Bishop of Springfield: Clergy can provide documents to support religious exemption from COVID vaccine mandate

SPRINGFIELD – Clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, which covers the four counties of western Massachusetts, are told by Bishop William D. Byrne that they can provide documents to support requests for exemptions religious of any COVID vaccine warrant, but should not sign or write a letter of exemption.

“In charity as priests and deacons, we must help support the conscientious rights of our Catholic faithful on this and all matters,” Byrne wrote in a letter posted on the diocese’s website. “We can do this by attesting to their sacramental baptism and the ‘practice’ of their Catholic faith, in a separate letter or statement, to support their letter or request for religious exemption, but not to compose or sign a letter or we train ourselves. “

Pope Francis, who is vaccinated, urged Catholics and others to do so, saying in a media campaign that it is a “simple but profound way to take care of each other, especially more vulnerable “.

All three vaccines administered in the United States against the coronavirus disease pandemic have used cell lines derived from abortions either in their research or in their production. None of them contain fetal cells as the lineages go back decades. However, some American bishops as well as organizations opposed to abortion raised objections early in their deployment, prompting the Vatican to respond in December that it is “morally acceptable” to receive such vaccines if no alternative. is available and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will issue a similar statement in January.

The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also added that “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good”.

More recently, some bishops and organizations, such as the National Catholic Bioethics Center, have advanced the role of conscience by opposing vaccine mandates and supporting religious exemptions, while other bishops and Catholic institutions have imposed their own. mandates as COVID-19, fueled by more aggressive politics. variant of the original virus, has started to increase again with the majority of hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated.

Michigan-based Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest Catholic healthcare delivery systems and whose partners include the Mercy Medical Center, issued a warrant in early July for its employees to be vaccinated.

In his letter, Byrne refers to statements from the USCCB and NCBC with excerpts from each that vaccination should be a voluntary decision.

“Given these perspectives, it is important for us to recognize and encourage the well-formed consciences of those who desire both the vaccine for themselves and the common good, as well as those who, for health reasons or for other reasons, may wish to not receive the vaccine, ”Byrne writes.

Massachusetts allows vaccine exemptions both for medical reasons, usually documented by a health care provider, as well as for religious reasons.

In advising his clergy, Byrne’s letter adds: “Many organizations and institutions are beginning to demand the vaccine, and therefore, to understand the objections to conscientious rights, we, as leaders of our congregations, can be called upon to help. the Catholics of our parishes to ask for an exemption. “

“It is important to understand that on the basis of conscience it is not possible for anyone to act or speak on behalf of another person requesting an exemption,” Byrne said. “Such a request for a right of conscience must come from the individuals themselves by means of their own letter or by filling out the form of an organization requesting an exemption. “

Baystate Health, which required its employees to get vaccinated by October 1, recently had the highest number of COVID-related hospitalizations in the state, a situation attributed to delayed vaccination rates in Hampden County.

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