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Archbishop says US service members can object to COVID vaccines

'No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate' their conscience, says Timothy Broglio

Michael Gabriel Hernandez   | 14.10.2021
Archbishop says US service members can object to COVID vaccines

WASHINGTON 

The Catholic Archbishop for the US military said that service members can refuse a coronavirus vaccine on religious grounds as the Pentagon implements its military-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

"No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience," Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who does not wield infallibility within the church, said in a statement.

"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," he added.

Pope Francis and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have previously voiced support for individuals receiving COVID-19 vaccines, as has Broglio.

At issue is the fact that the vaccines, to varying degrees, rely on cell lines from aborted fetuses that date back decades. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were tested using cells, but the Church has said that matter is "considered remote material cooperation with evil and is never sinful," Broglio said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, relied far more on aborted fetus cells and is therefore "more problematic." And while it would be permissible for a Catholic to take it if it were the sole immunization available, "the faithful Catholic is to make known his or her preference for a more morally acceptable treatment," said Broglio.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued the service-wide vaccine directive in August, and nearly all service members, some 97%, have received at least one dose with over four in five being fully vaccinated, according to the Pentagon.

It is up to the military to grant or deny religious exemption requests.


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