U.S. military archbishop says Catholic troops can refuse mandated COVID vaccine on religious grounds

Archbishop Timothy Broglio says he supports President Biden's mandate, but the church supports the "sanctity of conscience"

Updated: October 13, 2021 - 12:56pm

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The archbishop of the U.S. military says Catholic troops should refuse the mandates COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds, if they feel so inclined.

"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 said Tuesday in a statement

In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a military-wide vaccine mandate for which some service members have requested a religious exemption. 

Broglio wrote in response: "This circumstance raises the question of whether the vaccine’s moral permissibility precludes an individual from forming a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience. It does not."

Broglio personally supports President Biden's vaccine mandate and points out that the church has determined that being vaccinated is "not sinful," but writes the church values its teachings and the "sanctity of conscience." 

Some Catholics object to the vaccines because of their links to human cells derived from abortions. For that reason, Broglio has expresses his preference for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are not linked to those cells.

"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was developed, tested, and is produced, with abortion-derived cell lines," he wrote. "That vaccine is, therefore, more problematic. If it were the only vaccine available, it would be morally permissible, but the faithful Catholic is to make known his or her preference for a more morally acceptable treatment."

The question of religious exemptions to the vaccine is being raised across the country as cities, states, and businesses are beginning to institute vaccine requirements – some nudged by the president's requirement for companies of a certain size to mandate the shots.

Religious exemption legal issues are currently working their way through the courts. 

On Tuesday, in New York, a federal judge ruled that the state would not be allowed to impose vaccine mandates on health care workers without allowing employers to consider requests for religious exemptions. 

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