Do not postpone vaccine until you have a choice

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Question:

I have read that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a connection with aborted fetuses. Now that this vaccine has been approved for use, does one have a moral obligation to request one of the other vaccines? Or is it morally acceptable to take whatever is available at a particular site? (Middletown, New Jersey)

Answer:

In December 2020 — two months prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine — the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation said that, when alternative vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines developed or tested using cell lines originating from aborted fetuses.

The Vatican went on to explain that the “moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent.”

In a March 4 video, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne- South Bend, Indiana, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, said that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine “can be used in good conscience.”

He also made a March 2 statement in conjunction with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, that if a choice of vaccines is available, “the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen.”

If you have a choice, you should opt for the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine; but if the only one available to you is Johnson & Johnson, you may take that, and there’s no need to postpone vaccination until you have a choice.

Question:

My husband likes playing PlayStation video games. One of the games, called Summoner, is a role-playing game where you summon the devil. It is violent and uses spells, hex, magic and other occult practices.

He had been playing for hours every day, but I insisted that he not play this game. (The Bible says to stay away from anything that deals with the occult.) He becomes more distant, angry and addicted when playing, and I want these games out of my house.

He threw a chair across the room once when I tried to talk to him about the dangers of engaging in this kind of game. He has now stopped playing for a while, but he has not removed the games from our home. I am afraid that when he retires soon, he may return to these games. Do you have any advice? (New Hampshire)

Answer:

Study of the link between violence and video games began in earnest with Columbine. In the spring of 1999, two heavily armed adolescent boys walked into Columbine High School in Colorado and shot to death 12 of their schoolmates and a teacher, before killing themselves.

When authorities investigated, they discovered that the two boys had spent thousands of hours playing a “first-person shooter” video game. The following year, a Chicago-area pediatrician named Michael Rich testified before the Chicago City Council and said that “more than 3,500 research studies have examined the association between media violence and violent behavior; all but 18 have shown that the more violence you see, the more likely you are to be violent.”

Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for World Communications Day in 2007, said that “any trend to produce programs and products — including animated films and video games — which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray antisocial behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programs are directed at children and adolescents.”

So I agree with your concern over your husband’s fascination with violent video games; whether it actually produces violent behavior or not, it baffles me that any Christian could find entertainment in the suffering or death of others — whether real or simulated. (Throwing a chair is certainly not homicide, but it bothers me that your husband did that!)

Is there any way you might persuade him to go with you to speak to a counselor about your concern? If not that, at least show him this column!

Question:

I’ve been having conflicting ideas about cremation. My husband wants to be cremated; at first, I was all for it, but now I’m having a difficult time with that decision. I know in the Apostles’ Creed it says, “the resurrection of the body,” and I also know that the Church prefers burial of the body, even though it does allow cremation followed by immediate burial of the ashes. Can you help me with these two options? (Wichita, Kansas)

Answer:

For many centuries, the Catholic Church did not allow cremation. Historically, cremation was linked to the burial practices of pagans, whose religious beliefs did not include the expectation of eventual resurrection and viewed death as the definitive obliteration of the human person. It was only in 1963 that the Church began to allow cremation as it became more commonplace for both economic and sanitary reasons.

As you indicate, though, Catholic teaching continues to prefer burial of the body because, in the Church’s mind, burial reflects a greater reverence and respect for the deceased and more clearly expresses the Christian belief in an eventual resurrection, when a person’s body and soul will be reunited.

As the appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals puts it: “The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the bread of life. … The body of the deceased brings forcefully to mind the Church’s conviction that the human body is in Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead” (No. 412).

The choice is yours to make, but the Church’s preference is clearly for traditional burial. And as you mention, if the option is made for cremation, the cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum.

Editor’s note: For information on Catholic funerals in the Diocese of Richmond, including cremation, please call 757-229-0851or email ehandel@richmonddiocese.org.

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