved by the holy desire for the unity of all Christians, showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, lastly, is offered to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf.1 Pet 3:15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes.
This catechism is not intended to replace the local catechisms duly approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan Bishops and the Episcopal Conferences, especially if they have been approved by the Apostolic See. It is meant to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms, which may take into account various situations and cultures, while carefully preserving the unity of faith and fidelity to catholic doctrine.
At the conclusion of this document presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of the Church to support with her powerful intercession the catechetical work of the entire Church on every level, at this time when she is called to a new effort of evangelization. May the light of the true faith free humanity from the ignorance and slavery of sin in order to lead it to the only freedom worthy of the name (cf. Jn 8:32): that of life in Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, here below and in the Kingdom of heaven, in the fullness of the blessed vision of God face to face (cf. 1 Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 5:6-8)!
(Authentic signature copy as printed from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paulist Press 1994, USCC)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Reference pages 438-441
1776 Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment…For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God…His conscience is man’s most secret core and sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.
1777 Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.
1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty of a threat and a promise…[Conscience] is a messenger of him who both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ. (John Henry Cardinal Newman)
1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.
1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.
1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.
1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that can make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.
1789 Some rules apply in every case:
- One must never do evil so that good may result from it.
Reference to the
Fourth Lateran Council
"The Divine Law," says Cardinal Gousset, "is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule of our conduct by means of our conscience. Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience; as the Fourth Lateran council says, 'Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, aedificat ad gehennam.'" ["Whatever is done in opposition to conscience is conducive to damnation."]
Vatican II Encyclicals
1. The Declaration on Religious
Freedom, No. 3:
(Dignitas Humanae - Pope Paul VI, December 7, 1965)
his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law
through the mediation of conscience. It is through his conscience that
man sees and recognizes the demands of divine law. He is bound to follow this
conscience faithfully in all his activity so that he may come to God, who is his
last end. Therefore he must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor
must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in
The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. Acts of this kind cannot be commanded or forbidden by any merely human authority.
2. The Church in the
Modern World, No. 16: DIGNITY OF MORAL CONSCIENCE
16. Deep within his conscience
man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey.
Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil,
tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For man has in his
heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it
he will be judged.9 His conscience is man's most secret core, and his sanctuary.
There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.10 By conscience, in
a wonderful way, that law is made known which is fulfilled in the love of God
and of one's neighbor. 11
Through loyalty to conscience Christians are joined to other men in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems which arise both in the fife of individuals and from social relationships. Hence, the more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by the objective standards of moral conduct. Yet it often happens that conscience goes astray through ignorance, which it is unable to avoid, without thereby losing its dignity. This cannot be said of the man who takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.
Note 9. Cf. Rom. 2:15-16, 10. Cf. Pius XII, AAS 44
(1952) p. 271, 11.Cf. Mt.11:37-40. Gal. 5:14.
Book III, Title III Can. 793-799
§2. Parents also have the right to that assistance, to be furnished by civil society, which they need to secure the Catholic education of their children.
§2. Pastors of souls have the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education
Chapter VIII, Can. 1136
Parents have the most
grave obligation and the primary
right to do all in their power to ensure their children's
physical, social, cultural, moral and religious upbringing.
Familiaris Consortio 40 Pope John Paul II
“The parents have been appointed by God Himself as the
first and principal educators of their children...their right is completely
The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Parental Duty
2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced
solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education
and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is
of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate
The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and
2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the
education of their children… Parents have a grave responsibility to give good
example to their children.
the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and
privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their
children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the
"first heralds" for their children.
respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to
bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and
spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead
parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.
2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise
II. Respect for the Dignity of Persons
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it
or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this
curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and
to be drowned in the depth of the sea."86
Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to
teach and educate others..
2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by
fashion or opinion.
2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a
way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible
for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to
sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!"
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.
From the first moment of his existence a human being must be recognized
as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every
innocent being to life.
the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured
abortion. This teaching has not
changed and remains unchangeable. Direct
abortion, that is to say abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely
contrary to the moral law:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn
to perish. (Didache 2, 2:SCh 248, 148;cf. Ep.Barnabae 19, 5:pg 2, 777; Ad
Diognetum 5, 6: pg 2, 1173; Tertullian, Apol. 9: PL 1, 319-320
God the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of
safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves.
Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of
conception: abortion and
infanticide are abominable crimes. (GS
cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.
The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this
crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs
excommunication latae sentinae," (CIC, can 1398) "by the very
commission of the offense" (CIC, can 1314) and subject to the conditions
provided by Canon Law. (Cf. CIC, cann. 1323-1324)
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard, every human beings right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death." (CDF, Dominum Vitae III)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of
man's dominion over creation. Science
and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and
promote his integral development for the benefit of all.
By themselves however, they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and
of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they
take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his
moral values, both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.
is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its
applications. On the other hand,
guiding principles cannot be inferred from simple technical efficiency, or from
the usefulness accruing to some at the expense of others, or even worse, from
prevailing ideologies. Science and
technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental
moral criteria. They must be at the
service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his true and integral
good, in conformity with the plan and will of God.
or experimentations on the human being cannot legitimate acts that are in
themselves contrary to the dignity of persons and to moral law.
The subject's potential consent does not justify such acts.
Experimentation on human beings is not morally legitimate if it exposes the
subject's life or physical and psychological integrity to disproportionate or
For Further Doctrine in this area, also see:
Respect for Human Embryos, National Conference of
Catholic Bishops (Copies attached)
Donum Vitae, Part I , Conclusion (Copies attached)
of Holy Scripture on the Sanctity of Life
In that the Catholic Faith is
founded on the apostolic teachings found in Holy Scripture, the early teachings
of the Church founders, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings
from the Vatican, the Church defends the dignity and sanctity of all human life
from the moment of conception through natural death. The Bible supports life as it states:
Teaching of the Church Fathers on
-- Athenagoras (A.D. 177--while defending Christians against murder charges): "What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard the fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore an object of God's care [and then kill it]." (A Plea for the Christians, 35.6)
(A.D. 197--while defending Christianity against charges of child sacrifice):
"In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even
the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other
parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder birth is merely a speedier
man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or
destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one;
you have the fruit already in the seed." (Apology, 9.6)
-- Clement of Alexandria (A.D.150-215). "But women who resort to some sort of deadly abortion kill not only the embryos but, along with it, all human kindness." (Paedagogus, 2.10. 96.1.)
-- Basil the
Great (374 A.D.). "Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion
are [deliberate murderers] themselves, as well as those receiving the poison
which kills the fetus." (Letter, 188.2)
-- The Didache :
"You shall not murder a child by abortion nor shall you kill a
-- The Epistle of
Barnabas: "You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You
shall not murder a child by abortion nor shall you kill a newborn." (Didache)
-- Apocalypse of Peter [describing a vision of Hell]: "I saw women who produced children out of wedlock and who procured abortions."
Teaching of Pope John Paul II - Excerpts from Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of
Second Vatican Council in a passage which retains all its relevance today,
forcefully condemned a number of crimes and attacks against human life.
Thirty years later taking up the words of the Council and with the same
forcefulness I repeat that condemnation in the name of the whole Church, certain
that I am interpreting the genuine sentiment of every upright conscience:
"Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide,
abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the
integrity of the human person …whatever insults human dignity…whereas people
are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible
persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed.
Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator."
-- "No word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence." (Evangelium Vitae, Section 58)
-- " American Catholics must be committed to the defense of life in all its stages and in every condition. Abortion, euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them."
-- "Thus the deepest element of God's commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person. This is the teaching which the Apostle Paul, echoing the words of Jesus, addresses to the Christians in Rome: 'The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and any other commandment are summed up in this sentence, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.' (Rom 13:9-10)
for Human Embryos
Careful reflection on this teaching of the Magisterium and on the evidence of reason, as mentioned above, enables us to respond to the numerous moral problems posed by technical interventions upon the human being in the first phases of his life and upon the processes of his conception.
What Respect is Due to
the Human Embryo, Taking into Account His Nature and Identity?
teaching remains valid and is further confirmed, if
confirmation were needed, by recent findings of human biological science which
recognize that in the zygote* resulting from fertilization the biological
identity of a new human individual is already constituted.
How Is One to Evaluate
Morally Research and Experimentation* on Human Embryos and Fetuses?
No objective, even though noble in itself, such as a
foreseeable advantage to science, to other human beings or to society, can in
any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or fetuses, whether
viable or not, either inside or outside the mother's womb. The informed consent
ordinarily required for clinical experimentation on adults cannot be granted by
the parents, who may not freely dispose of the physical integrity or life of the
unborn child. Moreover, experimentation on embryos and fetuses always involves
risk, and indeed in most cases it involves the certain expectation of harm to
their physical integrity or even their death.
The spread of
technologies of intervention in the processes of human procreation raises very
serious moral problems in relation to the respect due to the human being from
the moment of conception, to the dignity of the person, of his or her sexuality
and the transmission of life.
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