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Colorado Bishops: “Vaccination Must Be Voluntary”

August 19, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN CUSICK

A number of Catholics have approached me to ask for my signature on letters requesting an exemption for religious reasons from the COVID vaccine. I’m glad to support the conscience rights of our faithful at a time when lawlessness seems rampant in society, and individual conscience is often trampled with impunity.
For some time now the pattern has been growing of elected officials passing regulations or restrictions without regard to constitutional rights, in particular with regard to reaction to the COVID virus.
The bishops of Colorado, it is worth repeating, have made a significant contribution to defending the rights of Catholics, and all believers, to exercise their right to choose to make their own health-care decisions. Because the vaccine, experimental and morally problematic as it is, involving the use of aborted fetuses, is not morally obligatory for that reason, receiving it must also be voluntary. [Editor’s Note: For a 2020 statement from the U.S. bishops, please visit: https://www.usccb.org/news/2020/us-bishop-chairmen-pro-life-and-doctrine-address-ethical-concerns-new-covid-19-vaccines.]
An age never short of irony, now we see the same people who chant “My body, my rights” when they want to kill another human being inside a pregnant woman’s body, rejecting that same principle in the case of a vaccine, where it truly applies.
The Colorado bishops issued a letter recognizing conscience rights, and also provided a suggested template for a religious exemption request letter.
Following is the suggested template which anyone may use to compose a letter for their pastor to sign.

[Date]
To Whom It May Concern,
[Name] is a baptized Catholic seeking a religious exemption from an immunization requirement. This letter explains how the Catholic Church’s teachings may lead individual Catholics, including [name], to decline certain vaccines.
The Catholic Church teaches that a person may be required to refuse a medical intervention, including a vaccination, if his or her conscience comes to this judgment. While the Catholic Church does not prohibit the use of most vaccines, and generally encourages them to safeguard personal and public health, the following authoritative Church teachings demonstrate the principled religious basis on which a Catholic may determine that he or she ought to refuse certain vaccines:
Vaccination is not morally obligatory in principle and so must be voluntary.
There is a moral duty to refuse the use of medical products, including certain vaccines, that are created using human cells lines derived from abortion; however, it is permissible to use such vaccines only under case-specific conditions — if there are no other alternatives available and the intent is to preserve life.
A person’s assessment of whether the benefits of a medical intervention outweigh the undesirable side-effects are to be respected unless they contradict authoritative Catholic moral teachings.
A person is morally required to obey his or her conscience.
A Catholic may judge it wrong to receive certain vaccines for a variety of reasons consistent with these teachings, and there is no authoritative Church teaching universally obliging Catholics to receive any vaccine. An individual Catholic may invoke Church teaching to refuse a vaccine that used abortion-derived cell lines at any stage of the creation of the vaccine.
More generally, a Catholic might refuse a vaccine based on the Church’s teachings concerning therapeutic proportionality. Therapeutic proportionality is an assessment of whether the benefits of a medical intervention outweigh the undesirable side-effects and burdens in light of the integral good of the person, including spiritual, psychological, and bodily goods. The judgment of therapeutic proportionality must be made by the person who is the potential recipient of the intervention, not by public health authorities or by other individuals who might judge differently in their own situations.
The Catholic Bishops of Colorado have affirmed this in two letters dated December 14, 2020 and March 17, 2021, concerning COVID-19 vaccines, stating:
“The bishops of Colorado affirm that the use of some COVID-19 vaccines is morally acceptable under certain circumstances….However, if individuals have serious moral objections or health concerns about vaccines, those concerns should be respected by society and government, and those individuals should not be forced into vaccination, contrary to their conscience. The government should not impose the COVID-19 vaccines on its citizens.”
Furthermore, the free-exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment requires state accommodation of individuals who object to vaccinations on religious grounds. Government neutrality also requires religious accommodation when the state offers secular exemptions, which is the case in Colorado for medical and non-medical exemptions and exemptions through the Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Vaccination is not a universal obligation and a person must obey his or her own conscience. Therefore, if a Catholic comes to an informed judgment that he or she should not receive a vaccine, then the Catholic Church requires that the person follow this judgment of conscience and refuse the vaccine.
The Catechism is clear: “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters’.”

Sincerely,
[Name and Title of Pastor]

Follow your conscience, now as always. In this matter as in all matters. As the Church teaches:
“Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
.“ ‘Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise….[Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ’ [footnote n. 50]” (CCC, n. 1778).
When we stand, as we one day must, before the Divine Lawgiver after our lives on Earth end, the Lord will not ask which puny tin-pot dictator we obeyed. He will ask only “Did you obey me?” But He will also know the answer to that question. And so will we, because our conscience never dies, though we might never obey it, and our conscience judges us whether we listen or not.
On another much more mundane note, thanks to all of you who have sent gifts large and small to support my parish renovation project. If you would like to help get us over the last hurdle, we need $60,000 to pay off the plaster and painting restoration for the church interior. You can send your gift to us at St. Francis de Sales, P.O. Box 306, Benedict, MD 20612.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever:apriestlife.blogspot.com

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