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Los Angeles archdiocese won’t provide religious exemption from Covid vaccines

Carl Bunderson   By Carl Bunderson for CNA

Archbishop JosÈ H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, holds a news conference at the USCCB headquarters in Washington June 16, 2021, the first day of the bishops' three-day spring assembly, held virtually due to concern over COVID-19. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 16, 2021 / 17:14 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has said it is not providing religious exemption letters to individuals who object to receiving a vaccination against the coronavirus.

In a terse statement, the archdiocese said it “recommends that all members of the Catholic community who can receive a COVID-19 vaccine should do so. The Archdiocese is not providing individuals with religious exemption letters to avoid vaccination against COVID-19. Please see the information and links below to understand why the Archdiocese does not consider the COVID-19 vaccine to be morally objectionable and why it encourages all the faithful to get vaccinated.”

The statement to archdiocesan priests, obtained by CNA, included a two sentence quote from a document of the US bishops’ conference, and provided links to three documents that “might be helpful in understanding the morality of receiving the vaccine:” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s December 2020 note; a March 2021 USCCB document; and a statement from the California Catholic Conference.

In its December 2020 note to which the Los Angeles archdiocese pointed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that although vaccines with a remote connection to abortion are “morally acceptable,” it also 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, while at the same time noting: “In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.”

Those refusing COVID-19 vaccines “for reasons of conscience” must take appropriate precautions to avoid transmitting the virus, the congregation said.

US bishops have issued varied statements on whether there is an obligation to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The bishops in Colorado in an Aug. 6 letter emphasized the need to respect those with conscientious objections to the COVID-19 vaccines and have provided a template letter for any Catholics with objections to mandatory vaccination. The bishops of Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo also welcomed the City of Denver’s vaccination mandate for including a religious exemption.

“In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are convicted that the government should not impose medical interventions on an individual or group of persons. We urge respect for each person’s convictions and personal choices,” the Colorado Catholic Conference said.

The conference noted its previous affirmation that the use of some COVID-19 vaccines is “morally acceptable under certain circumstances,” while adding that “we understand that some individuals have well-founded convictions that lead them to discern they should not get vaccinated.”

“We always remain vigilant when any bureaucracy seeks to impose uniform and sweeping requirements on a group of people in areas of personal conscience,” said the bishops, adding, “human rights violations and a loss of respect for each person’s God-given dignity often begin with government mandates that fail to respect the freedom of conscience.”

The Colorado Catholic Conference on its website provided a template letter for pastors for Catholics who are seeking a religious exemption.

Similarly, the bishops of South Dakota said this week that Catholics whose well-formed consciences tell them not to receive a vaccine should be free to seek a religious exemption from any vaccine mandate.

“[A] Catholic may, after consideration of relevant information and moral principles, discern it to be right or wrong to receive one of the available Covid-19 vaccines,” Bishops Donald DeGrood of Sioux Falls and Peter Muhich of Rapid City said in a statement Aug. 10.

“If he or she thus comes to the sure conviction in conscience that they should not receive it, we believe this is a sincere religious belief, as they are bound before God to follow their conscience. We support any Catholic who has come to this conviction in seeking religious exemption from any Covid-19 requirement.”

In December 2020, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas told EWTN’s Pro-Life Weekly that regarding whether to receive the Covid vaccine, “I think, like in everything, we need to pray. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and to make the right choice, the moral choice for us. And we have to weigh these goods: the good of protecting our health, the health of our loved ones, the health of the community.”

“And also at the same time, stand strongly to protect innocent human life and to bring an end to the culture of death and to abortion,” he said.

Archbishop Naumann said that while there is a “moral justification” to receiving the vaccine, “not everyone has to make that decision.” He said the available Covid vaccines are “licit and permissible,” though not obligatory.

The Archdiocese of New York on July 30 instructed priests not to grant religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines, saying that doing so would contradict the pope.

By issuing a religious exemption to the vaccine, the archdiocese said, 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. Imagine a student receiving a religious exemption, contracting the virus and spreading it throughout the campus. Clearly this would be an embarrassment to the archdiocese.”

In California, the bishops of both San Diego and Monterey have said their local Churches will not sign religious exemption letters from coronavirus vaccine mandates.

Bishop McElroy of San Diego wrote that an exemption letter asks a pastor “not to endorse what the Church does teach on the question, but rather what individuals might discern as their chosen pathway, even when their pathway is built upon a rejection of the Church’s objective teaching on the morality of the Covid vaccines.”

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    • They’re just making it up as they go, at this point. Anyone who listens to anything our bishops have to say on any subject is an even bigger fool than they are.

  1. I’m currently in the learning phase of this religious exemption issue, but it seems to me that Archbishop Gomez is essentially saying that the Archdiocese will not support Catholics if they seek a religious exemption due to a concern that the vaccine will place them [or their children] in greater danger than not receiving the vaccine.

    In other words, Gomez is saying that he’s not going to support the people he shepherds, even if their conscious is well-formed and well-informed. This seems odd to me.

  2. No religious exemptions for Catholics in good conscience who object to the use of fetal cell lines or fetal cells used remotely? What would St. Thomas More say about these bishops’ refusal? It is indefensible not to respect an individual’s decision not to be vaccinated for this reason.

    Futhermore, these bishops’ basis for refusal is erroneous because these vaccines are not “promoting the common good.”

    How is the common good promoted when it is a fact that thousands have died from these vaccines and thousands more have had serious adverse effects, some nontreatable and life-changing? What about these people? What about their families, do they not count as part of the common good?

    These bishops are obviously misinformed or depending on obsolete information with the result of overlooking vital safety and efficacy issues. These must be part of any analysis related to the common good. The medical maxim “first do no harm” comes to mind and needs to be equally applied to the analysis.

    One finds excellent reasons looking at the “harm” potential to rightly refuse to be vaccinated with the current choices for covid vaccines. The safety data alone is a call for halting any rush into mass vaccination mandates by anyone of sound science or anyone with concern for the “common good” of the individual receiving the vaccine, including the individual’s family.

    A recent review of the research pointing to the harm related to safety, is found in “From clots to shots: Considerable medical evidence of COVID vaccine-induced blood clots” by Dr. Joel S. Hirschhorn, MD of Univ. of Wisc.


    Dr. Hirschhorn, MD, states:

    “This article provides summaries of key, recently published research on two types of observed blood clots – microscopic and relatively large size – that merit serious attention and concern. One inevitable conclusion is that the FDA, with support from Big Media and the medical establishment, is not doing its job to ensure truly informed consent of those taking vaccine shots.”

    Below are some of the researchers (not anti-vaxxers) whom Dr. Hirschhorn quotes within his article.

    “A key point in that was this: “It must be emphasised, that these people were not sick people, being treated for some devastating disease. These were previously healthy people, who were offered an experimental therapy, with unknown long-term side-effects, to protect them against an illness that has the same mortality rate as the flu. Sadly, their lives have now been ruined.”

    And this from another:

    ” . . . none of the COVID vaccines are safe for most people at little risk from COVID.”

    And another:

    “These COVID vaccines are not safe,” . . . “The gene-based design makes your body manufacture virus spike protein, and we know, and we’ve known for years, that virus spike protein triggers blood clots,” Yeadon explained. “That’s a fundamental problem.”

    And another internationally known physician, Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi:

    “The dangers of the COVID-19 vaccine spike protein and its interactions with the human immune system, conferring risks of clotting and leakage of blood vessels, are becoming increasingly well known” . . . The failure to monitor and assess these risks in the subsequent clinical trials, and the grossly negligent review process in conjunction with the emergency use authorizations, have predictably resulted in an unprecedented medical disaster” and “Calling off this failed experiment is long overdue. Continuing or even mandating the use of this poisonous vaccine, and the apparently imminent issuance of full approval for it are crimes against humanity.”

    There’s much more and it is not good news for either safety or efficacy. 
Dr. Hirschhorn says, “For most healthy, relatively young (less than age 70) people, the benefits of COVID vaccination do not outweigh the risks. Dr. McCullough was correct in saying that the better approach to COVID vaccination would have limited it to perhaps 20 million Americans with serious COVID risks.”

    He concludes recommending the website and quoting their mission statement: “This website is dedicated to sharing the truth about these people and their testimonials. Watch for yourself and make up your own mind. Is it worth it to risk life-changing and even fatal side effects from a vaccine for a disease that is survived by 99.98% of people under 70?”

    Bishops, please get informed with the latest research about the harm caused by these vaccines. You would not be making mandates for Catholics for mass covid vaccination because you would see that the vaccines are causing death and serious adverse reactions. And what about the liability that accompanies these requiring vaccines for employees, students, seminarians etc?

    No conscience protections. Crimes against humanity. The common good is not served.

      • Gary,
        The article at the link is quite interesting, but it leads to the following question:

        If the micro clotting issue with the vaccines is true, would the virus, itself, also cause the same types of clotting? Have you read anything about this?

        • I read that Co-Vid 19 is more a now considered more a of the disease vascular system disease rather than pulmonary system because of all the issues related to bloot clotting and inflammation.
          Here’s what eminent physician, Dr. Peter McCullough of Truth for Health Foundation (link below) says:
          “The risk of blood clotting is one of the most frightening aspects of the disease . . .”

          And this from hematologist Dr. Laurence at Cornell:
          “Is this clotting a significant cause of death in severe COVID-19 cases?

          It’s hard to know for sure, because the clotting problem is apt to go undetected. Most often the cause of death in severe COVID-19 is respiratory failure, and that can be due to pneumonia, including a secondary bacterial or fungal pneumonia. But it may also be due to clotting. The lungs of people who die of respiratory failure due to COVID-19—especially if they have not yet been on a ventilator—often do not show the kind of damage seen in people who have died of other acute respiratory distress syndromes. Instead the lung tissue usually will have blood clots in the small vessels, which hints that clotting is at least contributing to the respiratory failure.”

          The clotting problem is one of the reasons why prevention and early treatment of covid symptoms is so necessary and why getting updated evidence-based scientific information is so vital. Unfortunatley, many are still using outdated information.
          Perhaps you already know about or or All have excellent sources of information on all things related to the prevention and early treatment of covid as well as complicated cases in hospital. They also discuss everything about the vaccines.

  3. Vaccine: “Microbial preparations of killed or modified microorganisms that can stimulate an immune response in the body to prevent future infection with similar microorganisms. These preparations are usually delivered by injection.”

    This ‘shot’ is mRNA, not a vaccine.

  4. Descendants of the Apostles saying “your conscience doesn’t matter…take the shot the State is demanding or you will be in defiance of the Church.”

    Hmmmm. Just can’t see St Paul saying this. Instead, what St Paul did say is: “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” (Romans 14:12-14)

  5. When Cardinal Dolan came out with a similar order two weeks ago, I wrote him a letter in which I stated that I really don’t need any priest to determine whether my conscience is properly formed to support my decision to refuse the currently available vaccines. The USCCB stated that Pfizer and Moderna are less morally-compromised than the J&J vaccine and should be taken when there is a choice. Isn’t this just the kind of relativism the bishops have warned us against on other issues? While my conscience doesn’t need clerical reinforcement, I asked Archbishop Aquila to sign a letter of exemption for me Friday, and I am grateful that he did. Maybe, if I have someone in the hierarchy supporting my conscience, it will be less likely that the governmental powers will coerce me to violate my “lowerarchy” decision. I fully realize that the decades-old abortion and fetal cell line developed from it constitute a remote cooperation with the evil, but I also know that accepting the currently available vaccines would imply an approval of the methods used in their research, development, production or testing, and my conscience tells me not to approve of fetal cell research going forward.

  6. I want the Catholic Church, it’s bishops, priests and institutions to stay out of my personal healthcare decisions. It is none of their business. The Church has a difficult time enough figuring out how to support the salvation of souls that for the Church to weigh in on viruses, vaccines and overall health is way beyond their scope of expertise.

  7. I wish for once they would just be up front about everything: “We will not provide you any assistance in living out the Gospel in your family and professional lives.” – USCCB

  8. “My body. My choice.” The USCCB deigns to grant Biden ‘pastoral’ exemption to preach his gospel.

    The USCCB then preaches secular scientism to the faithful. “No choice for You!”

    “My body. My choice.”

    Let USCCB eat cake (but it won’t be a treat on my voluntary dime). Let them grovel before Joe or Big Pharma. Who the unjust stewards honor is who they should look to for salvation.

  9. Kudos to the Archdiocese of LA especially Abp Gomez for being enlightened enough not to be dragged into this ideological battle over the vaccine. This is a a scientific health care issue that is best dealt with as such by not letting this turn into a religious or rightist conservative ideology led cultural warfare. Most who otherwise are pro-life on the abortion issue and so oppose pro-choice ironically turn into and use the originally pro-choice mantra: “my body, my choice” becoming death dealing culture warriors over this vaccine issue. Great to know the nation’s biggest archdiocese has chosen to follow science rather than ideology.

    • Leila,
      That’s the problem! The “one size fits all” approach towards vaccine mandates is both bad medicine and bad science. The religious exemption accounts for this.

      Do you think it possible that you might be an ideologue?

      • Definitely I am not. It is you. The way you reason out here shows you are a classic case. I am just a faithful Catholic living below the poverty line who in the Holy Spirit follows the lead of the Church and common sense and knowledge and not the propaganda or ideology of a political party or the thinking of its pundits in a media bubble or echo chamber.

        • Leila,
          Could you please tell me what I said that makes me an ideologue? Is it that I question the “one size fits all approach”? If so, why is this wrong?

    • At what point is this science that trumps any morality perfectly settled? That distant material cooperation with abortion and one’s conscience is denied and belittled because it must be “rightist ideology”?

    • Would that our bishops would follow their religion instead of their government and empirical (evolving) science.

      Since when has the Church been qualified to comment on science?? When did Jesus give the Church that mission? Truth be told, the Church has a less than exemplary track record on its understanding of science.

      Was Teilhard de Chardin correct in his theory of evolution?, did Aquinas know when conception occurred?, and did Galileo think he could trust the Church to accept the scientific truth?

      First, let’s hear the bishops teach on faith and morals. If they cannot or will not speak boldly in their area of competence and education, we owe them absolutely no allegiance when they yak on economics, politics, or the epidemiology of viral pandemics.

  10. You do not need a note from the Church. The government cannot dictate that you must justify your religious objection by a note from a priest or bishop, because that would be illegally discriminating; people who have religious objections but do not have priests or bishops in their denominations can’t be required to have them, so how can? As far as that goes, what about atheists? Is the government going to tell them that they cannot have a religious objection because they have no religion? I doubt it.

    And if the government is going to say, “Well, but you have to obey if the Archdiocese says this isn’t morally objectionable” are they going to tell all Catholics, “You have to obey if the Archdiocese says that contraception and abortion are morally acceptable?” If you told the government they had to do that they’d have a fit of the vapors, hypocrites that they are.

  11. Following the ‘common sense’ of the culture and the Church’s opinion and not a magisterial teaching, while informing the world you should be taken seriously in view of a certain economic standing and the ‘common knowledge’ that this is a right-wing conspiracy…does not make an argument.

  12. Responding to the similar Monterey bishops’ mandate prohibiting CovidVax exemptions I proposed an argument for consideration of the merits of the exemption ban, one that the Pontiff didn’t issue a binding requirement to be vaccinated. Also I cited Josef Seifert’s question, Why when we’ve been using vaccines for smallpox, measles, flu and many others for diabetes heart conditions for many decades is the CovidVax refused by so many? An argument developing among respondents is that refusal of CovidVax can halt the continued use of aborted infants’ stem cells in general. That is the best argument made to date, a monumental task but theoretically doable. A counter proposal to this is that of theologian Pietro De Marco in apparent agreement from Sandro Magister himself studied in theology that a hardened refusal of the CovidVax by traditional Catholics distances us from State authority as if all State proposals are conspiratorial, and similarly distancing oneself from Church moral guidance. Falling analogously into an Antichrist rebellion against valid authority. Although personally I don’t consider that, now, a threat nonetheless the ‘diagnosis’ by De Marco seems a danger if anti authority conspiracy theory continues to be promoted now adopted as a retaliatory argument against CovidVax mandate, proposed requirement – by Catholic journalists, media. Halting the use of aborted stem cells is just, awareness of the dangers of an anti State anti authority movement is prudent.

  13. Who would take anything these bishops say seriously ? People need to quit giving them money. Bring them to their knees and back to the Lord !! The shame the sex abuse scandals this pope and these bishops have Beaufort on the church is disgraceful

  14. ‘Conscience, and its freedom, cannot be considered only as a civil right but is something intrinsic to our Catholic faith.*

    (*See Life Site News article “Puerto Rico bishop supports vaccine conscience objections to Covid Vaccines, allows priests to sign exemptions” by Raymond Wolfe at LifeSiteNews August 20, 2021. Quotes below are from this article.)

    Abundant thanks to Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Puerto Rico for his statement above and for “supporting conscientious objections to COVID-19 vaccines and speaking out against vaccine mandates.”

    He has stated that “it is possible for a faithful Catholic to have conscientious objection” to compulsory vaccination and authorized priests and deacons to sign exemption requests.

    With regard to conscientous objection he makes two clarifications that cover both the moral and practical realms:

    “The first is that as a general rule vaccination should be voluntary,” he said. “And the second is that there may be those who, for reasons of conscience, reject the use of certain vaccines, either because they are still in an experimental phase or because they have been produced from cell lines of aborted fetuses.”

    Bishop Fernandez Torres continues,

    “We remember that the value and defense of life, as well as the seriousness of the sin of abortion, are part of our religious beliefs as Catholics,” and “We are also obliged to remember that, following the moral doctrine of the Church, in the face of difficult, sudden and morally disputed cases, shepherds of souls should not impose univocal solutions, but rather, following Saint Alphonsus, we should leave each to act according to his right conscience.”

    He continues:

    “Therefore, it is possible for a faithful Catholic to have conscientious objection to the alleged mandatory nature of the Covid-19 vaccine,” he continued. “Respect for the conscience of the person is also Catholic doctrine.”

    “Conscience, and its freedom, cannot be considered only as a civil right but is something intrinsic to our Catholic faith.”

    Bishop Fernandez Torres also stated the following with regard to the issue of safety and efficacy of vaccines:

    “[I]t is legitimate for a faithful Catholic to have doubts about the safety and efficacy of a vaccine given that what the pharmaceutical companies or drug regulatory agencies say is in no way a dogma of faith,” Bishop Fernández wrote in his letter Tuesday. “And that safety and efficacy are relevant data and necessary for moral judgment.”

    Amen and a huge thank you to Bishop Fernandez Torees for all the above and fervent prayers that our bishops follow this wise shepherd’s sound guidance.

  15. There is no science behind the position the diocese has taken, and therefore there is no moral justification for the Church’s position. It is simply caving to a society convinced that the human person is made of playdough. Sad.

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