The congregation went on to state that “vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”
For those refusing a vaccine “for reasons of conscience,” they must take precautions to avoid transmitting the virus, the Vatican said.
Catholic health care groups have also opposed vaccine mandates, while noting that Catholics have been encouraged to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
The Catholic Medical Association stated, on July 28, that it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”
The National Catholic Bioethics Center also issued a July 2 statement opposing mandated vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States.
“The best ethical decision-making occurs when individuals have sufficient information for discernment and are able to reflect without undue external pressures placed on them,” the center stated.
“Mandates, by their very nature, exert pressure that can be severe if employment or the ability to further one’s education are threatened.”
U.S. bishops have also issued statements on vaccine mandates and conscience exemptions.
Some, such as Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, upheld the decisions of Catholics who declined COVID-19 vaccines out of conscience.
“For those who have discerned to receive one [vaccine], they can be assured that they can do so in good conscience. For those who have discerned not to receive one, they too can do so in good conscience,” Olmsted said in an Aug. 27 letter to Catholics in his diocese.
“What is primary for us as individuals is to form our conscience through the teachings of the Church.”
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Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, however, required COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees.
“This is an urgent matter of public health and safety. There is no religious exemption for Catholics to being vaccinated, and Pope Francis has repeatedly called this a moral obligation,” he said.
Vaccines and the federal government both have important roles to play in fighting COVID-19, Brown said, while warning against a federal vaccine mandate.
“I know folks that have died and been hospitalized because of COVID-19,” he said. “The disease should be taken seriously.”
“But there are better ways of combatting the virus,” he said, than “coercing Americans into making a medical intervention, and robbing them of the ability to make informed consent to this medical intervention.”