By Matthew Handley
Ann Arbor, Michigan, 20 September 2021 / 1:50 pm
More than thirty-five bishops in the United States have come out with specific rules about vaccination and exemptions in their diocese. We’ll help you stay connected here.
What’s all the fuss about? Some Catholics are seeking an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine, usually in the form of a letter from their pastor or bishop. They believe that their conscience prohibits them from receiving a vaccine for ethical reasons and they are seeking to enlist the Church to support their conscience. The problem with this is that the Church has affirmed the morality of the COVID-19 vaccines through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and hundreds of other bishops across the globe. Thus, it doesn’t make much sense to say someone has a religious exemption from an institution that says the vaccine is morally acceptable.
But I thought these vaccinations were connected to an abortion. So why can’t I expect a religious exemption? The simple reason is because Church has explained why the vaccines are morally acceptable. She also understands that conscience of each individual should be respected. However, the Catholic Church also teaches that a person’s conscience should be formed according to Church teaching.
In December of 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter on the morality of COVID-19 vaccines. In it they explain that the researchers who developed the vaccines are the individuals who have the burden to use ethical means. No COVID-19 vaccines were made 100% ethically, so the Catholic faithful are not held liable for receiving a vaccine that is morally tainted because there are no other alternatives.
All of the dioceses listed here that have said “religious exemptions will not be offered” have also said that the faithful are able to conscientiously object. Their clergy members, however, cannot always affirm conscientious decisions, especially when the Church has a clear position on a particular issue. It would be like providing an affirmation to a conscientious objection to the Church’s teaching on marriage.
Archdiocese of Atlanta: Religious exemptions will not be offered.
Diocese of Birmingham: Religious exemptions will not be offered.
Archdiocese of Chicago: Clergy and staff must be vaccinated by October 4th or be subject to weekly testing and prohibition from entering certain areas. Medical exemptions are allowed; religious exemptions will not be offered.
Archdiocese of Newark: Religious exemptions will not be offered.
Archdiocese of New York: Religious exemptions will not be offered.
Diocese of Springfield (Illinois): A letter from a priest is “unnecessary and inappropriate.” However, if an employer requires a letter from a priest, the priest can explain the primacy of conscience.
Diocese of Venice (Florida): Religious exemptions will not be offered.
This article was updated on 21 September 2021 to reflect the Archdiocese of Chicago’s vaccination requirement for clergy and employees and added an additional link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.