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NY archdiocese warns priests not to grant religious vaccine exemptions

Matt Hadro   By Matt Hadro for CNA

(Image: oasisamuel/Shutterstock)

Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2021 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

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

“There is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption to the vaccine,” stated a July 30 memo from the archdiocese’s chancellor, John P. Cahill, 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 and 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 and is participating in an act that could have serious consequences to others,” the memo stated.

A screenshot of the memo was circulated on social media this weekend. CNA confirmed the memo’s accuracy with the archdiocese and with a priest of the archdiocese on Monday.

In a television interview in January, Pope Francis said, “I believe that, ethically, everyone has to get the vaccine.” 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, although it has promised some health-related and religious exemptions.

Some Catholic institutions have stated their support for conscience exemptions to vaccine mandates, or have provided materials for individuals with religious objections to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The National Catholic Bioethics Center lists a form letter on its website for individual Catholics seeking religious exemptions from vaccine mandates.

“The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a person may be required to refuse a medical intervention, including a vaccination, if his or her informed conscience comes to this sure judgment,” the letter states, adding 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 COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.”

The New York archdiocese’s memo began by acknowledging the “sincere moral objection” of some individuals to receiving COVID-19 vaccines, “due to their connection to abortion.”

“This concern is particularly acute among people who are strongly pro-life and very loyal to the teaching of the faith,” the memo stated.

The archdiocese further stated, “Any individual is free to exercise discretion on getting the vaccine based upon his or her own beliefs without seeking the inaccurate portrayal of Church instructions.”

Priests, however, “should not be active participants to such actions” by granting religious exemptions, the memo stated.

“Imagine a student receiving a religious [vaccine] exemption, contracting the virus and spreading it throughout the campus. Clearly this would be an embarrassment to the archdiocese. Some even argue that it might impose personal liability on the priest,” the memo said.

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 controversial cell lines.

The Vatican’s 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 its December 2020 note, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith further stated that vaccination must not be mandatory.

“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent,” the congregation stated.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has stated that all three vaccines approved for use in the United States are “morally acceptable” for use.

“[I]f one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen,” the USCCB said in March. “Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”

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  1. This is the sort of thing that undermines the credibility of Catholic bishops. “Embarrassment?” That sounds like an awfully flimsy excuse for not having the backs of the faithful, but after the church closures of 2021, why should we expect any better?

  2. Well, I guess that settles it: the Catholic Church is a Church that is perfectly comfortable with the use the cell lines of aborted (murdered, reallty) babies.
    The article is interesting,the footnotes are sometimes heartbreaking.
    The Church demands “respect” for the human body, hence the hierarchy fights against cremation and so-called “liquid cremation.” Nevertheless, it is perfectly moral to use the cell lines of intentionally killed children for any variety of uses: from vaccines to flavoring tests to beauty products (
    This is respect??

    • I guess you know what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has to say about this:

      “…all vaccinations recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive.”

      • Yes, I am very well aware. As noted: the Catholic Church is perfectly comfortable with items derived from murdered children some 48 years ago. Incidentally, fetal tissue research is an ongoing reality. Who knows, maybe in 30, 40, 50 years the cure for cancer will be found because of an abortion that occurred this morning?
        Ah, that would be an irony wouldn’t it? Some priest or pro-lifer protesting at a clinic where abortions are occuring, only to benefit from the death of a baby whose murder they were protesting?
        Soooo, guess we should not be concerned. Greater good and all that.

        • Kathryn,

          Your personal computer makes use of one or more microprocessors, the developments of which were accelerated by NASA’s goal of landing a man on the moon, which in turn made use of technology developed by the German rocket scientist Werner von Braun, who helped to develop for Hitler’s Third Reich the V2 rocket that killed many people in England. Later in life, Werner introduces this video, with a reference to a “God given ability”:

          Ultimate Saturn V Launch with Enhanced Sound

        • There is cures for most all cancers but big medicine through the pharmaceutical companies as well as hospitals that specialize in treating cancer will not let these cures come into the public eye. Just like as an example squashing the gasoline cars that could get 100 mpg big oil would never let this happen. Cancer is curable the media propaganda will say no it isn’t.

          • Yes, all of the pharmaceutical companies are involved in a secret conspiracy to withhold medications from dying people so they can make a profit. The earth is also flat; climate change is real; and the moon landings were all faked on a movie studio set.

        • I do not have any doubt that much of what we use in our every day life without a single though is tainted in some fashion with someone’s death, or someone being enslaved, or child labor, etc.
          These vaccines are being pushed on us by our own hierarchy, and for a good many of of, are neither necessary nor wanted.
          On this kind of thing is ongoing.

          Want to put an end to it?? Stop buying these products. Simply complaining will not do any good. It would help if the Hierarchy were on our side.

  3. Quite apart from anything else, nobody can require us as Catholics to provide a note from a priest, because the civil authorities don’t get to define what our religion is or what our consciences say. So if, for example, a nondenominational “Bible Christian” who acknowledged no church hierarchy or an atheist could say “It’s against my conscience” and be told, “Oh, well, that’s your call,” I think it would count as illegal discrimination to insist that the Catholic had to have a note.

  4. This does seem to be the issue on which the Catholic Church has shipwrecked itself, not only in its cooperation with products of abortion, but in its failure to grasp the truth of the matter on every level.
    Not vaccines
    No grave threat
    Ignored alternatives etc, etc, etc.
    But nonetheless confidently onboard with the narrative. What the hell is going on?

  5. I never heard the Catholic Church or the USCCB use the term “embarrassment to the archdiocese” when the scandals of the priesthood is exposed, from either homosexual acts, pedophilia or stealing money from the Catholic faithful. Why is it not an embarrassment that the truths of the Catholic faith have not been taught, such as the Holy Eucharist is the body and blood soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, not a symbol, also you cannot receive Our Lord , when in the state of mortal sin. We need to pray for our Shepherd’s for holiness and courage.

  6. “Any treatment which claims to
    save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is
    logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct
    or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.” John Paul II, Address to
    the Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (November 10, 2003).

  7. I don’t need a priest to grant me an exemption from taking the currently available, morally compromised vaccines. My conscience does that for me. Pope Francis has stated that there is a moral obligation to take the vaccines, but all the ones that are available have some connection to research on fetal cells obtained through abortions. Taking any of them implies an approval of such medical research going forward. If the Church had stood firm in the beginning of the pandemic and told people not to receive immorally produced vaccines, don’t you think we would have had at least one vaccine (Sorrento) that wasn’t researched, produced or tested by immoral methods? The hierarchy takes away religious freedom of conscience? Aren’t they acting, then, like the secular government? Shame.

  8. Pope Francis isn’t infallible unless he declares the moral responsibility to receive the currently available vaccines a matter of Dogma.

  9. During the Bergoglian captivity we have all come to be supremely confident that episcopate holds the interest of the faithful paramount. We’ve seen it demonstrated in its ardent concern for the faithful comprising the underground Church in China, those who find their liturgical devotion enhanced by participating in the sacrifice of the Mass according to the Ancient Rite, and the suppression of the Eucharist globally when it was deemed to be a threat to temporal existence, ad infinitum…
    What is wrong with this picture?
    A trust deliberately trashed will not be easily restored.

    • I am very disappointed in the arch diocese. I will move forward with a request for religious exemption despite their office. And if denied I’ll accept any consequence. I think the diocese statement is a disgrace I’ll be sure to give my money to true Christian work.

      • Mother theresas nuns who do look after the poorest of the poor 🙏you will never recieve reguestbafter reguestb for more money. You will though recieve a tax receipt and a sincere thank you

  10. I have read Francis’ exhortations composed for him. I have no idea if he ever read them. Most of the content was good. Sections were blatantly sophist. By ignoring the Dubia, Francis has refused to answer simple, self-evident questions about exceptionless norms of the negative precepts of the natural law that any theology freshman taking a first course in moral theology could handle with ease. Before the whole world he has made consistently stupid remarks about abortion, from forceful but insensitive remarks that authentic pro-lifers never make, characterizing a troubled woman in a crisis pregnancy as hiring a hitman, to remarks that trivialize abortion as an obsession, to praise for the world’s most savage abortionists and promoters. I exercise simple honesty, not disrespect, to say I know of no reason to take the advice of a pope I regard as a profound fool on matters of morality.

  11. “This concern is particularly acute among people who are strongly pro-life and very loyal to the teaching of the faith,” the memo stated.
    So, it sounds like, if you’re “very loyal” to the faith you’re some kind of idiot.

  12. Agreed that we are morally obligated to pursue knowledge of this Corona spike protein being used in an injection involving multiple vital organs and the reproductive system for the good of self and others, including the preview. However, even as composing this response, new data is forthcoming and as it relates to variants and long and short term benefits or harm. Moreover, one has to evaluate the degree of emergency in rushing to an experimental drug. Regardless, hoping that conscientious, hesitant Catholics are prepared for great sacrifice. The law may soon ridiculously compel us to ring a bell and call out “unclean” in the public square.

  13. Pushing of the vaccine by Pope Francis is based on his opinion, not on doctrine. Therefore, the faithful are not bound by his edict. It should also be noted that a number of hierarchy have publicly disagreed with Francis concerning the vaccines. Furthermore, Pope Francis does not address the controversy that has arisen with respect to the safety of the vaccines with over 400,000 adverse effects, including over 11,000 deaths, being reported to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) supported by CDC. These vaccines are still experimental in nature with clinical trials continuing through 2023.

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