COVID-19 vaccine: No grounds for religious exemption

religious vaccine exemptions

The Archdiocese of New York has instructed priests not to grant religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine, saying that to do so would contradict the pope.

“There is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption to the vaccine,” John P. Cahill, the archdiocese’s chancellor, stated in a memo to all pastors, administrators, and parochial vicars in the archdiocese.

“Pope Francis has made it very clear that it is morally acceptable to take any of the vaccines. He said we have the moral responsibility to get vaccinated. Cardinal Dolan has said the same,” the memo stated.

By issuing a religious exemption to the vaccine, a priest would be “acting in contradiction to the directives of the Pope. He would be participating in an act that could have serious consequences to others,” the memo stated.

However, in a December 2020 note, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation” and “therefore, it must be voluntary.”

The Vatican congregation acknowledged “reasons of conscience” for those refusing a vaccine.

Vaccine mandates have begun to be announced at places of employment in the United States.

The Catholic health care network Ascension will mandate coronavirus vaccination for employees, physicians, volunteers, and vendors. But, it has promised some health-related and religious exemptions.

Some Catholic institutions have stated their support for conscience exemptions to vaccine mandates. Some have provided materials for individuals with religious objections to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a person may be required to refuse a medical intervention. That includes a vaccination, if his or her informed conscience comes to this sure judgment,” the letter states.

It added that the Church “does not prohibit the use of any vaccine, and generally encourages the use of safe and effective vaccines as a way of safeguarding personal and public health.”

The Catholic Medical Association, a national network of Catholic doctors and health care workers, stated on July 28 that it “opposes mandatory a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”


National Catholic Register

Bloomberg Law


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