Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Vaccines and the Russian Church

(ROC-UKIE-) - On May 20, 2021, a round table "Vaccination: Ethical Issues in the light of the Orthodox faith" was held at the Sretenskaya Theological Academy.  At the end of the event, its participants approved the final document.

Participants of the round table "Vaccination: ethical aspects in the light of the Orthodox faith" - members of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church, experts in the field of medicine and biology and representatives of the Orthodox community - discussed emerging issues, including among the believers of the Orthodox Church, regarding vaccination against coronavirus infection COVID -19.

Scientists and doctors who are making significant efforts to overcome the consequences and prevent the further spread of the coronavirus infection COVID-19, which has claimed lives of many people and brought a significant disorder to the lives of peoples, deserve profound gratitude and respect. Today, as in the past, thanks to advances in medical science, including in the field of vaccine prevention, it has become possible to prevent and reduce the spread of many diseases, alleviate the suffering that they bring to people, reduce mortality and increase life expectancy.  Many epidemics known in the past have come to end, including after the use of vaccines against the corresponding diseases.

The historical experience of the Russian Orthodox Church knows examples of the active participation of clergy in the advance of the practice of vaccination as a medical procedure aimed at saving the life and health of people.  For example, in 1804, the decree of the Holy Governing Synod recommended bishops and priests to explain to the people the benefits of vaccination against smallpox.  At the same time, the basics of vaccination against this disease were included in the list of general education disciplines in the program of training the future clergy.  The advance of vaccination against smallpox was supported, for example, by the Holy Hierarch Innokenty of Moscow [1].

The idea that a principal refusal to get vaccination as such may be explained by the Orthodox faith is erroneous. The choice in favor of vaccination or refusal to have it is an individual decision of each individual (in relation to a child - his parents or legal representatives), taken on the basis of personal beliefs, knowledge, life experience, as well as taking into account information received from medical professionals, the scientific community and vaccine developers.

The Russian Orthodox Church consistently adheres to the principles of protecting human freedom of choice when it comes to the use or refusal to use new and rapidly developing technologies, including in the field of medicine.  In particular, the Fundamentals of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church emphasizes: “The relationship between a doctor and a patient should be based on respect for the integrity, free choice and dignity of the individual.  Manipulation by a person is unacceptable even for the sake of good intentions ”(XI.3).  Following the stated principle and recognizing, at the same time, the importance of supporting initiatives to overcome the pandemic, including through wide coverage of the population with vaccinations, the round table participants consider it necessary to ensure the freedom of choice for people when it comes to the vaccination against COVID-19 coronavirus infection and reject any form of open  or latent segregation of those people who refuse such vaccination for any reason. It should be noted that the revealed cases of manipulative coercion to vaccination and other actions directed against the above-mentioned freedom of choice, cause a negative reaction in the society and only increase rumors and anxious moods regarding the measures taken in the field of health care.

The concern of a part of the society as to the use of vaccines, including vaccines against coronavirus infection COVID-19, is due, among other reasons, to concerns about the risks of post-vaccination complications and a formal approach to immunization that does not take into account the individual characteristics of people. While noting that the assessment of the effectiveness and the degree of risk of side effects of medications is not within the tasks and competence of the Church, the participants of the round table emphasize the importance of a broad expert and public discussion of these issues and of the proper examination of the used drugs for possible side effects, including delayed ones, as well as certification of these drugs.  It is equally important to fully and comprehensively inform people who make their decisions about vaccination about the degree of its necessity and possible consequences.  A clear and public understanding must also be obtained for the issue of sufficient medical care and social support for the people in the event of severe or long-term post-vaccination complications.

At the same time, the participants of the round table consider as unacceptable and sinful the spread of false teachings that equal the vaccination with the "acceptance of the seal of antichrist", as well as conspiracy theories about the alleged secret chipping of mankind through the vaccination.

The church community is embarrassed by the fact that in the production of some vaccines, including some of the vaccines against coronavirus infection COVID-19, the scientists used cell cultures grown from embryonic human cells obtained as a result of abortion, even if the abortion was made half a century ago or more.  As noted in the Fundamentals of the Social Concept, the Russian Orthodox Church considers as unacceptable "the removal and use of tissues and organs of human embryos, aborted at different stages of development, for attempts to treat various diseases" (XII.7). It should be noted that, according to the information of the developers, the vaccines themselves do not contain cells of embryonic origin, and that the above-mentioned cell cultures have been used to create vaccines for many years.  At the same time, according to the participants of the round table - representatives of the scientific world -  similar embryonic human cell cultures are also used during testing, at the stage of development of other vaccines and many other medical products.  The participants of the round table, having stated this issue, consider that pharmaceutical companies should look for a possibility to use technologies that exclude the use of the mentioned cell cultures.

Taking into account the above, the participants of the round table believe that at present, in the absence of an available alternative, bearing in mind the threat to the health and life of people from COVID-19 coronavirus infection, an Orthodox person using a vaccine against this disease, created or tested using an embryonic  human cell culture, is not involved in the sin of abortion, as a result of which this cell culture was created.  Given the choice between a such vaccine and a vaccine developed without the use of embryonic human cell cultures, the round table participants favour the use of the latter vaccine as more ethically acceptable.

The participants of the round table call for a respectful attitude to the position of those people who consider it possible to use vaccines made with the use of embryonic human cell culture for themselves or their children, as well as to the position of those who refuse such use.

The participants of the round table consider it necessary to continue the discussion of the moral aspects of the widespread medical use of cell cultures grown from human embryonic cells.


[1] - See I. Barsukov.  Innokenty, Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna, from his writings, letters and  stories of his contemporaries / [Works] by Ivan Barsukov.  - M .: Synod print house, 1883. p.  82-83.


  1. "The idea that a principal refusal to get vaccination as such may be explained by the Orthodox faith is erroneous."

    Not exactly analogous, but related, is St. Paul not offering a principled rejection of slavery, instead instructing slaves and masters to love and serve one another *witin the context of the institution itself*.

    The statement does not go into how "freedom of choice" is balanced with other goods. For example, does "freedom of choice" extend to the "choice" of knowingly being a vector for a deadly pandemic, no matter how it is individually/morally justified? Do Church and other communities have the freedom to isolate these individuals from their communal life, or does individual choice trump all other goods?

    1. You've got a lot of priors loaded in there.

      You can get the vaccine and you can still get COVID, you can still transmit COVID, and based on the sample I saw from Arizona, the same percentage of hospitalizations from a "breakthrough" infection regardless of the vaccine.

      It looks more and more like a jacked-up coronavirus leaked out of the Wuhan lab from US-funded research. The same medical establishment responsible for this global screw-up wants me to take their unapproved bug juice. Every eight months. In other words, the immunity is completely transient and we are already chasing this virus from behind, as we have been with the rolling influenza pandemic that started in the early 20th century.

      I got COVID antibodies the old-fashioned way. I'm not taking the vaxx.

    2. TAG, freedom (means among other things) the ability to cos-play a physician/epidemiologist. You can ignorantly string together what you read (and think) all day long, but you will reamin just as wrong, and just as individualistic.

      I'm more interested in freedom from an actual Christian perspective. Besides the "freedom" to choose between error/sin/death and bondage to Christ and His Cross, there really is not any "Christian" freedom per se, How actual Christian freedom work out in a communal sense in relation to the reality of virus, vectors, and deadly pandemics.

      This Russian effort is interesting because it rejects the idea that Orthodoxy has a principled rejection of vaccines and they rational wrestle with cloning and its sources. What this report does not do is define "freedom" theologically or in context...

    3. Like I said, you've got a lot of priors you're bringing into this which remain rigorously disputed by many scientists.

  2. "FREEDOM OF CHOICE" is a"GOD GIVEN GIFT",lest ye forget!

  3. God gave us free will and respects it to the point that He lets us blaspheme and reject Him or serve Him in whichever capacity we feel called. Yet people think they have a right to take it away. Cute.

    I find the statement by the round table somewhat contradictory at times tho. They say it’s not unethical to take a vaccine developed with the help of abortion...but then they say if there is a vaccine that wasn’t developed with the help of abortion, that’s the more ethical choice.

    So that clearly implies abortion based technology is unethical (which it clearly is) but they’re okay with using it as long as there’s no better option...not impressed

  4. Dr Stanley Plotkin used 76 murdered babies to produce the 2 cell lines which were used in the development and testing, and in some cases production, of the dangerous, inefficacious, and unnecessary experimental gene therapies ("vaccines"). It should be obvious to any Christian that any such injections are impermissible.

    Sources below:

    "Unfortunately, as John-Henry Westen so recently documented, it is not uncommon for vaccine researchers to dissimulate in a similar way on the use of aborted fetal tissue in their research. Dr. Stanley Plotkin, who gave a nine-hour deposition on his work with aborted fetal tissue in vaccines, has publicly claimed that only two abortions were involved in the creation of the cell lines that are used in vaccines. While not technically an overt lie, the assertion ignores the other 74 aborted fetuses who were used in the experiments conducted by Dr. Plotkin himself as he worked on developing aborted fetal cell–derived vaccines. In essence, he is counting only the abortions that went into the “finished product” and not those that were involved in the research and development that made the cell lines possible. This misleads those who are trying to make evaluations of the gravity of using these cell lines."


    "It is commonly cited that just two aborted fetuses have been used in fetal cell line development, but in his testimony during a January 2018 deposition during a custody dispute, Dr. Stanley Plotkin, a world renowned vaccine scientist was introduced as an expert witness by the plaintiff and admitted that he used the tissues of 76 fetuses in just one study he conducted at the Wistar Institute. The use of aborted babies in vaccine development is clearly more frequent than we are being told."


    "Furthermore, the Russian Church considers it ethically unacceptable to use cell lines derived from human embryonic tissue to develop vaccines, Fr. Theodore writes. HEK 293, derived from human embryonic kidneys, has become widespread in cell biology, Fr. Theodore notes, but the Russian Church recognizes the embryo as a human and considers abortion to be murder, as detailed in the Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church."


    "All COVID-19 shots are connected to the abortion industry

    By far my biggest reason to refuse these horrid jabs is that they are all connected with the abortion industry. This is indisputably anti-life.

    LifeSite’s John-Henry Westen shares some clips of Stanley Plotkin’s 9-hour testimony before the U.S. Senate. Plotkin reluctantly admitted that over 70 babies’ corpses were used in the process of finding the two cell lines that would be used in a number of vaccines. Some people say that since these cell lines, obtained in the 1970s, are so distantly connected to abortion as to be untainted, it’s okay to get the vaccines. But the fact is that new cell lines are being developed all the time, because cell lines die out eventually and there aren’t enough of them for all the research “scientists” want to do.

    Pamela Acker is a biologist and researcher who explains the horrors of the abortions done to obtain material for medical research — including researching, testing, and manufacturing vaccines. These innocent children are delivered via Caesarian section. Their tissues are harvested from them while they are still alive and without benefit of anesthesia, since that would damage the usefulness of the tissues. WI-38, MRC-5, HEK-293, PER C-6 are some of the cell lines that are currently used in the manufacture of various vaccines.

    The Johnson & Johnson injection contains DNA fragments from aborted babies. The Moderna and Pfizer injections were tested on aborted fetal tissue. They are all created at the expense of an innocent child. I cannot and will not be a party to such barbarism."

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. It's both better and worse than this Unknown. These cloned cells are part of the testing of many modern vaccines, medicines, and therapies. You will have to reject a large part of ALL of modern medicine if you are going to participate in it.

      This is wrong however:

      "The Johnson & Johnson injection contains DNA fragments from aborted babies..."

      None of the vaccines (Covid or otherwise) contain "DNA fragments", or any other kind of fragment, from an aborted baby or anyone else. That's not the way mRNA vaccines (or any other mRNA therapy) works. Your copying and pasting lies out of ignorance.

    3. Except Johnson and Johnson isn't mRNA.

    4. "Except Johnson and Johnson isn't mRNA."

      True, hard to cover everything in a comment box. It is also true that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine does NOT contain aborted baby DNA, baby fragments, microchips, alien technology, or any other such thing...

  5. "To summarize my moral case against all the COVID-19 vaccines currently available and most still in production, I offer the following reflections as one Orthodox moral theologian—no more, no less.

    We must reject, on moral grounds, all COVID-19 vaccines that have any connection to aborted preborn baby cells (especially those babies who were “kept alive” long enough for scientists to extract the kidneys or retinas from which they derived the desired “material.”) Time and distance are irrelevant to profiteering from such abominations for any reason, even life-saving in the present or future. According to traditional Orthodox moral theology (as opposed to revisionist variations so common today), certain actions (“means” to “ends”) are objectively, intrinsically evil under any “circumstances”—most notably, abortion, rape, incest, child abuse, physical torture, and deliberate targeting of non-combatants in war.

    Otherwise, we fall into a utilitarian or, worse, the consequentialist temptation that justifies anything however repellent and abominable for the “greater good” that one may have as his intention. The New Testament, the consensus patrum, and our own Orthodox-informed consciences all testify to the uncontestable moral maxim that we may not do evil to achieve good. There is no “lesser evil” that is tolerable to achieve, ostensibly, a “greater good.” If the means or action toward even a good end is intrinsically evil, the entire decision must be deemed immoral and unacceptable in all circumstances. A “lesser evil” decision process cloaked in “greater good” language is sophistry, prelest, and sheer moral evil.

    Is our own bodily health, including likely immunity via vaccination from a pandemic that, despite the toll of deaths—each one tragic and unnecessary—is only one of many other, some more deadly pandemics in human history, worth compromising an informed moral conscience by benefiting in any way from the abomination of abortions?

    Ultimately, our unbroken faith and hope in God the Holy Trinity and in the life in the world to come will sustain us in this present biological trial. It will take that—as well as courage—to eschew tempting but immoral medical solutions to the COVID-19 virus while waiting for a truly moral alternative.

    May our Lord grant us the strength to do so."

    1. Fr. Alexander's problem is a legal one, or rather the limits of the legal mind/schema. The Pharisee says it is not legal, or moral, to heal on a Saturday. Jesus disagree's, or rather transcends moral categories. St. Paul tells us the Law is not enough, but Fr. Alexander wants it to be - no grey for him. He probably does not know that other vaccines and therapies which he likely has already participated in were beneficiaries of these very same cloned cell lines.

      "...while waiting for a truly moral alternative.". It's almost as if Fr. Alexander waits for the Messiah...

    2. Archpriest Alexander Webster seems to be at odds on this topic, not only with the Russian Orthodox Church, but also with ROCOR. His Grace Bishop Luke of Syracuse has clearly stated that "Orthodox faithful need neither to seek a special blessing to receive the vaccines nor are they forbidden to receive them."

      Will Fr. Alexander now deny Holy Communion to the "unrepentant" vaccinated?

    3. I welcomed Fr. Alexander's good public voice in the early aughts when some Orthodox were arguing for a de facto passivism. His lessor good/lessor evil distinction was and is an important one. However today he is using it in a strangely narrow manner.

      His ethical reasoning around Covid vaccine's in particular, and by implication all of modern medicine in general, is focused solely on the individual. What he is missing is that deadly pandemics are also, even mostly, *communal* realities. His ethical logic might be "valid" if every man were an island, but the fact is that deadly pandemics and the ethics around vaccines are not (Christian) realities merely subject to a calculus of individual(istic) moral purity. In other words a "choice" by an individual is not for them alone because it is in truth a decision for every other person in community (such as a parish) and society as a whole.

      Our modern (both secular and unfortunately religious) habit to think of vaccination (and most other things) in terms of rights, choice, privacy, and the like is a basic category error.

      Add to this Fr. Alexander bluster in asserting his (erroneous) ethical reasoning is "consensus patrum" and the like, I'm willing to say that his voice is not going to have the same impact as it did 15 years ago...

  6. Ahhh... in all cases, ignorance is bliss and both the bliss and ignorance are maintained by capricious selection of "facts" based on an a priori "moral conclusion".

    Bottom line: "I will take the vaccine because I want to" OR "I will not take the vaccine because I do not want to. "

    It is all specious moral/intellectual posturing to promote oneself as important and knowing. In other words a modern occultism.

    Gag me with a spoon!

  7. It all disrupts the communal life of the Church and distracts us all from a life of spiritual warfare and leads to distrust of our bishops our priests and each other. The demons could not do a better job if they tried.

  8. The Moderna and Pfizer were tested using aborted fetal cell lines. The Johnson & Johnson contains aborted fetal cell lines.

    Y'all do what you have to do.

    Count me out.

    1. None of the available vaccines actually require testing on fetal cell lines. It's absolutely unnecessary for their research and development. There are plenty of non-controversial alternatives to fetal cell lines for R&D that can be easily used and that work just as well. It's easy to look this fact up.

      So the drug companies are making a poor and unethical choice in using fetal cell lines for R&D. That's their bad and unnecessary choice. Using fetal cell lines just seems to be the standard operating procedure for most drug companies. Many products at the store such as shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics, etc., are likely tested on fetal cell lines also.

      Sure, we would like the drug companies to change their R&D practices, but at the same time, we shouldn't stop people from brushing their teeth and/or taking doctor-prescribed medicines that may save lives.

  9. There is no fetal cell tissue in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The claims otherwise are fake news and an underhanded movement to discredit Donald Trump, who was himself the biggest champion of the J&J vaccine and who pushed for it's rapid FDA approval.

    Yes, fetal cell lines were used (unnecessarily) in it's production, but the vaccine itself does not contain fetal cells.

  10. Johnson & Johnson used aborted fetal cell lines in its creation of the COVID-19 vaccine.

  11. Here is what gets me: the propagation of fear and the lies used to force people to make uniformed decisions and the the lack of genuine informed consent that includes other possible treatments and preventatives. That alone is a tremendous violation of medical care and medical ethics.
    God help us all.

  12. Beyond that is that allopathic medical care is now corporate in nature. Primary care is no longer a decision between me and my doctor--such docs have become factotums -- checking boxes and directing me to the specialist in their corporate group so more billings are generated. I realize that health insurance is part of problem. They created billing codes and reimbursement rates that are often delusional and the whole "managed care" fiasco.

    So we are no longer treated as a whole person and frequently not a person at all.

  13. Oh, and then there are the vaccine IDs.