The Catholic Archbishop of the United States Army said this week that Catholic military personnel may refuse the mandatory coronavirus vaccine on religious grounds.
“No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it violates the sanctity of their conscience,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio said in a statement.
Since Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a vaccination warrant in August, some military personnel have requested a religious exemption through the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act, the archbishop noted.
While the Vatican doctrinal office has ruled that Catholics are morally permitted to receive the vaccines, that does not prevent individual Catholics from deciding otherwise in their case, he said.
“This circumstance raises the question of whether the moral permissiveness of the vaccine prevents an individual from forming a sincere religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience,” he wrote. “It’s not.”
Quoting Saint Paul VI, the Archbishop declared that individuals have the “civil right not to be prevented from leading their lives in accordance with their conscience”.
“Even if an individual’s decision seems wrong or inconsistent to others, conscience does not lose its dignity,” Broglio said, noting that the United States Supreme Court itself has ruled that “religious beliefs do not do not need to be acceptable, logical, consistent, or understandable to others. in order to deserve the protection of the First Amendment.
“The refusal of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personal actions taken against those who raise serious and conscientious objections, would be against federal law and morally reprehensible,” he added.
Broglio also said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was “more problematic” than others because of its links to human cells derived from abortions.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was developed, tested and produced from cell lines derived from abortions. This vaccine is therefore more problematic, ”he said in the statement. “If this were the only vaccine available, it would be morally acceptable, but the Catholic faithful must make known their preference for more morally acceptable treatment.”