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Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City,

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(LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, last week called for respect for the conscience rights of those who object to COVID-19 vaccines, saying that people “could reasonably choose” to reject the experimental, abortion-tainted jabs to give “prophetic witness” against abortion.

In a press release on Thursday, the archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, addressed recent vaccine mandates that have left millions of Americans faced with the prospect of taking a coronavirus vaccine or losing their jobs.

“The natural law requires all of us to discern carefully right from wrong in conscience as well as to pursue the common good. A society that fails to respect the rights of conscience lacks a key element of the common good,” Archbishop Naumann wrote.

“The most charitable and just posture is to seek to accommodate the consciences of all persons,” he continued. “It is indeed a fundamental pillar of medical ethics that there should be free and informed consent and no coercion when deciding on a medical intervention.”

The Kansas archbishop reiterated the Vatican’s and the U.S. bishops’ contested determinations that vaccination with COVID-19 jabs tainted by links to the killing and harvesting of unborn children “can be permissible.” “However, the grim reality that we live in a society that asserts the killing of an unborn child as a right and allows for the harvesting of cells and organs of aborted children for economic profit creates a context in which an individual could reasonably choose not to give even the appearance of indirect encouragement or support to the Culture of Death,” he added.

“The choice to give such prophetic witness also requires the individual to take precautions not to spread the virus, just as those receiving the vaccines are obligated to advocate to pharmaceutical companies and government officials to provide vaccines that are not morally tainted.”

As Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. bishops conference, Naumann had written in December that “sufficiently serious” reasons justified the use of available COVID-19 vaccines, all of which have been tested on or produced with cells derived from the bodies of aborted babies.

Naumann nevertheless stressed last week that “Lay Catholics can and should insist on their conscience rights and religious liberties based on the authoritative teachings of the Church found in the Catechism, papal and ecumenical council documents, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and other sources.”

“Bishops, priests and the entire Church should support the right and duty of Catholics to obey their consciences,” he affirmed, though he added that “priests need not feel compelled to sign exemption letters.”

“I agree with the Bishops of Wisconsin, Colorado, South Dakota and many other individual dioceses who urge employers to respect their employees’ consciences and make necessary accommodations, substituting other reasonable safety measures for mandated vaccination.”

Both the South Dakota and Colorado bishops earlier this month strongly backed conscience objections to coronavirus vaccines, with the Colorado bishops encouraging pastors to sign parishioners’ religious exemption requests. Bishop Daniel Fernández of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, has issued a similar directive, as has Bishop Athansius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan.

The bishops of Wisconsin recommended against priests endorsing exemption letters, although they called on employers to honor conscience objections, a message echoed by several other U.S. bishops, like Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico.

Still other prelates, many them dissident and openly pro-LGBT, have actively blocked attempts by the faithful to obtain exemptions to vaccine requirements, while some have gone so far as to mandate the shots for priests and employees in their dioceses.

In his statement on Thursday, Archbishop Naumann noted that Church teaching unequivocally upholds the right and duty of Catholics to follow well-formed consciences.

“The Church has reaffirmed in her authoritative teaching documents, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that persons have a serious obligation to form their consciences well and to obey a well-formed conscience under the pain of sin,” he said, citing sections 1776-1802 of the catechism. “It is important that we reflect on the gravity of the violation involved in coercing a person to do something that he or she believes to be wrong,” Naumann warned.

He also referred to Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s document on religious freedom, which declares that a person “is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience,” either by secular or religious authorities.

“With so many others, I pray for an end to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Naumann wrote. “I also pray that in combating this epidemic, we do not create an additional victim, the rights of conscience.”