BROWNSVILLE — Bishop Daniel E. Flores, of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, is encouraging all Catholics in the Rio Grande Valley to get whatever COVID-19 vaccine is available to them.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the latest one to receive federal approval to fight the coronavirus, but many Catholics are concerned about receiving this particular vaccine because it is produced with abortion-derived cell lines. The Catholic Church opposes all forms of abortion.

Flores said there is nothing in the Church’s teaching that should keep Catholics from receiving this particular vaccine, especially since the Valley has been fighting the pandemic for a long time.

“It is an urgent and crisis situation and (it’s important) to put an end to this virus that has taken just an enormous toll on lives and on families, especially here in the Valley,” Flores said in a Saturday interview via Zoom.

“I know this, the clergy know this because of the losses that people have suffered,” Flores said. “Any vaccine that is approved right for use by medical authorities in the country that is available” people should register to get it and get inoculated.

Flores said when the time comes that other and more vaccines are made available that are not produced with abortion-derived cells, Catholics should attempt to get these first. In the meantime, Catholics should get whatever vaccine is available to them now.

According to the latest figures from the Texas Health and Human Services Department, the Rio Grande Valley has reported 98,750 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 4,066 COVID-19 related deaths. Texas has reported 2,314,187 cases and 44,134 COVID-19 related deaths.

“I really want to make everybody understand, especially those who are maybe having doubts or who are vulnerable, that it’s perfectly alright and in fact it is to be encouraged to take the (J&J) vaccine,” Flores said.

“They (Catholics) should have a clear and happy and content conscious with that in a sense that they are not doing anything wrong and in fact it’s a very good thing to take the vaccine, especially if you are vulnerable. I am encouraging everybody to take the vaccine because it protects those around us in the community,” Flores said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine issued a statement last Tuesday that stated although the J&J vaccine “raises questions about moral permissibilty of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines,” that when other vaccines — such as Pfizer and Moderna — are not available it is morally acceptable to use vaccines that contained cell lines used from aborted fetuses.

Flores said although the USCCB statement outlines “very specifically” the Church’s position he believes it his responsibility to apply it in the CDOB.

Media reports are circulating around the internet that some Catholic priests across the nation are telling their congregations not to get the J&J vaccine because aborted-derived cell lines were used in its making. In Oklahoma, Father Patrick Gaalaas at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said, “If you had a choice it would be better to avoid the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” KTUL in Tulsa, Oklahoma reported.

Flores said he had heard of the reports stating “priests and others are entitled to opinions, however, I think most of the clergy realizes, especially I as Bishop, that we have an obligation to teach what the church teaches and not their particular opinion.”

The USCCB Doctrine issued an opinion in December regarding the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in anticipation of discussions that would derive out of the use of these vaccines.

“We are living in a circumstance that makes it very important that people take the vaccine despite these holy, morally compromised lines that might exist out there. I tell people, you know with all respect to what clergy or lays (lay persons) may disagree with the teaching of the church, one of the things about the Catholic Church is that it is the Holy See and the Bishops who teach the faith and that’s my responsibility and that is what I am trying to do,” Flores said.

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