SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts – Bishop William Byrne of Springfield, Massachusetts said Tuesday that clerics in the diocese should support Catholics who themselves seek conscientious exemption from COVID-19 vaccine mandates by attesting to their baptism and practice of the faith.
âIt is important for us to recognize and encourage the well-formed consciences of those who desire both the vaccine for themselves and the common good, as well as those who, for health or other reasons , may wish not to receive the vaccine. Bishop Byrne wrote September 14 to clerics in the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts.
âIn charity as priests and deacons we must help support the rights of conscience of our faithful Catholics on this issue and on all issues. We can do this by attesting to their sacramental baptism and the “practice” of their Catholic faith, in a separate letter or statement, to support their letter or request for religious exemption, but not to compose or sign a letter or train ourselves.
The bishop wrote his letter to help his clerics who receive requests from parishioners requesting a “religious exemption” from compulsory vaccination against COVID-19.
He cited documents from the Conference of American Bishops, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which indicate that vaccines can be taken, but their receipt is not a moral obligation and therefore should be volunteer.
“Many organizations and institutions are starting to demand the vaccine, and therefore, to understand the objections to conscientious rights, we, as leaders of our congregations, can be invited to help the Catholics in our parishes to request an exemption,” wrote Bishop Byrne.
The bishop said that “on the basis of conscience it is not possible for anyone to act or speak on behalf of another person requesting an exemption.”
“The request for exemption from such a right of conscience must come from the individual himself by way of
their own letter or by filling out an exemption request form from an organization, âhe noted.
However, he has ordered his clergymen to provide cover letters that support individuals’ own requests for religious or conscientious exemption.
“I hope that clarifying these points on what we can do, and what is beyond our scope of responsibility, will be helpful to you as these requests may arise among our good people in the future,” concluded Bishop Byrne.
In its December 2020 Note on the Morality of the Use of Certain Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that “vaccination is not, as a general rule, a moral obligation” and âTherefore, it must be voluntary. “
He said that “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination.”
“Those who, however, for reasons of conscience refuse vaccines produced with cell lines of aborted fetuses, should do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles of transmission of the disease. ‘infectious agent,’ the congregation wrote. .
Bishop Thomas Paprock of Springfield, Illinois recently wrote that âwhile the Church promotes immunization as morally acceptable and urges cooperation with public health authorities to promote the common good, there are questions of personal health and moral conscience involved in vaccines that must be observed. Therefore, participation in the vaccine must be voluntary and cannot be forced, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the authority of Pope Francis, indicated last December. While we encourage vaccination, we cannot and will not impose vaccination as a condition of employment or the freedom of the faithful to pray in our parishes. “
“The Catholic Church teaches that some people may have conscientious objections to taking COVID vaccines, and that these conscientious beliefs must be respected,” Bishop Paprocki added.
The Catholic Medical Association said it “opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscientious or religious exemption.”
The National Catholic Bioethics Center, a think tank that provides advice on human dignity in healthcare and medical research, also released a statement on July 2 opposing compulsory vaccination with any of the three vaccines. COVID-19 approved for use in the United States.
The bishops of South Dakota and Colorado have both issued statements supporting Catholics wishing to seek exemptions from conscience. The Colorado Catholic Conference released a template for Catholics and their pastors to send to employers for a conscience-based religious exemption.
Archbishop of Portland Alexander Sample and Bishop of Spokane Thomas Daly both said that any Catholic seeking an exemption places the burden on the conscience of the individual rather than on the approval of the Church, and therefore the priests. of their dioceses are not allowed to vouch for the conscience of another person by seeking an exemption from a vaccination mandate.
In late August, the five bishops of Wisconsin released a statement encouraging vaccination against COVID-19, while saying people should not be forced to accept a COVID vaccine. The bishops added that in cases where Catholics conscientiously object to receiving a vaccine, the clergy should not intervene on their behalf.
Many bishops in California, as well as in Chicago and Philadelphia, have asked clergy not to help parishioners requesting religious exemptions from receiving COVID-19 vaccines, saying there is no basis in the Catholic moral teaching to reject vaccination warrants on religious grounds.
Bishop John Stowe of Lexington has demanded COVID-19 vaccines for all diocesan employees, and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago demands that all archdiocesan employees and clergy receive a vaccine against COVID-19, and no ‘will only allow exemptions for medical reasons.