U.S.|Philadelphia Archdiocese says it will not support religious exemptions from Covid vaccination.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced earlier this week that it will not sanction religious exemptions to Covid vaccine mandates, joining a growing chorus of other Catholic dioceses that are declining to give their parishioners an excuse for not getting inoculated.
“Individuals may wish to pursue an exemption from vaccination based on their own reasons of conscience,” Kenneth A. Gavin, the chief of communications for the archdiocese, wrote in a statement. “In such cases, the burden to support such a request is not one for the local Church or its clergy to validate.” Neither the Archdiocese nor its parishes would support exemption requests, he said.
Other dioceses around the country, including those of New York City, San Diego and Honolulu, have made similar statements. Some, like that of El Paso, Texas, have even imposed vaccine requirements for their employees.
The Vatican announced in February a vaccine requirement for its employees in Rome, but quickly reversed the rule after criticism.
The issue has become a matter of contention within the church, as it has within the broader society, with more conservative church leaders supporting people who choose not to get vaccinated while more progressive ones, like Pope Francis, arguing in favor of vaccines.
Earlier this week the Pontiff released a public service advertisement in which he called getting vaccinated against Covid-19 “an act of love.”
But for many Catholics some vaccines are morally questionable, because they can be developed using human cell lines derived from fetuses aborted decades ago, and mandating them is seen by some as an infringement on individual liberties.
Bishops in South Dakota, for instance, have argued in favor of religious exemptions for vaccination.
“A Catholic may, after consideration of relevant information and moral principles, discern it to be right or wrong to receive one of the available Covid-19 vaccines,” two bishops wrote in a public letter earlier this month. “If he or she thus comes to the sure conviction in conscience that they should not receive it, we believe this is a sincere religious belief, as they are bound before God to follow their conscience. We support any Catholic who has come to this conviction in seeking religious exemption from any Covid-19 requirement.”
For his part, Francis said getting vaccinated against the virus was a moral act.
“Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love, and helping the majority of people to do so is an act of love,” Francis said in the advertisement. “Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”
Shefali S. Kulkarni contributed reporting.