Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

COVID and foreign aid

The passage of the COVID-19 relief bill has focused attention on the amount of money that we, as nation, spend on foreign aid each year. Specifically, many are asking how we can spend so much money on aid to other nations when the need in our own country is so great.


Without going into details about how the COVID relief bill came to be tied to the annual omnibus spending bill, it is important to note that latter bill is the one that includes money for foreign aid, including both military and humanitarian aid. 


In the days since the bills were passed, social media has been filled with posts questioning the wisdom of spending any money on foreign aid. Many good and faithful Catholics have argued that we, as a nation, must first take care of our own people before we lavish money on other nations. They seem to believe that the commandment to love our neighbors is limited to helping just our American neighbors.


It is important to note that there is no theological support for such a position.


In a letter to Congress last year, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote:

“The Church views international aid as an essential tool for promoting human life and dignity, reducing poverty, advancing global solidarity, and enhancing peace and security throughout the world. International assistance is a moral responsibility to assist “the least of these” (Matthew 25). Assistance must be an expression of our solidarity with all people living in poverty, not an exercise in self-interest, or self-promotion. Pope Francis asks us to dedicate ourselves to “the integral development of all peoples within a human family committed to dwelling in justice, solidarity and fraternal harmony.”

The bishops also wrote, “In addition, we encourage all people, communities, and countries of goodwill to welcome those in need, contribute resources within their means, and stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. We cannot abdicate our moral or financial position as the global leader in life-saving humanitarian and poverty-reducing development assistance. We can all do more. Lastly, we encourage all actors in society, including the private sector, to be positive agents of change.”

Last week, Pope Francis called for “vaccines for all,” especially the world’s most vulnerable people. According to Catholic News Service: 

“At Christmas, we celebrate the light of Christ that comes into the world, and he comes for all, not just for some,” the pope said. “Today, at this time of darkness and uncertainty because of the pandemic, there appear different lights of hope, such as the discovery of vaccines.” 

“But so these lights may illuminate and bring light to the whole world, they must be available to all,” he said. “I cannot put myself before others, placing the laws of the market and of patents above the law of love and the health of humanity.” 

Also worth noting is the fact that, for fiscal year 2019, foreign assistance was less than one percent of the federal budget. 

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Monday, December 07, 2020

Abortion and the COVID-19 vaccine

Because some confusion has arisen over “the moral permissibility” of using the COVID-19 vaccines announced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, and the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities have released a memo stating that it is not “immoral to be vaccinated with them.” 

The statement was necessary after some people argued that the Moderna vaccine “is not morally produced. Unborn children died in abortions and their bodies were used as ‘laboratory specimens.’”


As it turns out, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were not themselves produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue. As the bishops noted:


“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production. They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products.”


“There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote,” they continued. “Some are asserting that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines, then it is immoral to be vaccinated with them. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching.”


More information on this complicated matter is in this story from Catholic News Service.

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