Madison decries harsh mischaracterization of COVID-19 vaccine clinic decision

Vaccination  of child, vaccine Ira Lichi/Shutterstock.

The Diocese of Madison says media have misrepresented its decision to not host onsite COVID-19 vaccination clinics at parishes and other diocesan entities.

“Despite how it is being characterized in some news reports and social media posts, the decision for parishes and other diocesan entities within the Diocese of Madison not to host onsite COVID-19 vaccination clinics is not about condemning or discouraging vaccination,” the diocese said in a Nov. 12 statement.

“Apart from the moral and medical dimensions of this decision, the issue has become bitterly divisive. Since there are already ample vaccination sites within the eleven counties of the diocese, Bishop [Donald] Hying has decided that it would be best for parishes and other diocesan entities not to host vaccine clinics.”

The Diocese of Madison instructed its 102 parishes not to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics, following the approval of the vaccine for children ages 5-11.

At the time, a spokesperson said the diocese wished to maintain “neutrality” on the issue of COVID-19 vaccination for children and adults.

The decision drew the condemnation of many, most notably Father James Martin S.J. who tweeted that the decision was “anti-life.” Fr. Martin has equated on several occasions wearing a mask with saving unborn babies.

The Diocese of Madison said Fr. Martin mischaracterized the decision.

“When there are more than enough facilities to offer vaccinations throughout the diocese, choosing not to host vaccination clinics does not equate to being “Anti life”,” the diocese said. “Rather, it avoids the appearance of unequivocal moral endorsement while also respecting individuals’ and parents’ ability to make a decision based on their legitimate weighing of the medical and moral concerns involved.”

The original announcement regarding COVID-19 vaccination clinics explicitly states the decision “should not be in any way interpreted as the local Catholic Church or her leadership discouraging vaccinations.”

Bishop Hyland has joined the other bishops of Wisconsin in encouraging Catholics to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“However, this is not a decision that involves either an absolute moral imperative or an intrinsic moral evil,” the diocese said. “As such it should be made by individuals and parents with a well-formed conscience as to what is appropriate for their own circumstances, weighing carefully the medical and moral facts and the potential risks versus the hoped-for benefits.”

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