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Military archbishop says troops should be allowed religious exemptions from vaccine mandate



Zelda Caldwell - published on 10/13/21

It’s “morally reprehensible” to deny service members religious accommodations, said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio

The Catholic archbishop who oversees Catholics in the U.S. military issued a statement Tuesday condemning as “morally reprehensible” the Secretary of Defense’s mandate that all service members be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” wrote Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop of the Military Services USA.

Catholic Church had deemed vaccines “not sinful”

In his statement, Broglio noted that earlier in the year he encouraged Catholic servicemen and women to follow the guidance of the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) regarding COVID-19 vaccines. In its guidance, Catholics were advised that it would be morally permissible to receive available COVID-19 vaccinations in spite of the the vaccines’ remote connection to an abortion-derived cell line.

Broglio noted that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church’s highest doctrinal authority, had examined moral concerns with the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and found that “receiving these vaccines ‘does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion,’ and is therefore not sinful.”

Sanctity of conscience should be respected, said the archbishop

Nevertheless, the determination of the morality of the vaccine should come down to the individual’s own sincerely held religious beliefs and accommodations should be made to respect these beliefs, said Broglio in his statement.

“Notwithstanding the moral permissibility of these vaccines, the Church treasures her teaching on the sanctity of conscience,” he wrote. “No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience. Individuals possess the ‘civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their consciences.’

“Even if an individual’s decision seems erroneous or inconsistent to others, conscience does not lose its dignity. This belief permeates Catholic moral theology as well as First Amendment jurisprudence,” wrote Broglio.

“The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” read the statement.

Catholic dioceses divided on mandates

Catholic dioceses in the United States are divided on the issue of vaccine mandates. As the Pillar reports, bishops from El Paso, Lexington and Chicago have required that all employees and clerics be vaccinated. Other dioceses have called for religious exemptions to employer mandates, and, in Colorado and Wisconsin, bishops have objected to employer mandates altogether.

As of October 1, Vatican employees are not subject to a vaccine mandate, but are required to show a “green pass” or proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19. The Pontifical Swiss Guard, however, are required to be vaccinated. Earlier this month several of the Swiss Guard resigned because of the mandate. 

Lt. Urs Breitenmoser, the spokesman for the Swiss Guard told Tribune de Genève that mandatory vaccination for those serving in the military, is “a measure in line with those adopted by other armed corps around the world.”

Death toll among unvaccinated

The United States surpassed 700,000 deaths due to COVID-19, and in spite of the availability of the vaccine, continues to average 1,700 deaths per day. The vast majority of these deaths are among the unvaccinated, according to news reports.

Photo: The National COVID Memorial at the base of the Washington Monument. On September 19, 2021, when the photos was taken, there are 672,689 flags, one for each US life lost to COVID.

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