COVID-19 · Fresno

Fresno Catholic Bishop walks back coronavirus vaccine criticism

Fresno Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Brennan is reversing his stance on the coronavirus vaccines currently seeking approval, his office announced Wednesday.

In a video released ahead of Thanksgiving, Brennan announced his opposition to the vaccines – citing the use of embryonic stem cells in the development of the inoculations.

“I try to maintain a joyful spirit, so I don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade,” he said in the November video message.”But I’m going to rain on a parade today: the vaccine parade.”

In his statement Wednesday, Brennan underscored opposition to vaccines “developed from cell lines that originated with tissue taken from aborted children.”

He noted that “Catholic doctors, patients, and parents may utilize such unethically sourced vaccines for serious and proportional reasons where no ethical alternatives exist, while maintaining consistent moral clarity in opposition to abortion.”

Brennan added that Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines utilized embryonic stem cells “to a small extent in their testing phase” but not during development or composition of the vaccine itself.

“Without better alternatives and following serious reflection upon the health risks and needs for oneself, one’s family, and the broader community, Catholics may ethically decide for serious reasons to utilize such vaccines,” he said of the two American-developed vaccines.

The vaccine developed by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, however, utilized embryonic stem cells during its development, leading Brennan to dissuade Catholics within the Diocese to avoid using it upon its approval.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at