Keeping Faith in a Time of Pandemic
For Fr. Tony's response to some questions about vaccination, scroll to the bottom of the page.
There will be no need to book Mass from
24th July 2021.
We continue to live-stream 10am Sunday Mass via Zoom. If you want to connect to that and are not already on the list, contact the Parish Office.
In addition here are some useful links from further afield.
For 'live streaming' Mass
There are also live and recorded Masses, and many other resources, available at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The midday Mass from there is particularly recommended. Some parishes are offering other services streamed as well, including Adoration. Try a few out and see which suits you best!
Join with people from churches around the country in 'Prayers of Hope' at 7pm every Sunday evening.
Various Catholic organisations and publishers have put together resources including:
Some Questions Regarding Vaccines
One of the principal ways we will overcome COVID-19 is through a high proportion of the population being vaccinated against it, and a programme of vaccination is being rolled out. I have had both my jabs, as have many parishioners.
However occasionally questions are raised. Some of these are simply misinformed. The vaccines do not alter our DNA, nor do any of them contain any human or animal material (or microchips!!). they work in basically the same way as all other antiviral vaccines, They masquerade as the virus, which trains the body’s immune system to recognise and defeat the real virus. As such it is a bit like a biological police training course to prepare the police do deal with real criminals. I will come back to that metaphor.
Is it Safe?
Any medical intervention, even taking a paracetamol, carries some risk. However widespread testing has shown that, while there may be some side effects, they are mild and short lived for the vast majority of people (dad was a bit fatigued for a few days). We always balance the risks and the benefits. And in this case, unless you have a particular medical condition that would make taking the vaccination particularly dangerous, the benefits far outweigh the risks. To use our metaphor, police training involves a certain amount of risk. People do occasionally get hurt. But obviously you would not want to send a bobby out on the beat without it.
Are there any Ethical Questions?
The reasons for accepting vaccination are not just to protect ourselves. It also protects others, as it helps slow the spread of the virus. It also means we are much less likely to end up in hospital, thus freeing resources for others. Thus receiving the vaccine is an act of love for, and solidarity with, others. This means that, all other things being equal, unless we have a good reason not to, we should accept the offer to be vaccinated.
However an objection has been raised in some quarters. The development process of some vaccines, including some of the COVID-19 vaccines, involves cultures of human foetal cells (cell lines) that have their origin in one of two abortions a few decades ago. This includes the AstraZeneca Vaccine, one of the three being used in the UK. Is it permissible for a Catholic to receive such a vaccine? In fact this question was addressed in 2008, in the Vatican document Dignitatis Personae, as well as by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2017
The basic question is: is it permissible to profit from a sinful act? In this case the act was the abortion of a child in 1972. In fact we all profit regularly from sinful acts. Recent debate about the extent to which our national wealth came from the exploitation and even enslavement of other peoples illustrates this. And it is not just in the past. Popes over that past century have pointed out our economic system is unjust. We in the developed world benefit from that. Yet we cannot simply cease economic activity. That would be harmful to us, and to anyone for whom we are responsible. Rather we live with the present reality but argue and work for change.
To use our analogy, would it be morally acceptable to use information that had been gained immorally, say through torture of criminals, to improve police training. Obviously it would be immoral to torture people in order to gain such information to improve police training. But what if the torture happened many years ago and the information was freely available? Would the good of protecting people override any implicit condoning of an evil act in the past?
Dignitatis Personae said that, while development of vaccines using cell lines of this type should be avoided, people may receive a vaccine developed in such a way if there is a grave reason (and overcoming the pandemic is certainly a grave reason) and they have no choice (and we do not get to choose which of the vaccines we get, only whether to accept the one we are offered).
Our own bishop Richard, as chair of the Department of Social Justice of our Bishops conscience, has said of all the vaccines currently available, including the AstraZeneca vaccine, that “Catholics may in good conscience receive any of these vaccines for the good of others and themselves”.
So I will certainly be receiving the vaccine myself when it is offered to me, and I would encourage others to do so. If, however you choose otherwise, Bishop Richard, in the same document says “In good conscience, one may refuse a particular vaccine but continues to have a duty to protect others from infection.” As you will still be a potential ‘vector of transmission’, that presumably means continuing to observe the strictures of lockdown even after they are lifted for the general population.
Fr. Tony Milner, 15/1/2021
Bishop Richard’s ‘Update on COVID-19 and Vaccination’ from December 3rd can be found at
You can follow links from there to an earlier statement from 24th September, and also to Dignitatis Personae and other relevant documentation.