Archbishop for Military Services says no one should be forced to receive vaccine if it violates the sanctity of conscience.
Two members of the United States Marine Corps have been granted religious exemptions from the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate, the New York Times reported. They are the first of their kind since the Pentagon last summer introduced the mandate for service personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Times said that thousands of troops have sought religious exemptions from the vaccine, including 3,350 requests from Marines.
“The Marine Corps recognizes Covid-19 as a readiness issue,” Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement last Thursday. “The speed with which the disease transmits among individuals has increased risk to our Marines and the Marine Corps’ mission.”
Last fall, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA called the Secretary of Defense’s mandate that all service members be vaccinated against COVID-19 “morally reprehensible.”
“No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” Archbishop Broglio said in a statement.
He 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 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.”
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.