“No one has a right to work for the Church or to carry out a particular ministry. Yet, I would certainly hope that Church workers and ministers are willing to follow these prudent directives in order to serve in the Church — out of love for God and charity for the people they serve,” he said. “Refusing to serve because of disagreeing with a protocol is a sad commentary on one’s level of commitment to the Body of Christ.”
Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas recently announced that he would postpone plans to reinstate Catholics’ obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation because of the local spread of coronavirus.
As of June, about 80% of adult Catholics nationwide say they have gotten a COVID-19 vaccination or will do so as soon as possible, according to a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. The Catholic acceptance rate was somewhat higher than the general population, about 71% of whom accept the vaccine.
Currently, three vaccines have been given an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – those produced by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. While all three vaccines were tested on cell lines derived from elective abortions decades ago, only one of the vaccines – Johnson & Johnson – was directly produced using the cell lines.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has stated that the use of the vaccines with connections to the questionable cell lines is “morally acceptable,” but that Catholics should seek “ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines” when available.
In a December 2020 note, the 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 congregation acknowledged “reasons of conscience” for those refusing a vaccine.
Catholic bishops have taken a variety of approaches to mandatory vaccination.
South Dakota’s Catholic bishops in an Aug. 10 joint statement backed voluntary vaccination and voiced support for any Catholic seeking a religious exemption from a vaccine mandate. The Colorado’s Catholic bishops on Aug. 6 similarly voiced support for religious exemptions for vaccination mandates and provided a template for Catholics with objections to take to their pastor.
The Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center, which provides guidance on medical ethics to Catholic institutions, has criticized vaccination mandates and warns that they can place undue pressure on individuals without robust medical, religious and conscience exemptions. It lists a form letter on its website for individual Catholics seeking religious exemptions from vaccine mandates.
In a July 30 memo, the New York archdiocese instructed priests not to grant religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines, saying that doing so would contradict the pope and inaccurately portray Church instructions.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services has noted that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, along with Pope Francis, “had recognized the morality of the vaccine.”
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On Aug. 12 Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego criticized the Colorado bishops’ exemption form and asked his diocese’s priests to “caringly decline” requests to approve exemption forms.
“Such a declaration is particularly problematic because the Holy See has made it clear that receiving the vaccine is perfectly consistent with Catholic faith, and indeed laudatory in light of the common good in this time of pandemic,” he said in a letter to San Diego diocese priests.