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Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.Catholic Answers / YouTube

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TYLER, Texas, April 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Joseph Strickland released a pastoral letter asking faithful Catholics to join him in helping to bring to a “halt” any development of a coronavirus vaccine derived from aborted babies.

“Tragically, people are not aware of or have chosen to turn a blind eye to the advances in medical science which allow vaccines to be developed with the wholesale use of aborted children’s bodies,” the bishop of Tyler in Northeast Texas wrote on April 23.

He admitted that “until recently, I knew very little about” the use “of in line stem cells from aborted babies in developing vaccines.”

Strickland stressed that just because “the crime of abortion is considered legal in our nation does not mean it is morally permissible to use the dead bodies of these children to cure a global pandemic. Emphatically, this practice is evil.”

“As your Shepherd,” the bishop wrote, “I urge you to join me, NOW, in passionately but prayerfully speaking out against this practice. As I said in the beginning of this letter, I will help you navigate this storm as best as I can.”

“I ask you to join your voices with mine in an effort to bring to a halt [this] reality.”

Strickland announced he will “provide a guide to assist you with speaking the truth to all your elected representatives, the pharmaceutical industry, and your local community.”

“We must insist that legislators create legislation which establishes the illegal and immoral nature of any use of the remains of aborted babies for research,” he added. “Further, we must insist that pharmaceutical companies comply with such legislation. I believe this can be a significant building block in a culture of life which eliminates the taint of economic gain that too easily infects the abortion industry.”

Bishop Strickland explained how the Church “has long defended the right to life and love owed to our children. Recent popes have unanimously pointed to the culture of death that is rampant in our world as a threat that we must address.”

Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, described the “dramatic struggle between the ‘culture of life’ and the ‘culture of death.’” According to Strickland, “the ugly culture of death is exposing itself in an even more serious way” during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by looking for a vaccine.

Evangelium Vitae points out that the “killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act.” Strickland used this quote in the context of talking about aborted baby body parts to develop a vaccine.

He also proposed a better translation of the term “human creatures” — namely, “human persons.”

“The child in the womb is more than a creature. The child in the womb is a HUMAN PERSON. Just as we are human persons,” he wrote.

In addition to Evangelium Vitae, the bishop also recalled the 1987 instruction Donum Vitae, approved by Pope John Paul II and published by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at the time prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. “But what is technically possible is not for that very reason morally admissible,” the instruction stated.

As Strickland pointed out, “ethical means are available and can prove to be just as effective in developing vaccines; umbilical cells, placental cells, adult stem cells — and other sources of cells, including even those of insects, provide completely viable paths to an effective vaccine.”

LifeSiteNews reported on research by pro-life group Children of God for Life, which focuses on the question of ethical vaccines, showing how one company, Sanofi, is using a platform based on insect cells. “Their Sf9 cell line comes from the fall armyworm and is highly effective as a rapid growth medium. It has been used for several years in producing influenza vaccines.”

Strickland said, “Scientists I’ve spoken with assure me that there is no medical necessity for using aborted children in order to develop the much-needed vaccine to protect us from this particular strain of Coronavirus.”

Earlier in April, the bishop of Tyler had already said he “will refuse” a potential vaccine for the coronavirus if it is made using tissue from “aborted children.” He expressed his sadness over the fact that “even with Covid-19 we are still debating the use of aborted fetal tissue for medical research.”

Several Catholic bishops and pro-life leaders sent an open letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last Friday, asking the government agency to ensure that Americans will have access to coronavirus vaccines that are “free from any connection to abortion.”

“To be clear, we strongly support efforts to develop an effective, safe, and widely available vaccine as quickly as possible,” the letter stated. “However, we also strongly urge our federal government to ensure that fundamental moral principles are followed in the development of such vaccines, most importantly, the principle that human life is sacred and should never be exploited.”

Among the signers was Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, as well as laypeople, including Jeanne Mancini, organizer of the yearly March for Life in the nation’s capital, Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom, and Lila Rose of pro-life organization Live Action.

Bishop Strickland praised the letter for indicating “our immediate task … to demand ethical vaccines for COVID-19.”

“We must go further, however, and pursue the prevention of future development of vaccines using remnants and available cells of aborted children’s bodies and to use only ethically developed vaccines,” he added.

Strickland concluded his April 23 letter by urging the faithful “to pray with me for God’s conversion of hearts which is the ultimate remedy for the culture of death in which we continue to be immersed.”