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Catholic Culture Dedication
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New York archdiocese: priests cannot support Catholics who resist Covid vaccine

August 02, 2021

The New York archdiocese has instructed priests that they should not support parishioners who seek religious exemptions from Covid vaccination mandates.

A July 30 memo from the offices of the vicar general and chancellor of the archdiocese acknowledges that there are pleas from “some Catholics who have a sincere moral objection” to the Covid vaccine because of their use of fetal cell lines taken from abortions. But the memo goes on to note that both Pope Francis and Cardinal Timothy Dolan have encouraged vaccination.

“There is no basis for a priest to issue a religious exemption to the vaccine,” the memo says.

The vicar general and chancellor—Msgr. Joseph LaMorte and John P. Cahill—go on to present a hypothetical case in which an unvaccinated student causes an outbreak of the epidemic at a Catholic school. “Clearly this would be an embarrassment to the archdiocese,” they warn. They add that a priest might be held personally liable for the outbreak.

While allowing that individuals may “exercise discretion” about the vaccine, the archdiocesan officials stated that they must do so without seeking the inaccurate portrayal of Church instructions.” They do not comment on the possibility that an individual Catholic’s sincere moral objections might conflict with the instructions issued by Church leaders.

Apparently referring to the likelihood that parishioners would seek their pastors’ testimony to support their conscientious resistance, the memo concludes: “Our priests should not be active participants to [sic] such actions.”


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  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 04, 2021 1:39 PM ET USA

    This reminds me... When my brother had his kids enrolled in a Catholic school, he asked the principal that his kids would be getting meatless lunches on Fridays, according to Catholic tradition observed in the family. The school vehemently refused to do it. Then he moved them to a public school, for unrelated reasons, and asked the same: meatless lunches for his kids on Fridays, on religious grounds. The non-Catholic school instantly and happily complied with the request.

  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 04, 2021 1:38 PM ET USA

    @dcnmthompson7484 - "I see no reason why the clergy needs to give an exemption." It's related to the First Amendment and religious freedom. The signature of the priest is required for the religious exemption to be granted. If they were pro-life Jews, Muslims, protestants, etc, the signature of their minister would have the same effectiveness. In this situation it's interesting that civil authorities in NY appear to have greater respect for religious liberty than the Catholic archbishop.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Aug. 03, 2021 11:11 PM ET USA

    "Clearly this would be an embarrassment to the archdiocese." They still haven't learned . . . they still want the approval of the world.

  • Posted by: dcnmthompson7484 - Aug. 03, 2021 6:57 PM ET USA

    This is rightly an individual choice based on our conscience. THe pastoral leaders have given guidance and its up to each of us to make a choice. I see no reason why the clergy needs to give an exemption any more than I think clergy need to dictate who can and cannot be present for the mass (vaccinated or not).

  • Posted by: mooreshi7489 - Aug. 02, 2021 7:46 PM ET USA

    “...the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it. ” ― Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, The fear of embarrassment for the archdiocese in the exercise of conscience IS the embarrassment.

  • Posted by: Japheth - Aug. 02, 2021 6:25 PM ET USA

    The Catholic Church's position on vaccines such as this is based on long standing principles of moral reasoning. It's also been consistent over the decades when addressing vaccines that have some connection to abortion. The archdiocese's direction is in concert with that and is effectively stating that Catholics who object to the vaccine do not do so based on the principles of Catholic moral reasoning.