The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Catholic health ministry head decries ‘unjust’ federal vaccine mandate

By Matt Hadro for CNA

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House, Sept. 9, 2021. (

Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2021 / 08:04 am (CNA).

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for many private employers, drawing criticism from the head of one Catholic health care ministry.

“Coercing individuals into making a medical intervention is unjust,” said Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation and former acting deputy director of the Civil Rights Division of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, in an interview with CNA on Thursday.

“And a vaccine mandate that could cause millions of Americans to lose their jobs, to be excluded from large swathes of civil society – to become, effectively, second-class citizens – seriously undermines the principle of human dignity and the civil rights foundations of America,” he said.

President Biden on Thursday said his administration would require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, or ensure negative COVID-19 tests weekly. The emergency rule is being developed by the Labor Department, Biden said Thursday afternoon.

Those employers must give paid time off to workers to get vaccinated, Biden said, also appealing to entertainment venues to require proof of vaccine from customers.

Biden on Thursday also issued an executive order requiring executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and mandating the same for federal contractors.  Facilities receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding would also have to require the vaccine for staff, the Associated Press reported.

“Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free,” Biden said in remarks at the White House on Thursday.

“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us,” he said to unvaccinated Americans.

In his remarks, Biden did not specify if the Labor Department was crafting conscience accommodations for employees opposed to COVID-19 vaccines due to conscience concerns.

The three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States have utilized controversial cell lines, drawn from fetal tissue from abortions believed to have been conducted in the 1970s. The vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna used the controversial cell lines in testing, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine used the cell lines in both testing and production.

However, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a December 2020 note, said that use of COVID-19 vaccines with connections to the cell lines is morally permissible, if no ethical option is available.

“The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation” with the abortions “is not obligatory,” the Vatican said, “if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent–in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.”

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.”

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.”

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  1. Wasn’t it Kamala Harris, during the vice presidential debate, who emphatically stayed that she will not take any vaccine proposed by Donald Trump? I guess the (political) science has changed…

  2. Didn’t CDC tell us months ago when we reach 70% vaxxed, herd immunity is safely in place? It’s now at 75%! Well, so much for that science. But this is all meant to distract from a) a tanking economy, b) the Afghanistan disaster, and c) Biden’s growing unpopularity and voters’ remorse. The press is desperate to talk about anything but a, b and c.

  3. Why do CWR and CNA not carry the story of Pope Francis’s call for all Catholics to get vaccinated? They harm not only the body but also the soul of Catholics by instead carrying as a pattern the adversarial positions of conspiracy driven anti vaxxers – who are often disrespectful and disloyal rejectionists and resisters of the Pope – like the one presented in this article. Here’s the message of the Vicar of Christ in part – which one can readily google to take a read or listen fully:
    “Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19. Vaccines bring hope to end the pandemic but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another. Getting vaccinated is an act of Love. Love for oneself, love for our families and friends, and love for all peoples. It is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”

    • You mean this CNA story, which CWR ran?

      I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I think the push for this shot is fraught with all sorts of medical, political, and ethical problems. Just because the Pope makes his preferences on the subject known doesn’t mean Catholics aren’t free to disagree and to refuse to get the shot(s).

    • Joseph:

      If the Pontiff Francis wants his medical opinion to count he can buy himself a fake medical degree, turn in his shepherd’s staff, assume his new identity as “Dr. B,” and get on with that. The WHO would be delighted to have him.

      Alternatively, he might imitate the Good Shepherd.

    • Why do CWR and CNA not carry the story of Pope Francis’s call for all Catholics to get vaccinated?
      Why are you so obtuse, Joe? Also, you fail to discern that the Pontiff’s prudential remarks are not binding upon the faithful.

      Here’s the message of the Vicar of Christ
      You obviously missed the Catholic World Report article describing the downgrading – apparently with Francis’ blessing – of the title “Vicar of Christ”, Joe.

      Rather than going through life simply emoting, try getting edified for a change.

  4. This is a comedic but tragic irony here. The anti-vaxxers, and relatedly those who resist wearing masks, appropriate as their battle cry the tag line of the abortion rights activists reeking with selfishness: “my body, my choice.” The anti-vaxxers in a way can now be called “pro-choice” or to a degree even “pro-death,” while those who advocate vaccination like the Pope, the medical professionals, scientists, and faithful Catholics can be rightly called “pro-life” and even “pro-love” as Pope Francis teaches: getting vaccinated is an act of love.

    • Those who try to equate the killing of the unborn with rejecting an injection of an experimental shot fraught with numerous moral and medical questions clearly need a remedial course in Moral Theology 101.

      • Mr. Olson, you may want to clarify what you mean here. Many see no problem with, as we have found out in the last year, that most of the modern vaccines have sick direct/indirect roots in a fetus intentionally aborted for fetal cell growth or research. The practice of harvesting a fresh specimin for more accurate research or fetal cell growth goes on today.

        I’m not saying people should not get vaccinated because of this but we should not be chastised for experiencing angst about what is going on behind locked doors, that is supposedly a sin, according to Church teachings.

        Partly to blame is our lifestyle and poor health habits, for not being stronger against this virus.

        As far as masks, there are points on both sides. The virus is small enough it can still get around the sides of the mask. What will happen when the cold and flu season shows up this year — where does the mucus go in those cases?

        We won’t know for years what the actual cost of these lockdowns were, in many different terms. What did it cost our youth?

        • My point was aimed at Kee’s remark: “The anti-vaxxers in a way can now be called ‘pro-choice’ or to a degree even ‘pro-death’….”

          That remark is misleading, to put it nicely. The most basic reason is that abortion is always objectively evil (CCC 2270ff), which is completely different from the prudential use of one’s informed conscience in deciding whether or not to freely get a shot with the goal of protecting oneself and others from a disease.

          Equating the two, as Kee does, shows a fundamental ignorance of Mortal Theology 101.

        • The virus is small enough it can still get around the sides of the mask.
          Actually the virus is small enough – ~.1 micron – that it passes right through the pore of the mask itself, no need for it to sneak past the poor fitting side.

    • I suppose the next shoe to drop in your moral universe, is that the benefits of the vaccine justify the abortion of the child since you may not be materially responsible. The vaccines are tainted by this confusion and alternatives do exist. The NIH just announced million $ grants to study the impact of the vaccines on women’s fertility because of a large number of cases of menstrual cycle disruptions after taking the vaccine.

    • Kee:

      Commenters purporting to appreciate “irony,” who claim they are now pro-life because they have chosen to be vaccinated, and assert that other people who choose against the vaccines are anti-life, are offering other readers a deeper appreciation for irony.

    • Kee,
      An act of love??? For people under 30 without co-morbidities, getting the vaccine is an act of stupidity. The mRNA vaccines are new technology for which the long-term effects are unknown. People can call the vaccines safe, but they’re not basing their opinion on science.

  5. I wouldn’t trust the president with my goldfish or pope f. with my gerbil, why would I trust them with a chemical injected into my body?

  6. The good news is if not getting the vaccine gets you fired you can always get a job at the White House, or the CDC, or the WHO, or Johnson & Johnson, or Pfizer where it’s not required to be vaccinated to either work or visit. So there’s that…

  7. Why hasn’t the Catholic Church insisted on the development of a morally acceptable vaccine? According to the NCBC in Philadelphia, Sorrento Therapeutics was working on one at the same time the others were being developed. Where is it? And why did the Church bow to the use of the morally tainted vaccines? The big question right now is whether the vaccine mandate is necessary or is a distraction from Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. The very idea that he states that “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” using the royal “we” of a dictator is frightening. He previously stated that he was against mandates for vaccines. Afghanistan apparently changed his mind when the Covid carriers crossing our southern border and being distributed throughout the country don’t seem to concern “them.” I will believe that vaccines are effective when the vaccinated no longer are threatened by the unvaccinated.

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